Animal Housing
June 23, 2017, Indiana - The cage-free revolution has been driven by consumers, many of whom think the change is better for chickens (though many also may believe eggs from uncaged hens are better quality).

Animal protection groups argue it definitely is: Birds that are not confined to small wire cages can at least spread their wings and engage in natural behaviors like dust-bathing and perching, even if they never see the light of day.

But egg producers and researchers caution that the switch is not as simple as just opening those cage doors — and that mobility brings with it a new set of concerns for chickens’ welfare that most farmers have never confronted.

A major 2015 study of three different hen-housing systems found that mortality was highest among birds in cage-free aviaries and that they also had more keel bone problems. READ MORE 
Published in Eggs - Layers
June 16, Elmhurst, Ont. - Ongoing research at the University of Saskatchewan is examining how light cycles can affect a bird’s natural rhythm, health and growth rate.

“Turning the lights off can have a dramatic effect on how birds move around in their environment,” Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner, assistant professor in the department of animal and poultry science at the University of Saskatchewan, said.

Schwean-Lardner recently discussed her research study at New-Life MillsTurkey Producers Academy held in Elmhurst, Ont., on June 1. The research project initially examined how light cycles affect broilers and is now performing the same research study on turkeys.

“It is really important that we look at turkey data for turkey producers, not just take assumptions from broiler data,” Schwean-Lardner said.

Research results are suggesting the ideal amount of light per 24 hours for turkeys to be at least four hours of darkness.

“One of the primary differences between turkeys and broilers is that turkeys benefit greatly from four hours of darkness – and few differences are noted with the addition of more darkness. The exceptions might be in body weight, and if a producer has an issue with mortality or lameness, that will also be impacted,” she added.

It is also noted it is ideal to establish distinct day and night times and to implement increases and decreases gradually.

“If flocks have mortality issues, periods of darkness can certainly help that. If you are considering making a change to your lighting program be sure to do make your adjustments in the evening, before the period of darkness, to avoid interrupting the bird’s feeding cycle,” Schwean-Lardner said.

The New-Life Mills event also featured William Alexander, technical representative from Hybrid Turkeys. Alexander discussed factors that contribute to consistent quality poult starts and Lisa Hodgins, monogastric nutritionist from New-Life Mills, spoke on the evolution of feeding programs.
Published in Bird Management
June 15, 2017, Vancouver, B.C. - A chicken-catching company at the centre of an animal cruelty investigation in British Columbia says it will require staff to wear body cameras after an animal advocacy group released video of alleged abuse.

Dwayne Dueck, president of Elite Services in Chilliwack, says it will be mandatory for one supervisor and two staff members in each barn to wear cameras on their vests, and the video will be reviewed at the end of each day.

The announcement comes after the SPCA in British Columbia launched an investigation following the release of undercover video by Mercy for Animals that shows workers allegedly hitting, kicking and throwing chickens.

A statement from Elite Services says six staff members have now been fired, including two who were let go prior to the video being released, three who were fired immediately after, and one more who was terminated after the company did a ''detailed forensic review'' of the video.

Investigators with the SPCA are working on a report that will be forwarded to Crown counsel and SPCA spokeswoman Marcie Moriarty says the organization will recommend multiple charges of animal cruelty under both the Criminal Code and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The statement from Elite Services says the company hopes the ''senseless acts of violence'' in the footage will help implement new levels of animal care across the industry.

The company says it is updating its standards and procedures, undertook organization-wide retraining on Wednesday, and all employees will be asked to sign documents affirming they understand the company's care and concern procedures.

''It is our intent to share the experience of our new best practices with industry regulators, and adopt other best practices from cutting edge producers,'' the statement says.
Published in Company News
June 9, 2017, Vancouver, B.C. - A&W Canada has announced that it will support the University of Saskatchewan to expand an important research project that will examine lighting enhancements and related health and welfare outcomes for broiler chickens.

The project's broader research focus is to determine lighting effects on the mobility, behavior and physiological welfare of poultry by measuring the impact of the various wavelengths of barn lighting.

A&W is providing $45,000 in funding to the University of Saskatchewan's Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner to expand the data collection on the impacts of energy efficient LED lighting on broiler chicken welfare and production this fall.

They will examine the differences LED lights make on poultry behavior, welfare and health outcomes. Incandescent lighting has been phased out and much less is known about the welfare and behavioral impacts of LED lighting.

