Forecasting how many broiler breeders we need to supply customer orders is a critical part of an efficient, profitable business. So is being able to take full advantage of the genetic potential of today’s breeds.
One critical part of the process, converting hatching eggs to chicks, is vitally important and some practical steps to help accomplish this can be quite helpful. There are three things to focus on: egg quality, effective hatchery management and chick quality.
The first stage is monitoring the quality of the egg pack coming into the hatchery and maintaining this quality before incubation. But what is allowed into the hatchery?
Be sure to evaluate the egg pack for size, dirt, cracks, deformities, double yolks, inverted placement and uniformity.
Standards within hatcheries should be made to ensure consistent quality and all departments must follow it. All these criteria, if not measured against standards, can negatively impact results.
In addition, egg quality can also be influenced by:
- Size – a chick’s weight is usually 67- 68 per cent of its original egg weight (multistage incubation), so a small egg results in a small chick. Chicks below the minimum size will dehydrate very rapidly after hatch.
- Dirty eggs – can result in severe bacterial contamination, which could result in eggs exploding at transfer or omphalitis in baby chicks.
- Cracked eggs – do not hatch, but eggs with micro-cracks will hatch around 50 per cent of the expected rate and all chicks that hatch will be culls.
- Deformed eggs – can cause the chicks to mal-position, which in turn reduces hatch and chick quality.
- Double yolks – should be culled.
- Inverted eggs – will hatch approximately 40 per cent of the expected rate and the chicks produced will be culls.
- Uniformity of air flow – if present throughout the incubators, the hatch window decreases and will allow for a much more efficient pull time.
Next, a good egg holding program should be implemented from the farm to the incubator. The temperature of an egg at lay is approximately 40oC (104oF). From there, egg temperatures should decrease and increase following a perfect ‘V’ pattern, with the lowest temperatures occurring at the hatchery.
Starting on the farm at 40oC (104oF), the egg temperatures may fall to typically 20oC (68oF) in the hatchery, and then rise again to incubation at 37.6oC (99.7oF). It is extremely important that egg temperatures do not fluctuate away from the V-shaped pattern.
Temperature fluctuations will cause embryonic mortality and loss of hatch. The temperature is all the egg holding areas must be monitored – the breeder house, breeder house egg room, transportation to the hatchery, hatchery egg storage and pre-warming.
Effective hatchery management
There are four important programs to use in a hatchery: quality assurance, set-transfer-to-pull, sanitation and preventive maintenance.
A quality assurance program consists of egg assessment as already described, embryo diagnosis and chick quality assessment. Monitoring these three components correctly is a hatchery manager’s most valuable tool.
Egg assessment can tell what is going into our incubators, embryo diagnosis will troubleshoot hatch problems and chick quality assessment will determine how well incubation and hatchery programs are working via examinations of percentages of hatch, fertility and hatch of fertile. This will enable us to diagnose problems and effect solutions.
Additionally, when performing an embryo diagnosis, it is important to be accurate and consistent so the results can be used as an information tool. This can identify certain problem incubators or rooms, and certain days when issues occur.
Our target is 504 hours of incubation — exactly 21 days. As an example, if the eggs are set at 5:00 am, then they should be ready to pull 21 days later at 5:00 am. If we are under or over this target, then we have problems during incubation.
The hatch window should be targeted at 33 hours or less (multistage) from first to last chick. The shorter the hatch window, the better the chick quality will be.
Transfer should take place between set and pull, where eggs are taken out of the setter and the egg flat and put into the hatcher and hatcher trays, and be smooth and efficient. Eggs should not be left out for a prolonged length of time.
Additionally, extreme care should be taken to prevent cracked eggs, which are especially important when moving eggs into the hatcher.
Changing set time, transfer time or pull time will affect the baby chick. Be careful before altering this plan — know the cause and effect before making a change, since eggs cannot be set on a random schedule. Rather, strict programs must be implemented and followed to maintain quality and control.
Hatcheries should be cleaned and disinfected continuously. The most important task is removing all organic material before disinfecting, which can hide in corners, under racks, on wheels and in any crack or crevice in a setter or hatcher.
