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Millions of Chicks

La Coop fédérée inaugurates an innovative hatchery as part of a $10-million expansion plan


April 27, 2009
By André Dumont

Topics

Nothing seems to get in the way of La Coop fédérée’s poultry sector growth strategy.
Last March, the Quebec co-op network inaugurated a one million broiler chick per week hatchery, the second largest in Canada.

chicks1 
The $10-million investment La Coop fédérée announced last May is now completed.


 

Nothing seems to get in the way of La Coop fédérée’s poultry sector growth strategy.

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Last March, the Quebec co-op network inaugurated a one million broiler chick per week hatchery, the second largest in Canada.

The Victoriaville hatchery enlargement and modernization is the largest part ($6 million) of a $10-million expansion plan. La Coop fédérée also acquired a pullet farm ($1 million) and expanded its Saint-Jude breeder farm ($3 million), all in the Centre-du-Québec region.

This strategy will boost La Coop fédérée’s broiler breeding network’s efficiency, says poultry senior manager Martin Véronneau.

“Our breeding farms will yield larger lots of same-size eggs. Chick uniformity will be better, which will make the farmer’s job easier and translate into improved uniformity at processing,” Véronneau explained.

Broiler chick sales have increased by 35 per cent over the last three years. To respond to demand, La Coop fédérée was forced to import chicks from the United States, with all the logistics and risks involved.

chicks2 
A model of the new expansion.


 

La Coop fédérée is already the most important chicken feed supplier in Quebec. It shares the local broiler chick market with other hatchers, but Véronneau says its market shares are on the rise. However, the greater part the chick sales increase is the result of farm acquisitions in New Brunswick.

The Victoriaville hatchery is now the most modern in Canada, Véronneau says. It employs 60 people. With 67,320 square feet, the hatchery is the second largest in Canada on a single site.

Current production is at 52 million chicks per year. It could be boosted to 56 million without major investments.

The hatchery’s footprint was increased by a little less than 50 per cent. New incubators and hatchers – all Jamesway brand – were added. Automation of chick and shell separation, vaccination and packing was also improved.

“Everything was thought out with product quality and client needs in mind,” says hatchery manager Louis Turcotte.

Expanding the Victoriaville facility meant the end of production at La Coop fédérée’s Saint-Félix de Valois hatchery. The building and equipment were too old to be upgraded.

The Saint-Félix-de-Valois hatchery was located within 500 metres of three henhouses. This made compliance with HACCP standards impossible.

The Victoriaville expansion was planned for HACCP certification. From receiving to shipping, eggs and chicks follow a one-way path, in order to eliminate cross-contamination risks. “No lot ever goes back the way it came,” says Véronneau.

State-of-the-art technology was also installed in the boiler room. Glycol-based heat exchangers are used to recuperate heat from eggs nearing the end of their incubation cycle to divert it to younger eggs. According to Turcotte, the resulting heating savings are so important that the hatchery will not be consuming more energy than before the expansion.

Breeder farms
Last summer, La Coop fédérée bought a 7,500-layer farm located 10 minutes away from Victoriaville. The site is large enough to house 12,000 more breeders. With this farm, La Coop fédérée will be able to raise one-third of its broiler breeders.

These breeders will be sent to La Coop fédérée’s Saint-Jude farm, its largest supplier of hatchery eggs. A new 35,000-breeder barn was added, pushing the site’s total to 90,000.

The four barns in Saint-Jude are linked with conveyors to a central work area where egg grading and packing are automated. According to Véronneau, this is now the largest automated broiler incubation egg production site in Canada.

These farms, along with other smaller breeder farms in Stanbridge, Wickham and Victoriaville, as well as in New Brunswick, all deliver their eggs to the Victoriaville hatchery. Chicks are then delivered to farmers (co-op members or not) in Quebec, New Brunswick and Eastern Ontario.

Mature chickens end up in La Coop fédérée’s Olymel processing plants, whose most important clientele are barbecue chicken restaurants. Les Rôtisseries St-Hubert take the largest share, with five million birds per year.

With this $10-million investment, La Coop fédérée is securing a better hold on quality control and uniformity, all the way from the pullet farm to the processing plant. “If chicks leave the hatchery in uniform lots, chickens have a better chance to get to the processing plant in uniform lots,” says Véronneau.

The equation is simple: when more birds have the exact weight clients like St-Hubert demand, Véronneau says, more money goes in the farmer’s pocket.


Hatchery Features
The 12 P120 Platinum Single Stage Incubators and three P40 Hatchers offer such features as variable speed drives and CO2 control, which optimize hatch, bird quality and energy efficiency. Jamesway’s ventilation department worked closely with a local company, Groupe Soteck (www.soteck.com) to install an innovative ventilation system that met all parameters. The installation includes a heat recovery system that captures the heat from the incubators and hatchers cooling water system. The recovered heat is used to assist in room heating as well as heating the incubators and hatchers. The chiller system installation includes a dedicated heat recovery chiller that is able to provide the chilled water requirement for machines, while supplying hot water requirements, through capturing heat generated by the chiller. The plumbing system for the incubators, hatchers and HVAC heating and cooling coils includes variable speed motors and pumps that provide optimum water flow and pressure requirements. This system minimizes the amount of energy consumed during periods of low demand.

ribboncuttingThe open house was attended by over 50 local growers, industry specialists and members of the community. Cutting the ceremonial ribbon are (left to right): Ian MacKinnon, president of Jamesway Incubator Company Inc.; Claude Lafleur, managing director of La Coop fédérée; Ghyslain Cloutier, first vice-president of La Coop fédérée; Louis Turcotte, hatchery complex manager of La Coop fédérée; and Andre Theriault, area sales manager, Jamesway Incubator Company Inc.