"Through our research, we are always looking for ways to improve food quality and production while maintaining high animal care and welfare standards. Partnerships in research like this allow us to find the sustainable caring solutions we need to feed a growing world," says Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner is a global leader in poultry barn lighting. Her work is internationally cited and has helped to establish international standards of practice for lighting.

She served as the Chair of the Scientific Committee for the Canadian Poultry Code of Practice, as well as being a member of the Poultry Code Development Committee through the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). NFACC's Code of Practice development process ensures credibility through scientific rigor, stakeholder collaboration and a consistent approach.

"At A&W we are constantly impressed with the leadership work Karen Schwean-Lardner and the University of Saskatchewan are doing in poultry welfare. We are proud to make a financial contribution to this research to allow the research team to further their understanding of LED barn lighting," says Trish Sahlstrom, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, A&W Canada.

Dr. Schwean-Lardner says, "The University of Saskatchewan is committed to research that will continue to reinforce Canada's leadership in poultry welfare. Partners like A&W share a commitment to new research that can contribute to the development of new best practices."
Published in Health
June 8, 2017, Abbotsford, B.C. - Tens of thousands of chickens have died in an Abbotsford, B.C., barnfire.

Firefighters were called to the property in the Ross Road area around 1 p.m Tuesday. They arrived to find the two-storey barn fully engulfed by "flames from one end to the other."

Assistant fire chief said there were around 25,000 chickens inside. READ MORE
Published in News
June 5, 2017, Canada - Egg Farmers of Canada is holding a special call for research proposals, for submission as part of the Poultry Research Cluster.

The Cluster, administered by the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC), provides an opportunity for eligible projects to receive federal funding in addition to industry funding.

Researchers are invited to complete and submit our full proposal funding application form during this special call for proposals.

To be considered for funding, research projects must align with the outlined research priorities (see below) and the principal investigator must also work full-time in a Canadian institution or organization.

Deadline for proposals is June 30, 2017. For further information and to apply, please email Elyse Germain, Program and Policy Analyst at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Details:
  • Full project proposals will be reviewed and funding decisions made by July 31, 2017
  • Projects that receive a positive funding decision will be included in the Poultry Research Cluster submission to Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (AAFC) in the Fall of 2017
  • Projects approved by AAFC will begin no earlier than April 1, 2018
  • Eligible projects must fall under the research priorities listed below in order to be considered
  • Research priorities
Hen welfare:
  • Hen behaviour and health in alternative housing systems, including housing system design, management and production practices, and pullet rearing
  • End of flock management, including catching, loading and transport, and on-farm depopulation
  • Hen health
  • Disease
  • Gut health
  • Dietary ingredients
  • Environment and sustainability
  • Production practices and technologies that decrease environmental impact and increase sustainability
NOTE: Research should focus on alternative housing systems to align with the industry-wide transition away from conventional housing systems.
Published in Housing
May 30, 2017 - Steve Parsons has been a part of the chicken industry throughout his entire life, and his company, Greengage Lighting Ltd, is using LED systems to help poultry and swine farmers further improve the efficiency and productivity of their operations.

Parsons sat down with Jamie Johansen during ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference, where he gave a presentation on his company through his participation in the Pearse Lyons Accelerator Program.

Greengage supplies an induction-powered system that makes LED lights and sensors for poultry and swine.

It uses patented inductive technology, a magnetic conductive system that converts energy into LED lights on a wave spectrum that has been aligned to the requirements of a chicken. READ MORE
Published in New Technology
May 18, 2017, Adelaide, Aus. - People choose to buy free-range or cage-free eggs because they believe they taste better and are better quality than eggs from caged hens, new research published today suggests.

In a study, conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide and published in Anthrozoös, the journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology, the most often reported motivations for buying free-range eggs included reasons such as the eggs were of better quality, more nutritious, and safer to eat, and that they allowed purchasers to avoid “industrialized” food.

Despite participants describing caged-egg production as “cruel”, they did not tend to emphasize welfare reasons as critical for their purchases of free-range eggs. Instead, participants felt that the free-range chickens were “happier” and thus produced a better quality of product.

This finding suggests that consumers are more likely to purchase a food product if it is both “ethical” and viewed as being of better quality, rather than for ethical reasons alone.

