In the summer of 2011, two brothers in Ontario decided to expand their swine and cash crop operations by introducing poultry into the mix, so they bought an existing two-storey barn near Seaforth, Ont. But after a year of raising broilers, the two brothers, Jos and Eric Schroeders, decided to make some changes.
“We noticed things that were going well, and things that could be done better,” said Jos, 25. “And as that thought process was going, Eric graduated from university. The obvious next step was to build a new facility using the things we could change or improve.”
As it ended up, when the Schroeders investigated the ways they could improve on some of the biggest issues in the poultry industry – namely ventilation and coccidiosis control – there were not many innovations available to the standard they wanted. According to Jos, the barns in Canada today operate in practically an identical way to those from 20 years ago, but that is not the case in Europe.
Therefore, Jos and Eric visited their homeland of Holland and spoke to dozens of processors and farmers, trying to find a way to improve their growing poultry operation.
“We had to find something that would help us get drier bedding,” said 23-year-old Eric, which would also allow them to reduce the amount of coccidiosis in the barn. “But that requires a lot of ventilation, which costs a lot of money on heat, which causes a conflict.
“But wherever there is conflict, there has to be opportunity.”
While in Holland, the Schroeders noticed that a number of poultry barns had large machines positioned just outside their barns. Upon closer investigation, they found that the machines (known as Clima Units and manufactured/distributed by the company AgroSupply) simultaneously heated the barn and dried the litter, while at the same time reducing the heating cost.
The units comprise two large tubes that are honeycombed – one blows air into the barn, while the other takes air out – through a process known as heat exchange. Simply put, the warmer air from the barn travels outside, but as it does so, it heats the cooler air being drawn in from outside that is destined for the barn.
“It works great,” said Eric. “One day in the winter, it was -10 C outside, but thanks to the heat exchanger, it warmed the air to 23 by the time it entered the barn. So our heaters only had to heat it seven degrees, as opposed to 40.”
And the installation is easy, said Jos, as the Clima Unit is a separate machine that is placed and installed outside the barn. You make two openings – the same as if you would be adding an extra fan – change your recirculation fan layout inside the barn slightly, and you’re practically done.
“You’ve renovated your entire barn and the way it operates without having really any downtime whatsoever,” he added. “You can even do it between flocks.”
In addition to the Clima Unit, the Schroeders also retrofitted their sidewall inlets, feeding system and water system, all controlled by two large panels near the barn’s-viewing window, with standard products designed by AgroSupply.
Seeing the new technology in operation got the attention of the Schroeders’ swine representative from Avonbank Ag Solutions, Frank Hogervorst. Since the unit was installed in late 2012, Hogervorst has become more involved with the Schroeders, even helping to create a new Agro Team division within Avonbank, and helping to sell the Clima Units across Ontario.
“Every farmer knows that improved bird quality requires higher air quality and drier bedding,” Hogervorst said. “They all know those needs, but can we bring it to the market so there is a payback? Now we can, with benefits to both birds and the farmer with practically no downside.”
Added Jos with a chuckle, “really, the only downside is not having done it sooner!”
LEAVING AN IMPRESSION
Currently in their fourth flock of Ross 308 males utilizing the Clima Unit, the Schroeders have been the most impressed by the dramatic change in litter quality within the barn. When Canadian Poultry visited their barn in June 2013, the straw that they use for litter was still crunchy and dry, even beneath the water lines and feeders.
“I don’t have to scrape the litter off the floor, I can just sweep it straight out of the barn,” said Eric. “And the birds seem to like it – they grow even quicker with the improved air quality and lower pathogen load.”
Both Jos and Eric said that the biggest advocates of the new ventilation technology are not the both of them, but their chick hatchery and processor.
“The hatchery is happy, because the chicks they are delivering have a much better chance of getting a good start – they have fewer complaints and health issues,” said Eric. “And the processors are happy because nobody wants to have condemns – which is a loss for everybody.”
“But in the end, you have to make a choice. You have all these ideas on the table but you have make a choice, and we chose this product and technology from AgroSupply to help us out,” Jos said.
Other farmers have shown a lot of interest for the Clima Unit technology and the system installed at Schroeders Farm, so much so that the brothers welcome anyone onto the farm and give them the tour. And Schroeders are not trying to force the technology on any farmer, but simply want to show others what they have learned and have others make their own decisions.
“The benefits go further than just at this farm,” added Jos.
Jos and Eric Schroeders - Ontario
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