Alternative poultry housing
Consumers pressure restaurants and food companies to make the practice mandatory, but who will pay the extra costs?

A steady stream of restaurant and food companies proclaim intentions to use eggs only from free-run operations in the future, but egg producers wonder who is willing to pay the cost of more expensive production methods.

Some barns have already moved to systems with enriched housing, defined as larger cages with nesting areas, dust baths and room for each chicken to spread its wings and generally express normal behaviour. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in Layers
Conventional cage laying barns have always been dusty, notes Harry Huffman, an agricultural engineer based in London, Ont. “Thus, I would assume the new floor and aviary style of housing systems will continue to be dusty as well.” Huffman notes that the more important ventilation design parameters in a layer barn hinge around the number and size of birds being housed, and how airflow should occur through the airspace to accommodate the building specs.
Published in Layers
AGCO Corporation, a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of agriculture equipment and solutions, will begin manufacturing Farmer Automatic egg production equipment in North America to better serve its largest market for these products.

The decision also supports Canadian producers transitioning to new Code of Practice standards for the care, welfare and handling of their flocks.

Farmer Automatic’s enriched colony housing and aviary systems will be produced at AGCO’s plant in Bremen, Alabama beginning later this year. The first products will be shipped from that facility in January 2019, with normal distribution to be maintained during the transition.

“Manufacturing in North America is a long-term investment providing enhanced service and support for North American egg producers and a signal to the market that Farmer Automatic will continue to deliver high quality and innovation for years to come,” said Scott Becker, director of North America Commercial Egg for Cumberland Poultry, AGCO’s poultry production equipment brand.

The state-of-the-art Bremen plant manufactures a broad range of Cumberland products used in poultry production facilities, including fans, heaters, tunnel doors, broiler nesting systems, power curtain machinery and environmental controls.

Becker said establishing production in North America provides several important benefits to Farmer Automatic customers, including reduced shipping time, faster response to meet their needs, currency advantages and a full-system solution enabling producers to access the breadth of Cumberland’s product offerings.

Farmer Automatic products were previously manufactured in Laer, Germany. Design and engineering functions will remain in Germany with the creation of the Farmer Automatic Engineering Innovation Center in the area later this year.

Supporting new guidelines
Farmer Automatic systems currently meet new guidelines in the Canada Code of Practice introduced last year requiring all laying hens to be housed in enriched or cage-free systems by July 1, 2036.

“Our Canadian dealer, Clark Ag Systems, works closely with its customers to ensure their systems have enough space, feed, water, nest area and scratch surface to meet the Code of Practice requirements for their production method,” Becker said.

The Eco II System from Farmer Automatic provides all of the required enrichments and easy access to the flock with its large access doors. Farmer Automatic’s Combi II provides a solution for customers who may transition from enriched to cage-free in the future. The Combi II can be operated as both an Enriched Colony System with the doors closed or as a Cage-Free Aviary System with the door open.

For those producers ready to transition to cage-free production today, the Loggia system offers excellent access to the flock, nests and egg belts with walkable floors and low system heights for easy inspection and management. The slight slope of the floor allows system eggs to roll onto the egg belt. The Loggia line was recently expanded to include the new Loggia 3 Plus, providing additional living space with a third tier allowing for greater bird density in many operations.

Pullet rearing is easier with the Combi Pullet, capable of preparing birds to be housed in either enriched and/or aviary systems in the future. Multiple floor mesh sizes for the lower tier allow producers to tailor the system to their operation, and additional half levels create more space for greater stocking densities.

Farmer Automatic systems can be installed in new egg production facilities or retrofitted to existing operations. For additional information, producers can contact Clark Ag Systems or visit www.farmerautomatic-inc.com.
Published in Companies
Dealing with the high cost of food in the North is a constant challenge for producers and consumers. Through innovation and new thinking, Choice North Farms in Hay River is hoping to make a difference by undertaking the PoultryPonics Dome Project, supported with over $80,000 of CanNor funding.

The announcement was made by Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament (Northwest Territories) on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for CanNor.

Choice North Farms is a private egg producing company in Hay River. Their pilot project will integrate vertical hydroponic units and poultry production in a small geodesic dome. This combination will reduce the amount of nutrients and energy required for production, while providing a good supply of quality local fresh produce and meat substitutes.

If the pilot project is successful, this innovative clean technology could be scaled and adapted in other Northern communities, promoting economic diversification, reducing the cost of living, and enhancing the quality of life in remote communities.

"The Government of Canada has long supported the development of the agriculture sector in the North. We are pleased to support innovative technologies that not only grow the economy of Hay River, but also have the potential to provide affordable food to Northern communities," McLeod said. 