The study also revealed that there were high levels of awareness among participants of caged-egg production when compared to other types of animal farming.

In addition, participants who bought free-range or cage-free eggs did not necessarily tend to buy meat with ethical claims, in part because the price difference is much smaller in eggs in comparison to different types of meat products. Some people produced their own free-range eggs by keeping a few hens.

To collect the data for the study, the researchers conducted focus groups and shopping mall interviews with 73 participants (of mixed age and gender) and asked about their food purchasing habits.

Then they categorized the different reasons that people gave for their decisions to understand why people choose the food they do, especially when there are ethical issues and competing values involved.

Lead author Dr. Heather J. Bray from the School of Humanities and the Food Values Research Group at the University of Adelaide commented, “Taste and quality are strong motivations for purchasing and may be part of the reason why people are prepared to pay a higher price. More importantly these findings suggest that consumers think about animal welfare in a much broader way than we previously thought, and in particular they believe that better welfare is connected to a better quality product.”

The authors recommend that more research is needed including studies to further understand consumer motivations behind purchasing products with ethical production claims, in order to explore whether changes in production methods or labelling would be supported by consumers.

This work was funded by the Australian Research Council.

Read the full article online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08927936.2017.1310986
Published in Consumer
May 12, 2017, London, Ont. - Researchers are delving deeper into the nesting motivations of birds and finding them as finicky about nesting as humans are about their comfort.

They are also finding more research needs to be done.

Michelle Hunniford, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph, is researching the nesting behaviour of laying hens.

She has found that new ways of evaluating nesting behaviour are needed.

She told a session at the London Poultry Show that settling behavior, the process hens go through to find and get themselves comfortable to lay an egg, along with egg location should drive cage design evaluation. The speed that a hen gets to that comfort level is correlated to how much pecking it does to establish its space and how long it occupies nesting space.

The University of Guelph re-searchers observed hens through their waking period — lights came on at 5 a.m. — and recorded their behaviour.

They then created graphs that showed a “settled” laying hen moved through its settling phases in more defined periods compared to an “unsettled” layer hen.

In most enhanced systems, the layers have a nesting area, with flooring and a scratch area.
Hunniford and her colleagues looked at what nests would motivate hens to settle in the desired nesting areas.
They found it was difficult to predict which hens would lay where and some hens preferred one system while others chose another.

As a result, one of Hunniford’s recommendations include that providing two smaller nests is more important that providing one large, fully furnished nest. READ MORE
Published in Housing
April 25, 2017, Columbus, OH - Keel bone health is increasingly seen as an animal welfare metric in alternative housing systems.

A new research study shows the majority of keel bone damage originates from collisions with perches inside the layer house.

Dr. Maja Makagon, assistant professor of applied animal behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, discussed the results of a study conducted to analyze keel bone damage in a layer environment. Makagon, who spoke on April 19 as part of the Egg Industry Center Egg Industry Issues Forum in Columbus, Ohio, said the study utilized accelerometers and 3D imaging technology to study the force of the collisions and measure their effects on the keel bone.

The keel is an extension of the sternum that provides an anchor for the bird’s wing muscles and provides leverage for flight. As laying hens are being removed from a conventional cage environment, Makagon said, keel integrity is increasingly seen as an indicator of animal welfare. Damaged keels are associated with increased mortality, reduced egg production and egg quality, and keel damage is likely associated with pain for the animal. READ MORE
Published in Layers
April 11, 2017, Calgary, Alta. - A mother-daughter duo from Alberta is capitalizing on the growing popularity of backyard farming by launching a rent-a-chicken business.

Megan Wylie works alongside her mother on their Millarville family farm to run, The Urban Chicks, a company aimed at providing customers with everything necessary to operate a backyard chicken coop.

Customers are given two chickens, a coop, organic feed, grit and oyster shells, feed dishes and cleaning supplies. In October, the chickens are picked up and returned to the Millarville farm. Wylie says this allows customers to acquire fresh eggs while avoiding caring for the chickens in the more tedious winter months.

The Urban Chicks even provide their customers with a ‘laying guarantee,’ where they will replace a hen if it stops laying eggs. READ MORE
Published in Companies
In January, new broiler producer Brent Pryce welcomed more than 20,000 birds (14,000 quota) into his brand new barn in Walton, Ont.

