At Cobb, we provide our customers with the training and resources they need to reach the genetic potential of their flocks, especially when it comes to male management. We encourage farmers to implement a regular spiking program to maintain the highest possible fertility and egg production rates throughout the life of the flock. What is Spiking? Spiking is the addition of young broiler breeder males into an older flock to compensate for the decline in fertility that usually occurs around 35 weeks and instigate mating activity. However, a spiking program will never make up for poor male management, which can lead to males in poor physical condition and a decline in fertility and mating activity. Always follow proper management practices to enhance mating activity and uniformity of the primary male population. Why Should I Have a Spiking Program? In general, males have acceptable sperm quality up to 55-60 weeks of age. Yet there is a natural decline in mating activity after 35-40 weeks of age, due to several factors, including – a decrease in mating interest, a reduction in sperm quality, lower mating efficiency or excessive male mortality resulting in a reduced male-to-female ratio. Spiking Program Design When it comes to spiking, it’s important to be proactive. Do not wait for hatchability to decline to establish a program; at that point it is too late. The best results are typically achieved if spiking is done prior to a reduction in fertility. Spiking can be part of a grower’s regular, scheduled management procedures. Spiking once in the life of the flock is typically enough; however, flocks spiked twice on an eight to 10 week interval also show good results. Spiking is usually not economical beyond 55 weeks of age. Biosecurity Risks One of the biggest risks with a spiking program is the possibility of introducing unwanted disease or parasites into the spiked flock. Spiking males should come from a single source flock and must be tested for disease before moving. Any positive or suspect results should put the move on hold. Cobb’s Ideal Spiking Program In summary, follow these Cobb-recommended guidelines to achieve the best results: Generally, spiking with approximately 20% additional males to an existing flock will produce the best results. Spike males must be uniform, good quality, free of defects and be able to compete with older males. Males must be at least 25 weeks of age with a minimum weight of 4.1 kg (9 lbs.) and be sexually mature. Spiking males and primary males should have the same amount of feed and floor space to help ease the transition when spiking males are added to an older flock. Prior to spiking, cull poor quality primary males and reduce sex ratio. Then add spiking males back to the original or proper male to female ratio. If spiking is done as a normal management procedure, it may be possible to start with fewer males at housing (7-8 percent at 21-22 weeks of age) and add extra males as needed over time to increase the ratio to 9-10 percent. This will improve female receptivity and mixing. Slightly increase feed just after spiking so males have enough nutrients and energy to sustain their increased mating activity. For more information about male management and three possible spiking program designs, read Spiking Part II in the Breeders section of our Cobb Academy.