CanNor has invested $80,497 in the project through its Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) program, with Choice North Farms contributing $67,910, the Government of the Northwest Territories injecting $6,586 and the Aurora Research Institute providing an additional $6,000. Total funding for the project is $160,993.

"We are thrilled at North Choice Farms to be able to pilot this green technology, thanks to the support of CanNor. We are confident it will allow us to produce more food locally while reducing our carbon footprint and production cost. This is great for our business, for the agricultural sector in the NWT and for Northern consumers, " said Kevin Wallington, business development manager, Choice North Farms.


READ CP's related feature article: Chickens in the greenhouse
Published in Producers
Owners Jeff and Joleen Bisschop produce Country Golden Yolks brand eggs with four other Fraser Valley farms, including organic (7,400 hens) and free-range (27,000 hens), with a pullet barn and egg packing on site.
Published in Companies
May We Ever Be Finished? Come What May!!!

Since I last wrote, we were deeply entrenched in the construction of the Farmer Automatic Enriched Colony Housing for our next flock of pullets that will arrive later this month.

All of the kids helped with the housing at some point, but my son John put in the most hours. He has an eye for quality and spots if something was put together incorrectly. This can be anything from a missing perch cap to misaligned waterlines.

The feed trough clips, troughing sections, feed chain and feed pans at the ends all had to be assembled in a systematic order.

In addition to the various local neighbourhood young people we had working for us, we decided to take the advice of Clark Ag Systems and get a work crew of men from London to accelerate the building process. These fellows are experienced in putting hen housing together and had worked with the lead, Dennis before.

Nicole, Charlotte and I worked as a team putting the housing doors together, and then installing them on the top two levels.

We made this an enjoyable task by taking turns with who got to be on the scaffold installing them, and the person on the floor fetching doors and pushing the two on the scaffold.

Our barn has three rows of the enriched colony housing and is four levels high. We have space to put in one more row in the future.

Each side of each row must be “levelled” by adjusting the legs under each housing door. Ben worked on getting one side levelled, and Philip has had to do a lot of the rest of the rows.

This job is one of the more undesirable things to do. You have to be on your knees a lot and working just under the housing with an impact drill with a torque bit, wrenches and crowbar. A laser level is a great aid in doing this task.

The wire sections to cover up the top rows had to be installed and fastened securely with plastic zip ties.

More work on the manure ends, manure belts and egg elevators and conveyor was done as well.

The manure belts took 40 minutes to pull with the aid someone guiding them through by pulling a rope to the front and then mechanically pulled to the back with a motor.

Nick worked on making the opening for the conveyor that bring eggs into the pack room and a window for us to have a good view for monitoring the progression of the eggs when they advance into the packing room.

He enjoyed the company of anyone who would assist him (let’s be real, the guy likes having someone fetch things for him---right Charlotte and John!).

Preliminary work on the encasement for the scissor lift and was completed, and we expect to have in-floor heating installed this week and concrete floors poured in the ante room and egg packing room.

During most of April and May, the electricians have been doing the many electrical tasks to make the barn functional and safe. Our last build was many years ago and the rules, rates and safety measures needed to comply for electricians are many and inflated since that time.

I have never watched the weather so closely as I did this past winter and spring. The cold temperatures, snowfall, rain and wind all affect the particular task you are doing in or outside of the barn.

As spring seems to have finally arrived, getting on the land adds to the pressure to get the barn completed.

As a family, we have always wanted to have an open house to egg-ucate people about the direction that egg farming is going.

By 2035, conventional housing has been banned and all egg farmers must have progressed to another form of housing...be it the colony enriched, free run or free range.

We look forward to hosting the Open House together with Clark Ag Systems on Friday May 11. 

If my time permits and interest is expressed, Egg Farmerette might be persuaded to write another blog posting after our hens are settled, laying and happily clucking in their new habitat.

CLICK HERE  to read more about Cindy's experience transitioning from a conventional to an enriched layer barn.
Published in Blog
Noble Foods - the U.K.'s largest egg producer which currently has around 4.3 million hens in cages - has announced its commitment to moving to solely cage-free egg production by 2025.

The announcement follows a six-month long campaign by The Humane League U.K., launched in October last year. More than 68,000 people signed a petition calling on Noble Foods to go cage-free. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in News
Nesting behaviour in laying hens is complex, and according to poultry scientists such as Dr. Michelle Hunniford of the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario, there’s a lot left to discover.
Published in Layers
February turned out to begin very cold, more snow and windy. Any work that could be done inside the new barn building was done when temperatures were not frigid. Some days were too cold to get any work done.

Electrical lines for lights got installed on the ceiling and the baffle on the west side. Any work that had to be done on the ceiling or high areas had to be done before the scissor lift got picked up.