“I grew up on a farm, with my grandfather starting with dairy and then cash crops and some pork and beef, and always wanted to get into farming,” Pryce says. “I worked towards this through starting up a few different businesses like road dust control, a rental business, vehicle undercoating, and then decided last summer to take the plunge to buy quota and build a barn.”

Construction started in September 2016 and finished in December 2016.

“Our sons, Russell and Clinton, are the reason Catherine and I did it, so that they can have a future in farming if they want it,” Pryce adds. “We’re starting with the goal of producing 2.2 kilogram birds, with four kilograms as the ultimate goal.”

Pryce chose a cross-ventilation barn design with a heating system that’s brand new to North America – one he’s seen working well in other barns he’s visited. Pryce also believes it will help save on heating bills and electricity, which is quite costly in Ontario, and provide excellent humidity control.

Weeden Environments was a main contractor for the project. Nathan Conley, the firm’s manager for Ontario and the northern United States, says the cross-ventilation design offers a lower building cost than longer and narrower tunnel barns. “Many of Brent’s neighbours and friends are very happy with their cross-ventilated buildings,” he says. “We recommended that two sides have modular side wall air inlets for consistent control over incoming air during minimum ventilation. The air from both sides travels up and along the ceiling [the warmest part of the barn] and therefore it’s conditioned before it reaches the birds and the litter. We then use stir fans to produce consistent temperatures throughout.”

Conley says when warmer weather arrives, a continuous double baffle inlet on one side of the barn will be employed; this set-up creates the same amount of wind chill over the birds as continuous baffle on both sides of the barn. Val-Co HyperMax exhaust fans were chosen for the barn, which Conley says are high-performing and very energy efficient.

A first in North America, the barn’s forced air propane heating and humidity control system is provided by Mabre. Mike Neutel, CEO of Neu Air Systems in Woodstock, Ont., says the systems are used all over the world. The set-up includes two 600,000 Btu Mabre propane furnaces with Reillo burners.

“In poultry barns, typical heating systems are tube heaters and box forced air heaters,” Neutel says. “Some growers have these heaters vented to the outdoors and some vent the products of combustion in the barn.”

He notes the contaminants contained in this air are very harmful to birds, and the exhaust also contains tons of moisture – 0.82 litres of water for every litre of liquid propane burned, and 0.65 litres of water for every litre of liquid natural gas.

Mabre heating systems exit exhaust through chimneys while maintaining a high efficiency of 92 per cent, Neutel notes, while the forced air blowers provide excellent air circulation, which is key in maintaining proper humidity levels. A very even temperature, often within a degree throughout the entire barn, is achieved, but no draft is created. Return air going back to the furnace incorporates fresh outside air through a louver, while heating and mixing this air through an exchanger.



All of this, Neutel says, was important to Pryce. “[He] also commented during his decision process that the low ammonia levels will make it a safe environment for his children to manage the barn when they get older without having to worry about farmer lung,” Neutel adds. Mabre systems maintain humidity between 50 and 60 per cent, even with outside humidity levels of 90 per cent, which Neutel says keeps ammonia levels very low.

Mabre is available with natural gas, propane, wood pellet and wood chip options. More than 200 wood pellet systems have been installed in Quebec poultry barns.

In terms of how popular the cross-ventilation systems will become, Conley notes that in Ontario, producers are moving away from two and three-story barns for easier cleaning and to incorporate modular loading systems. “In the U.S., longer tunnel-ventilated barns are the norm, because the barns are larger and the temperatures higher,” he explains. “With this design – used there and around the world – the barn operates the same as a cross-ventilated barn, where air is brought in via sidewall inlets and exhausted out the sidewalls, but when hotter weather arrives, we gradually transition into tunnel to generate air speed down the length of the barn to create wind chill over the birds to cool them. I think that you’ll begin to see a trend of tunnel-ventilated buildings popping up over the next few years as we continue to see hotter, longer summers and the need to control heat stress becomes greater.”

In late January, Pryce reported in on barn performance and his first flock, which had arrived three weeks prior. “So far, I’m really happy with the heat unit and the environment in there is great. Right now is when you see things start to slide a bit, but it’s the same as the first few days the chickens came in. Usually you don’t really take young kids in a barn, but I’m pretty comfortable with taking my young kids in. The carbon dioxide and humidity levels are bang on.”
Published in New Technology
March 28, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Egg Farmers of Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) recently announced the release of a revised Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers.

