Animal Housing

Over the past year, I’ve been documenting my family’s journey converting from conventional housing to an enriched system on canadianpoultrymag.com. Thankfully, the new barn is up and running.

Published in Blog

More poultry producers are switching to LED lights in their layer barns for the power savings, versatility, durability and brightness they offer in comparison to all other options. Lighting is important in broiler, turkey, pullet and layer production, but especially important in egg production these days because of the new systems hens are being housed in. It’s all about making sure, in these new housing set-ups, that egg laying in the nest boxes is maximized.

Published in Layers

Bill Van Heyst grew up on a mixed farm near Grand Bend, Ont. He remembers looking after 500 laying hens – that was the maximum amount allowed under quota at the time. He also remembers switching over the old tunnel ventilated 1960s vintage poultry barn to battery cages from free-range. If he’d only known then that free-range would be fashionable once again…

Published in Barn Management

Research shows that under natural conditions, domestic fowl spend 70 per cent of their active time foraging by walking on the ground because their flight abilities are limited. When threatened or roosting, domestic hens seek elevated refuges. For roosting, birds fly up to the lowest branch of a tree and seek higher elevation by flying branch-to-branch, whereas they descend by flying directly to the ground. Hens use their wings only for brief escape flights.

Published in Welfare

Across the country, egg producers looking to comply with the phase-out of conventional layer housing are facing a big decision of whether to invest in aviary or enriched housing. For many producers, the choice is challenging: not only do both systems provide management benefits and drawbacks, the single most critical factor – future consumer demand – remains a huge wildcard.

Published in Layers

While the vast majority of Canadian egg producers still use conventional housing, some have had enriched colony or free-run housing systems in place for several years. These farmers have, therefore, had the time to get to know these systems and learn how to best manage flocks within them.

Published in Layers

Summer has come and gone and fall is now here. It’s once again time to take a look at your maintenance program and go over the equipment to ensure everything is running efficiently.

Published in Barn Management

I had the privilege of visiting numerous barns this summer, and lugged my video equipment with me to document my travels. I met many passionate farmers doing innovative things. People like Ryan Kuntze, a Stratford, Ont.-based broiler producer and self-described peat moss guinea pig.

Published in Farm Business
Since last September, Cindy Huitema, egg producer from Haldimand County, Ont., has been documenting her family’s journey transitioning to a new layer housing system with her blog, Cindy Egg Farmerette. In the final installment of her blog, Cindy discusses the process of placing her initial flock and how everyone on the farm is adapting to the new enriched barn and its added technology.
Published in Blog
Backed by the stability and predictability offered by supply management, a green shift is happening across rural Canada. One such farmer at the cutting edge of this new wave is Manitoba’s Abe Loewen. He recently invested in solar panels to heat and cool the family home, alongside his entire barn – home to 12,600 hens.
Published in Producers

Sanderson Farms, Inc. recently reported that it continues to assess damage to its North Carolina assets and live production infrastructure caused by Hurricane Florence.

The Company is pleased to report that it has still received no report of serious injuries or loss of life among its employees and growers. However, many employees and growers have lost homes and property, and in some cases are being housed in shelters.

Sanderson Farms will continue to do whatever possible to help those who have been displaced. While the company is pleased its employees and growers have remained safe, the company deeply regrets the loss of animals under its care. Although the company and family farmers who care for its chickens did everything possible to prevent the loss of birds, the unprecedented rainfall from Hurricane Florence caused serious flooding that affected the company’s live grow out operations.

“I continue to be pleased that our people remained safe during this catastrophic storm,” said Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Sanderson Farms, Inc. “Those who have been displaced, lost their homes or had their lives disrupted will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers, and we will do whatever we can to help them recover from this storm. Everyone at Sanderson Farms is deeply saddened by the loss of live birds, whose well-being has been entrusted to our care, especially our farmers and live production employees who care for our birds on a daily basis. We take very seriously our responsibility for the well-being of the animals we raise, and we will continue to do everything we can to protect those birds still threatened by rising flood waters.”

As earlier reported, the company did not experience any significant damage to either of its processing facilities, feed mill or hatcheries in North Carolina. The Kinston, North Carolina, processing plant resumed one shift of operations on Tuesday, September 18, 2018.

Many roadways in and around Lumberton and St. Pauls, North Carolina, remain impassable and are closed, and local streams and rivers are expected to crest later this week. The company will resume operations at its St. Pauls processing plant once it is safe for employees to navigate roads and highways.

The company continues to assess the extent of damage to its independent contract farms and the loss of live birds. Current information indicates that 70 broiler houses out of 880 in North Carolina have flooded. Those farms housed 2.1 million chickens. Of that number, 1.35 million were in the company’s St. Pauls, North Carolina, big bird deboning division, and 755,000 birds were associated with the Kinston, North Carolina, tray pack division.

The company has been able to reach most of the farms previously isolated by flood waters to ensure adequate care and feed is available to the chickens on those farms.

Electrical power continues to be restored at a steady pace, and the company believes power will be fully restored to all of its independent farms in short order.

Sanderson Farms, Inc. is engaged in the production, processing, marketing and distribution of fresh, frozen and minimally prepared chicken. 


RELATED: Millions of chickens drown in Florence floodwaters, manure pits damaged

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
What came first, the chicken or the lettuce?

Iowa State University researchers are conducting experiments to determine what advantages may arise from integrating chickens into vegetable production systems.