The arrangement with the scissor lift was that you pay a weekly rate, and when you have it for three weeks, you get the fourth week free. This is what worked for us.

From February 4 - 6, the insulation got put in the attic. The first day was very mild with the snow melting on the roof causing a steady stream of dripping off the steel roof. This job had two fellows who were experienced in insulating attics completing the work.

We had two overhead doors to be installed – one for the cooler for Burnbrae Farms to do their weekly pick-up of eggs, and the other as a big entrance to the main barn when the birds arrive and then depart after 51 weeks.

Timing for this had to be when the interior was completed so that the doors could be fastened to completed walls and ceiling.

Again, working in a freezing temperature environment had to be avoided.

Both doors got installed February 11 and finishing these up occurred the next weekend.

For the entire month, we were anticipating getting the concrete for the floor poured.


I have never watched the weather forecast so diligently, and part of frustrating February was that we wanted the concrete floor to get poured.

Nick chose a warmer stretch of weather later in the month to start using propane to run the heater to begin thawing the ground.

Preparation work to level the floor for concrete took place on February 23 and continued early in the next week. The weather forecast had sun and mild temperatures for that week.

Once again, loads of stone were brought in, a bobcat brought stone inside, and a roller flattened out the floor to make it level with the help of laser level that was set up on a tripod in the corner of the barn.

February 28 brought a 13-degree day, and the concrete floor was finally poured.

There were a dozen guys doing the pour, running the concrete pumping truck, and spreading and levelling the concrete.

The first concrete truck came by 8:00 A.M. and the last truck load was done by 12-noon. A truck came every half hour. All of this activity brought curious neighbors to sneak a peek at all the action going on.

The next couple days were filled with finishing the concrete with power trowels to give it a smooth finish.

March came in like a lion on the 1st with a snowstorm in Haldimand County, about 15 centimeters of snow, and the first snow day for school kids.... so, we were glad that this big job was done.

Cindy Egg Farmerette

CLICK HEREto read more about Cindy's experience transitioning from a conventional to an enriched layer barn.
Published in Blog
There are some types of E. coli (known as avian pathogenic E. coli [APEC]) that can cause serious or fatal colibacillosis infection in chickens. Many factors predispose birds to the infections.
Published in Layers
As the Canadian egg industry phases out conventional cages, most farmers will decide to install free-run or enriched cage housing. For its part, poultry housing maker Big Dutchman is presently seeing a 50/50 split on its Canadian sales of the two housing types, but sales lead Ron Wardrop says he’s recently seeing a little more interest from producers in enriched cages.
Published in Layers
The updated National Farm Animal Care Council code of practice for laying hens contains many specifications for foraging, perches and nests – enrichments that allow the hens to engage in natural behaviours. These enhancements vary to some degree among housing providers. Here’s what some of them offer and why.
Published in Layers
Poor skeletal health in commercial laying hens was first documented as a production issue in the 1950s. It became an animal welfare concern in the 1980s, when scientists first documented a high prevalence of bone fractures after handling hens at end of lay.
Published in Layers
Feather pecking is not an act of aggression but repetitive pecking that is thought to be a result of stress, according to Dr. Krysta Morrissey, a postdoctoral researcher with the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph. “It can cause pain and injury and is an animal welfare concern.”
Published in Layers
France will ban eggs laid by battery cage hens and sold in supermarkets by 2022, the agriculture minister confirmed this week, however the ban will not apply to ingredient eggs used in processed products. | READ MORE
Published in News
Animal Health Australia has received more than 100,000 submissions on draft national poultry guidelines, and cage eggs was one of the most contentious.

The draft Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines for poultry will replace the 15-year-old voluntary regulations. The guidelines cover all aspects of poultry farming but cage eggs are a focus, with about 11 million hens housed in cages in Australia – more than half of all laying hens.

Animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA and Animals Australia want cages phased out and ultimately banned. They say battery cages are cruel and severely restrict movement, leading to bone and muscle weakness, and distress.

But the chief executive of Egg Farmers of Australia, John Dunn, said the “radical suggestion” of a ban or phase-out of cages would lead to massive loss of production and increase the price of eggs. He said 56 per cent of egg production in Australia involved cages and the industry “can’t just turn that off”. For the full story, click here.
Published in News
As the due date approaches for the transition from conventional cages to either fully enriched or cage-free layer systems, we will discuss the differences between these systems. We also will explore the other question many farms are facing: build a new barn or retrofit an existing structure. Join us as we share on these important topics, and respond to your questions.
Published in Webinars
My fifth blog starts off at the New Year.

Christmas gives those of us in agriculture time to enjoy faith, family, friends and farm. As holiday festivities took over between Christmas and New Year’s, we had minimal time to make any progress.