Canada’s codes of practice are nationally developed guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals. They serve as the foundation for ensuring that farm animals are cared for using sound management and welfare practices that promote animal health and wellbeing. Codes are used as educational tools, reference materials for regulations, and the foundation for industry animal care assessment programs.

“Canada’s more than 1,000 egg farmers are deeply committed to and strive for continuous improvements when it comes to the care and well-being of their hens,” said Roger Pelissero, chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada.

Egg Farmers of Canada is a long-time supporter of the National Farm Animal Care Council. We value the leadership of the code committee and their dedication to evidence-based standards that serve as a key building block to our national animal care program,” he added.

NFACC’s code development process is a uniquely consensus-based, multi-stakeholder approach that ensures credibility and transparency through scientific rigour, stakeholder collaboration, and consistency. Updates to the layer code were led by a 17-person code committee comprised of egg farmers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, transporters, egg processors, veterinarians and government representatives. Aiding in their work was a five-person scientific committee that included research and veterinary expertise in laying hen behaviour, health and welfare. A public comment period was held in the summer of 2016 to allow the public and all stakeholders to provide input.

“The new code provides progressive standards for hen welfare in Canada,” said poultry welfare expert Dr. Ian Duncan, who represented the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the code committee. “We worked diligently for almost four years to secure these important new welfare commitments.”

Canada’s codes of practice are a powerful tool for meeting rising consumer, marketplace and societal expectations relative to farm animal welfare. Codes support responsible animal care practices and keep everyone involved in farm animal care and handling on the same page.

“The code of practice is an important tool for egg farmers across the country,” explains Glen Jennings, egg farmer and chair of the code development committee. “The new code is the result of four years of in-depth scientific evaluation and rigorous discussion. The outcome balances hen welfare, behaviour and health in a manner that is sustainable and achievable by farmers.”

The new layer code is available online at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/poultry-layers.
Published in Eggs - Layers
As many of us have heard on the news recently, food security in Northern Canada is a serious problem. Most people in the Far North are completely reliant on food produced in the south. Food is generally very expensive, but fresh fruit and vegetables in particular cost three to four times what they would elsewhere. Numerous new greenhouse initiatives are underway to address the problem – most of them employing high-tech green energy solutions and extremely high levels of insulation.
Published in New Technology
March 13, 2017, Vancouver, BC – A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. recently committed to the adoption of even higher animal welfare standards for farm-raised broiler chickens.

"We want to continuously raise the bar in animal welfare to ensure animals are treated with respect,” said Susan Senecal, president and chief operating officer at A&W Canada. “Today, we have elevated our standards to include some new ones. It all adds up to a better life."

Under A&W’s new requirements, producers must:
  • Introduce physical enhancements that best allow for natural bird behaviour, while preserving an antibiotic-free environment.
  • Ensure a minimum of six hours of darkness in the barn so chickens can rest better at night.
  • Ensure barn density levels meet or exceed the standard set out in the Global Animal Partnership Step Level 2.
A&W works with farmers to ensure chickens are humanely raised in large barns with ample access to fresh air, food and water. Lighting, air quality and cleanliness are monitored and clean litter is provided for every flock.

A flock health care plan and qualified veterinary care is currently required at each of A&W's supplier farms to maintain flock health, which is actively monitored.

A&W uses breeds of birds that can thrive in the barns with optimal health. These birds are raised to a weight best for maintaining mobility and leg and foot health. The company understands that the University of Guelph is undertaking a study to determine whether there may be breeds of chickens better suited for Canadian farms. A&W looks forward to the results of this study.

All of A&W's farmers work to ensure that the birds have ample room to roam, with the majority of barns operating at a density well below the industry requirement, providing lots of space to range.

A&W currently has stringent standards for the humane handling of birds for euthanasia and has already begun working with its suppliers to adopt controlled atmosphere stunning. This process reduces the individual handling of the birds. The company has committed to a complete conversion to this enhanced method as quickly as possible and no later than the end of 2022.

All A&W suppliers are currently required to have annual third party audits by qualified professional animal auditors to ensure compliance to A&W's standards.
Published in Company News
February 22, 2017, Victoria, BC – Due to an underwhelming response by users to register their wells, the province has extended its waiver of the application fee to December 31, 2017.
 