The researchers must balance a range of concerns, including environmental sustainability, costs and food and animal safety. But Ajay Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and a vegetable production specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, said finding ways to integrate vegetable and animal production may lead to greater efficiency and healthier soils.

The experiments, currently in their second year, take place at the ISU Horticulture Research Station just north of Ames. The researchers are testing what happens when a flock of broiler chickens lives on a vegetable field for part of the year.

The chickens forage on the plant matter left behind after the vegetables are harvested and fertilize the soil with manure. This integrated approach could reduce off-farm inputs and also provide producers with sustainable crop rotation options.

The researchers are testing three different systems on a half acre of land at the research farm. The first system involves a vegetable crop – one of several varieties of lettuce or broccoli – early in the growing season, followed by the chickens, which are then followed by a cover crop later in the year.

The second system involves the vegetable crop, followed by two months of a cover crop, with the chickens foraging on the land later in the year. The third system is vegetables followed by cover crops, with no chickens.

The experiment involves roughly 40 chickens, which live in four mobile coops that the researchers move every day. Moving the coops around ensures the chickens have access to fresh forage and keeps their manure from concentrating any particular part of the field. An electric fence surrounds the field to keep out predators.

Moriah Bilenky, a graduate assistant in horticulture, checks on the chickens every morning to make sure they have food and water. She also weighs them periodically to collect data on how efficiently they convert food into body mass. The researchers designed the trial to uphold animal health, and Bilenky said she keeps a detailed log on how foraging in the fields impacts the birds’ health and performance.

Nair said the researchers are looking at several facets associated with sustainability. Nitrogen and phosphorous deposited in the soil from the chicken manure could alleviate some of the need for fertilizer application, while working cover crops into the system can prevent the loss of nutrients into waterways. Economics must also factor into the research, he said.

“We might come up with results that really help the soil, but if the system is not economically stable, I doubt growers will be willing to adopt it because it has to work for their bottom line as well,” he said.

The trials also adhere to food safety regulations. For instance, all vegetables are harvested before the chickens are introduced to the fields, ensuring none of the produce is contaminated. The researchers consulted food safety and animal science experts at Iowa State while designing their experiments, and the work undergoes regular IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) inspection and documentation, he said.

The trials remain ongoing, so the researchers aren’t drawing any conclusions yet about the success of their integrated system. The project is currently supported through a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant. Nair said he’s seeking additional funding to investigate the animal health and integrated pest management aspects of this research.

So why did the chicken cross the road? It’s too early to tell, but maybe so it could get into the lettuce and pepper fields.
Published in Environment
High stocking densities significantly impact the health, welfare and performance of tom turkeys. That’s according to newly completed research by Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner and master’s student Kailyn Beaulac at the University of Saskatchewan’s department of animal and poultry science.
Published in Turkeys
High ambient temperatures mean detrimental performance and reduced profits for producers. Extreme cases cause suffering and death in all poultry breeds. Phytogenic feed additives in poultry diets help alleviate the negative impacts of heat stress by exerting an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect in birds.

Poultry producers commonly face the challenge of heat stress either seasonally or year-round. Poultry farmed in hot and humid countries are genetically derived from strains originally bred in, and selected for, the cool climates of Europe and North America.

Rearing birds outside of their thermal comfort zone could mean failing to achieve full genetic potential. Producers in warmer climates or those in cooler zones who adjust their shed temperatures to their own comfort levels, not to that of their birds, should consider the impact of heat stress on flocks. | READ MORE 
Published in Bird Management
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
Residents in Crystal Lake, Sask., are upset about plans for a newly approved Hutterite-run chicken operation near Stenen.

“Both the farming community and the lake community are all very frustrated with this whole thing,” said Wilson Olive, a resident of Crystal Lake.

They are concerned about how the operation could impact the water supply, since the proposed site sits on top of an aquifer. | READ MORE
Published in News
A chicken farmer has been given a suspended jail sentence for falsely claiming that eggs produced in crowded henhouses were free-range.

Eggs from James Gigg’s farm in Dorset were sold to shops and delicatessens that marketed them to customers as free-range. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail but suspended it for 18 months because he accepted the farmer had not acted out of greed. | READ MORE
Published in News
Capturing at least some of the heat from stale or “old” air being exhausted from poultry and hog barns is one more step in developing intensive livestock operations with net zero energy barns. The net zero term means a barn is producing as much energy as it is using.

Two poultry barns in Alberta, for example, have installed heat recovery systems that capture heat from air being exhausted from broiler and layer barns and use it to warm cold fresh air that’s being vented into the barn.

The heat recovery ventilators (HRV), used primarily in winter months, take some of the cold edge off the fresh incoming air, helping to reduce heating costs inside the barn. It’s not so dramatic as being able to feel hot air going out, and then being replaced inside the heat exchanger with hot fresh air coming in, but the system can warm up cold winter air by 15 to 20 degrees. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in Barn Management
Auburn University's College of Agriculture, in conjunction with other schools around the nation, will conduct a study to ensure that poultry litter does not pollute surface waters with excessive amounts of phosphorous.

The three-year study is being performed to combat the 1.8 million tons of waste produced annually in Alabama from its $15 billion poultry industry.

Phosphorous-rich poultry litter is a big concern in Alabama and other states where the litter is used to fertilize fields. If the nutrient leaks into waterways, it can cause toxic algae blooms which can lead to deficient oxygen levels and destruction of life in the water.

The study will look at the Sand Mountain region of North Alabama and a row-crop field in Wisconsin, two large agro-ecosystems that are currently having issues with managing their phosphorous levels. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in Environment
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