All material has to be removed; otherwise the presence of organic material will reduce the efficacy of disinfectant products to sanitize the surface area.
Be sure to use disinfection products effective against the challenge specific to the hatchery. A sensitivity test can be performed at your own or a local laboratory to identify the products, which are most effective against your specific bacteria or mold challenge.
Good air quality is also one of the best disinfectants available. It is important to ventilate and pressurize the hatchery correctly, which not only satisfies the oxygen requirements of embryos and chicks, but also prevents cross contamination.
Remember, too, that transport vehicles, which handle eggs or chicks, need to be part of the hatchery sanitation program.
There are three kinds of maintenance: predictive, preventive and reactive. Reactive maintenance costs more than preventive maintenance, which costs more than predictive.
Since incubators run continuously, an incubator simply cannot be allowed to fail. If it does, it can be repaired, but all embryos in the incubator will have been affected. Therefore, programs should be in place to ensure incubator failures do not happen.
Predictive maintenance can be, and often is, overlooked, but it can be very useful, as it can tell from the lifespan of a piece of equipment or component when it should be replaced. Preventive maintenance — a great tool for budgeting — depends on checklists for the incubator and hatchery equipment and, if followed correctly, costly breakdowns can be minimized.
In all hatchery areas, temperature, humidity and pressure should also be monitored and calibrated for consistency at all times so incubators and ventilators can cycle properly.
While seven-day mortality is generally a good measure of chick quality, it is a lagging indicator. Often, when we hear of high seven-day mortality, the first action is to go back into the hatchery and retrace programs and procedures, but that is too late. A chick quality assessment in the hatchery needs to be in place beforehand to ensure good chick quality going to the farm.
It is also important to score chicks before they leave the hatchery. Evaluate red hocks, navels (open unhealed navels), heat buttons (navel has closed before the yolk was fully absorbed) and dehydration. There are different scoring systems that can provide a great tool for assessing different incubators if done correctly, and will show when a trend line starts to go negative. Besides, it also provides another indicator for how well your preventive maintenance program is working.
Rectal temperatures of baby chicks need to be taken at several time points: before pull, during chick processing, chick holding and at delivery. Temperatures need to be monitored to make sure they stay around the ideal range of 40oC (104oF).
Variance from the target temperature will affect broiler performance – chicks will not start properly.
Using a step-down temperature program and increasing airflow through the hatcher will help keep chicks from overheating, provided all your best management practices are in place and temperatures are monitored in the hatcher, separator room, chick room and transportation.
The pre-pull assessment can be done at different times to make sure programs are in place and working properly. Twelve hours before pull, 70-80 per cent of chicks should be completely hatched (out of the shell, but can still be wet).
Another time for pre-pull assessment is 24 hours before pull, where there should be less than 30 per cent hatched. And while performing a 12-hour pre-pull, it is a good time to monitor rectal temperatures. The target percentage of chicks hatched is according to the expected hatch percentage, not eggs in the tray. For example, if the tray contains 162 eggs and the flock expected hatch is 87 per cent, then there will be 141 chicks out when the hatch is complete. At 12 hours pre pull, 99 chicks (70 per cent of 141) will be in the tray.
Critical to meeting goals is having the correct standards in place and achieving them – from the incoming egg pack to the chick delivered to the broiler house. Remember to confirm that what you think you have is actually what you have.
Good management practices, and proper implementation of programs and standards, will help ensure maximum hatch efficiency and deliver consistently good chick quality.
Modern broiler breeder strains are simply too good at depositing breast muscle. Because they have a higher propensity to deposit muscle rather than fat, they may not have enough energy stored in the body to mobilize in times of energetic debt, and as a result these hens may have difficulty with early chick quality and long-term maintenance of lay. While the bird may still be able to transfer the necessary nutrients to the egg, with less energy available in storage, it will rely much more heavily on the feed it consumes each day to meet this need.