The new Water Sustainability Act took effect February 29, 2016 and includes licensing requirements for all non-domestic groundwater users. As a result, all wells used for irrigation and livestock watering must be registered. READ MORE
Published in Business & Policy
Truss plate corrosion can be an issue in barns - but it doesn’t have to be. The life span of truss plates, hangers, screws and nails in the truss system depends on the materials used, barn design and maintenance.
Published in Housing
Jan. 5, 2017 - New research conducted by the University of Adelaide shows there is no greater risk of Salmonella contamination in the production of free-range eggs due to hot summer weather, compared with other seasons.

Despite a higher number of cases of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products during the hot summer months, researchers at the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences say the egg production process itself is not to blame for the increase in cases.

The findings are further evidence that the hygiene around egg handling in the supply chain and in household and restaurant kitchens is critical to reducing food poisoning from eggs.

Researchers conducted a study of four Australian commercial free range egg farms, with the results now published online ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"Eggs and egg products have been associated with an increased risk of Salmonella contamination. Because the use of free-range eggs by consumers is on the rise, we felt it was important to better understand the risk factors at the production stage," says lead author Kapil Chousalkar, from the school of animal and veterinary sciences at the University's Roseworthy campus.

"Birds raised in the free range production system could potentially be exposed to weather extremes, and the free range environment is not as easily controlled as in cage egg production. Therefore, it has been assumed that hot weather has a role to play in the potential contamination of eggs at the site of free range egg production.

"Our results show that the types and levels of Salmonella found in and around free range egg farms, and on the eggs themselves, is highly variable, often dependant on the specific husbandry and management practices employed by each farm. However, we found that there was no direct association between hot weather and increased prevalence of Salmonella at the production stage, even when data was collected in the hottest month of February," Chousalkar says.

"This helps to reinforce a simple health safety message: that it's important for people to wash their hands before and after handling eggs, whether at home, in a restaurant, or while working in the supply chain."

The bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium – the most common cause of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products in Australia – was the second highest type of Salmonella found at free range egg production farms. The most prevalent, Salmonella Mbandaka, is generally not associated with egg or egg product-related food poisoning cases in Australia.

As well as renewing calls for people to practice good hand hygiene when using eggs, Chousalkar says there is a need for nationwide standards and uniform practices on the surveillance of egg contamination and safety.

"Currently, each of the states has their own food safety and surveillance programs. Because of its implications for public health, we believe the incidence of Salmonella contamination needs to be monitored in a standard way across all farms," he adds.
Published in Eggs - Layers
As the broiler breeder industry has evolved, there has been considerable change in equipment. A large percentage of production houses have moved from manual egg collection to mechanical systems based on a community nest or an individual, single-hole system.

When mechanical nests were first introduced, many people began referring to them as ‘automatic’ nests.  While the term technically applies to mechanical nests, they still require a lot of human involvement to operate efficiently.

Key to achieving outstanding performance with mechanical nests is the proper training and rearing of the females. This should start in the pullet barn, by placing slat sections, or perches, to help get the birds used to going up on to the slats.  

The training should continue in the laying barn by routinely walking the birds to encourage them to move on to the slats and towards the nests.  The females should also be in the right condition at lighting and carrying the proper amount of fleshing and fat reserve, to help them come into production with the correct nesting behavior.

Most mechanical nests are placed on slat sections, which play an important role in how the nests perform.  Make sure slat areas are not too tall; 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) is a good height.  Anything taller will discourage birds from jumping up from the scratch area, and a step or ramp would be useful in helping the birds move up on to the slat.

The nests should be down and open for the females to enter one week before the expected first egg.  This will be approximately one week after light stimulation, which gives the pullets an opportunity to explore the nests and become comfortable using them.  Close the nests at night to help keep the nest pads clean, which will also prevent the eggs from becoming contaminated. This becomes even more important as we move into an era of antibiotic-free broiler production.    

Three areas of nest maintenance that have a huge impact are the nest pad, the curtain and the nest belt itself.  Nest pads must be clean, because if dirty, a bird may be less likely to use that nest box.  Secondly, if it is used, the egg laid on that pad will most likely be contaminated.  

As well, nest pads installed at the wrong angle will cause issues.  If the angle of the nest pad is not great enough, the eggs will not roll out of the nest box properly.  If the angle is too much, it will discourage hens from using that nest box.