Many businesses have limited holiday hours, and employees take time away from their jobs, including our construction crew. It ended up being too cold to work anyway.

But we continued to care for our hens 24/7. Our kids, Charlotte and John, returned home for the holidays and they helped out as well.

Back to our new enriched housing project.

Last April, we met with Harold Meadows of Clark Ag Systems. Together, we decided to go with the Farmer Automatic Enriched Colony Housing system for our new layer barn.

At that time, you must decide on a date to have the equipment arrive at your farm.

It comes from Laer, Germany packed in Maersk containers, travels by ship to Montreal, by rail car to Brampton, Ont. and then goes through customs. Finally, it arrives at your farm via transport truck.

We had originally (optimistically and probably naively!) picked a delivery date in December, but later changed that to January 2nd.

In November, we realized that we would not need the layer housing equipment until perhaps February and wanted to postpone the date.

This was impossible. The company in Germany is very organized in filling the order and the container had already been loaded and was en route on the high seas.

Rarely are they wrong about timing, unless Mother Nature interferes!

We received one day’s grace and the first container arrived January 3rd.

Of course, this turned out to be one of the deep freeze weeks, with temperatures plummeting below -18°C.

Our loader tractor was first used to take each box, which sits on a pallet, to flatbed trailers that Nick had arranged to temporarily put the various packages on.

The loader tractor was having trouble working, and we started using the “Gradall” machine that B. Jorna Construction had on site to move lumber, etc. for the construction tasks.

The second container arrived in the late afternoon.



Between loads, the Masterfeeds truck brought feed and Nick came in for a break. I told him he was talking funny and asked him what was the matter. He said, “My face is frozen!” A hot chocolate helped to warm him up so he could smile again.

Charlotte and John cleared out what will be the new cooler in order to make a temporary holding place for all of the parts. This also gave the equipment a place to be protected from winter weather.

The various skids then got moved on January 4th to the cooler area.

The week of January 8th brought many visual advances: the Tile Red steel getting put on the east and west sides; insulation and white plastic was put on pack room walls; the scissor lift arrived to be used for high jobs; a vapour barrier was put on the barn ceiling below trusses and walls; and hurricane clips installed (did you know that each clip can withstand 1,100 pounds of uplift pressure?).

Our daughter Nicole helped install them – at least eight nails each on the base of the barn, lots of squats and no blue fingers when she was done.

During the rest of the month, insulation was placed on all walls, white vinyl planking was installed everywhere except the cooler and three to five lighting rows were installed.

As I write this blog, the facia, soffit and some electrical are in the works.

With insulation and walls of the large main barn almost completed, we moved all of the skids and boxes of housing equipment from the cooler to the back of said barn.

This was done on a warm, sunny day before snow returned near the end of January. The cooler still needs to be insulated, and its walls finished.

I repeat a previous comment that the animal care and egg gathering must still be carried out in the old barn.

Additionally, yearend arrived and this brings extra bookwork. I got a good start on the last quarter at the beginning of December, but then had to finish in January. I also am keeping track of the new barn costs separately for our own records.

I finished this on January 22nd and filed my HST rebate at 2:50 pm. This filing included the many barn build expenses thus far and was, of course, more work for me in a quarter than ever before. Our rebate was $17,000-plus higher than our usual filing with Revenue Canada.

We were having afternoon break and at 3:20 a Canada Revenue HST office employee called to inquire about the large jump in our rebate filing.

I explained what we were doing, and I believe initially he would have wanted me to forward some proof to him of our venture.

However, I also told him about the coming changes in the egg industry with respect to the deletion of conventional housing by 2035.

I told him he could read about what we were doing in my blog! He was very interested and was going to check it out. No further documentation was required of me. Yippee!

So, with Jack Frost nipping at our noses, we hope February sees less of Old Man Winter – not holding my chilly breath!

CLICK HERE to read more about Cindy's experience transitioning from a conventional to an enriched layer barn.
Published in Blog
On page 3, we profiled three Canadian egg producers who made the transition from conventional to new housing systems. Glen Jennings of Nova Scotia transitioned to an enriched cage system, Charles-Éric Bouchard converted to a free-run system and Scott Janzen of British Columbia chose a free-range system. Here are their tips on how to make the move  away from conventional housing smoother.
Published in Layers
In September 2014, A&W Foodservices of Canada announced itself as the first national quick service restaurant chain in North America to serve eggs from hens fed a vegetarian diet. A month later, the chain became the first in North America to serve chicken Raised Without the use of Antibiotics (RWA). In terms of the response to the chicken and egg campaigns, Susan Senecal, the chain’s chief marketing officer at the time and now president and chief operating officer, stated in late 2014 that, “Canadians are voting with their stomachs and the response has been fabulous.”
Published in Companies
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