The concern is that the bird may carry additional breast muscle throughout life and, in order to maintain this high energy-demanding tissue, the hen will have to divert nutrients it might otherwise have been able to use to support egg production. In order to support egg production in broiler breeder stocks in the coming years, it may be time to question if current feed restriction methods and weight targets are as adequate now as when they were designed over 30 years ago.
Dr. Rob Renema and his research team at the University of Alberta have been exploring the concept of “composition restriction.” By manipulating the delivery of dietary energy and protein throughout the life of the bird, they hope to identify methods of feeding birds to a specific carcass composition rather than just to a target body weight. They theorize that this approach could discourage breast muscle deposition while providing for the energetic requirements of final maturation and early egg production.
Their findings? What you feed the birds during the growing phase has a greater effect on final carcass composition at the end of egg production than the diets fed during the egg production period do. Why? Primarily because muscle deposition is “set” when they are young, and this has a carry-over effect into the breeder phase. Feeding programs during the rearing or laying phase must not be designed in isolation.
Furthermore, growth was tied more closely to energy intake than to protein intake. Despite fairly similar energy intakes, however, energy was still one of the main factors affecting rate of lay. While maternal protein intake had very little effect on egg production, it did have the potential to affect broiler offspring yield and breast muscling – particularly in the males. To read more about this research project, please visit www.poultryindustrycouncil.ca.
By Tim Nelson, Executive Director
Recent events have shown us that people are so important to the poultry industry.
Our Research Day this year featured poultry health research. The focus was not only on disease research, but on the cost of disease to producers and industry as well. This was emphasized by having one Ontario producer tell attendees about his personal experience of managing a serious disease outbreak on his farm.
During the Research Day we recognized three eminent poultry researchers from the University of Guelph – Drs. Steve Leeson, Ian Duncan and the late Dr. Bruce Hunter – who dedicated their careers to poultry research.
The Poultry Industry Conference and Exhibition (known as the London Poultry Show) musters a veritable who’s who of the poultry service industry in Ontario and beyond. The mood that huge group brings for two days each year to the Western Fair District in London, Ont., to work (and play) together is palpable. What an intense and stimulating two days it is. The PIC brought a few guests in this year and they were blown away by the friendly, welcoming, open reception and hospitality they received at every booth. Great job, industry!
So, it was disappointing halfway through day 1 of the show to receive an e-mail from Dr. Fred Silversides, who conducts research into poultry genetics in B.C. (and whose research PIC supports), which said, “In August, my position will be cut as a result of the current round of deficit reductions, and AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-food Canada), is getting out of research in poultry genetic resources when it happens.”
We understand the federal and provincial governments are going through tough times. But this was the only centre where this type of research was being undertaken, and it had only one researcher and one student.
Not long after receiving this e-mail, the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC) informed me that the current Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP) will expire in March 2014, removing the need for regional councils (such as the AAC) in the delivery of any future federally funded programs.
Who made these decisions? Who knows – but they were made. How did we (industry) let it happen? Reading the e-mail made me reflect on how lucky we are to have the people at OMAFRA and AAFC here in Ontario who continue to support our programs of research and extension in an effort to ensure our industry’s sustainability. The Poultry Loading Decision Tree, Biosecurity Outreach Program, Growing Forward cost-share program and the upcoming PAACO (welfare auditing) course would not be possible without their support and that of industry and the University of Guelph.
Competition and risk management drives us to continue to develop new technologies, tools and management techniques. But what will keep this industry sustainable are the very visible personal connections, relationships, networks and collaborations that bind it together and make it successful.
Somehow in B.C. the industry lost a connection. We have great connections in Ontario, but we need to work at them.
Make sure your connections extend to our government and university partners and at every opportunity thank them for the funds and people they provide.
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Western Poultry ConferenceMon Feb 27, 2017
Alberta Poulty Industry Annual General MeetingsTue Feb 28, 2017
The Food and Beverage ConventionThu Mar 02, 2017
Manitoba Turkey Producers' 48th Annual General MeetingTue Mar 07, 2017 @11:30AM - 04:00PM
London Poultry ShowWed Apr 05, 2017
Canada's Food Loss and Waste Forum | Finding solutionsWed Apr 12, 2017