On center belt nests, if the curtain that separates the nest box and the egg belt is missing or curled up where the hen can see the egg belt moving, hens are discouraged from utilizing the nest box.  If multiple nests are affected, you will soon see many of the hens laying their eggs outside the nest.

Egg belts should always be kept clean and in good repair.  A belt that is not clean will often have an odour that the hens do not like and will keep them from using the nests. If the edges of the belts become frayed, the edges can rub the hen while the belt is running and cause her to leave the nest.

Producers should have a consistent program for running egg belts.  It is best not to run the belts until you see 10 to 15 eggs.  When starting the belt, run it slowly late in the afternoon.  A rapidly moving belt creates excessive vibration, which scares the birds out of their nests. By slowing down the speed of the egg belt, you are less likely to scare the birds out of the nests.

Once the daily production reaches 5 per cent, run the belts at noon and again later in the day, around 5 p.m.  When production reaches 20 per cent, go to more frequent gatherings.  A good rule of thumb is to gather eggs at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.  This will help acclimatize the birds to the sound and vibration of the belt.  Multiple, consistent gatherings can prevent eggs from building up on the belt and also allow for an accurate daily count of egg production.

It is very important to accurately calculate and plan the nest space required.  With a community style nest, a good rule is no more than 48 birds per meter of nest space.  With a single-hole nest, allow for a maximum of 5 hens per hole, which will give the hens enough space to lay their eggs in the nest.

Other considerations
1.    Correct equipment layout:
  1. With a community nest system: have a mix of feed lines in the scratch area and on the slats Water lines approximately 60 cm (24 inches) from the nest entrance, and adequate spacing between water and feed lines to allow the birds to comfortably use them
  2. With individual nest systems,  have an adequate landing area from the front edge of the slat to the nest of 35-40 cm (14 -16 inches).   The distance from the back of the nest to the feeder and the feed to the drinker line should be at least 45-60 cm (18-24 inches), and the height from the slat to the bottom of the feeder should be 20-22 cm (8-9 inches)
2.    Ventilation:
  1. High temperatures on the slats can stop the hens going into the nest
  2. Improper inlet pressure can cause air to enter the nest at a rate that causes a draft, forcing the hen out of the nest
3.    Light intensity and distribution:
  1. A minimum of 60 lux (6 FC) at bird level is desired, but an approximate six-fold increase in intensity from the brightest spot in rearing to the darkest spot in laying is needed
  2. No more than a 20 per cent difference in intensity across the barn
Close attention to these details will help achieve a high-performing flock producing clean, high quality eggs.
Published in Bird Management
Dec. 8, 2016 - Nestlé Canada (Nestlé) has announced that it will move to using only cage-free eggs in all of its Canadian food products by 2025. The company says this is part of its commitment to improving animal welfare throughout its supply chain.

Nestlé purchases almost 500,000 pounds of eggs annually, but says it is dedicated to working with Canadian farmers to make this transition by 2025.

“Canadian farmers are important to us, and in addition to eggs, we also purchase approximately $44 million worth of dairy products every year. Working alongside Canadian farmers is an essential part of our commitment to the health, care and welfare of animals,” Catherine O’Brien, senior vice president, corporate affairs says.

The pledge to use 100 per cent Canadian cage-free eggs is part of Nestlé’s global commitment on farm animal welfare, launched in 2012 and strengthened in 2014. As part of the commitment, the company outlined its plan to eliminate specific farming practices, like tail docking for cattle and pigs, gestation crates for pigs and veal crates. Nestlé works with World Animal Protection, a global animal welfare organization, to assess its suppliers against these commitments.

“[Nestlé's] commitment to move to cage-free eggs will have a huge positive impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of hens," Josey Kitson, executive director for World Animal Protection Canada says. "Unlike conventional barns, cage-free systems allow hens to move around freely, perch and lay their eggs in a nest box.  World Animal Protection has been pleased to support Nestlé’s work to improve the lives of farm animals. We applaud Nestlé Canada’s commitment to hens today and their ongoing efforts to give other farm animals better lives as well.”

Nestlé is developing pilot projects with its suppliers and World Animal Protection to establish a roadmap for sourcing cage-free eggs in Europe and the rest of the world.
Published in Companies
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