Mike Stahl says that egg producers shouldn’t be scared to try an aviary system. But then the poultry boss of the Rosalind Colony near Camrose, Alta., has proven that he isn’t afraid to take on a challenge.
Formerly a plumber at the Byemoor Colony – located about 130 kilometres south of Rosalind – Stahl was chosen to manage a new organic free-run egg operation that the colony had been planning to build. But during the planning phase, the colony made the decision to split, purchasing land around Rosalind, and it was determined that the new egg operation would be built there instead of at Byemoor.
The initial planning for the barn was completed by Byemoor resident and current Alberta Egg Farmers chair Ben Waldner, who consulted with Meb Gilani, owner of the colony’s grader, Sparks Eggs. At the time, Gilani was planning to build his own free-run operation (see our November 2011 cover feature) and had visited numerous free-run aviary operations in Montana for ideas.
The barn has three separate housing “units” – two for the layers, and one for pullets. The pullets are housed in the centre of the barn, with the layers on either side. An office, shower, washroom, and egg collection and storage rooms complete the space, dividing the barn into “bird” and “people” areas.
The birds are raised in an aviary and pullet-rearing system, both manufactured by Farmer Automatic. Each layer aviary and the pullet system can house 10,000 birds, but only 7,000 birds are raised in each unit to fulfill the lower density requirements of organic production. The set-up is “all-in, all-out” – the pullet room is its own structure and is fully enclosed and separated from each of the layer areas. Doors near the floor of the pullet room connect to each layer aviary, allowing the pullets to be moved to one of the aviaries when they reach maturity. Each of the layer sections and the pullet section has it’s own ventilation.
The walls of the barn are not only energy-efficient, they were manufactured on-site. The colony manufactures a prefabricated wall system known as EnerGard for Greenland Building Systems (www.gogreenland.ca). The walls are constructed using an I joist instead of 2x6” or 2x4” studs, and are filled with a polystyrene infil. The result is an energy efficient wall where “the barn won’t get wet, and there’s less carry-through of air,” says Stahl. The walls are also sprayed with a fire retardant –required by provincial building code – as well as a mold and moisture inhibitor.
The walls of the barn are 12 feet high, with the first two feet comprised of concrete, and the other ten feet is EnerGard. The walls of every house on the colony were also constructed using EnerGard.
Rosalind has two large manufacturing shops that could rival a small factory, where the walls are produced. In addition to the layers, it’s an important source of revenue for the colony, because Stahl says the 4,500 acres of land at the colony is too good for cattle, so it has been cultivated and seeded to canola and wheat.
Although Rosalind has plans in future to build a feed mill, they don’t plan on growing their own organic crops. “The transition is too long – it takes three years of being sterile, and it just doesn’t pay,” says Stahl. The reason for building a feed mill is “consistency and quality control,” he says. He also wants to use a best cost formulation instead of least cost, and having his own mill will allow him to do this. The grass outside the barn that the birds can access in the warmer months is organic.
Heating the bird rooms is very cost efficient, not only because of the walls but also because of Stahl’s previous plumbing experience. Stahl installed two condensing boilers (one 400,000 BTU, the other 150,000 BTU) to heat the pullet room and aviaries. “This has resulted in big savings,” he says. The pullet room has in-floor heating, and being in-between the two aviaries, only has one outside wall so very little supplemental heat is required. The aviaries also require little heat, as the adult birds produce enough heat on their own.
The first flock of pullets entered the barn in January 2011, and moved to one of the aviaries in May 2011, and the second flock of layers went in June 2011. The first flock was a learning curve for Stahl, and he admits to having problems with floor and system eggs. He credits Farmer Automatic, who sent staff from its headquarters in Germany to give him some help. “This help was paramount in the beginning,” he says.
Although he still has floor eggs from his first flock, he’s proud of the fact that he has only had five floor eggs and two system eggs with the second flock. He says you need “chicken savvy” to understand how to combat potential and existing issues in the aviary. He spends a lot of time in the barn, observing behaviour, which has led to a few alterations, he says. Although he won’t give up all of his secrets, he says he has made some adjustments over time and slowly figured out what works, and what doesn’t.
One thing he tried with the second flock is to mount artificial eggs in the nest boxes, thinking that it might help prevent system and floor eggs. “I can’t say for sure that it works, but this flock has been much better,” he says. One thing he knows that does work is to help spread out the birds with respect to nesting space. Having noticed that the last nest box in the row on the system would get crowded, he installed wood partitions every 10 feet on the walkway in front of the nest boxes to help spread out the birds.
Like many other producers raising layers in an aviary, Stahl realizes that lighting and feeding are key. Lights are dimmed from the outside walls first, then the centre lights are dimmed to indicate to the hens that it’s time to roost.
He feeds four times a day, and some feed must be left in the trough before the lights go out, because midnight feedings can’t be given in an aviary. Three hours after the lights come back on, he does the first feeding, giving the birds enough time to lay and not get distracted by the feeder.
As for dust, Stahl admits to having to wear a mask inside the aviary and that the dust is worse in the afternoon, particularly in winter when the air is dry. He’s been consulting with Dr. Tina Widowski at the University of Guelph on this, and says he is going to start using a sprinkler system to reduce the dust levels.
Stahl is also experimenting with the type of light bulbs used. The first flock was reared using incandescent lights, and the second was reared using compact fluorescents. He has been measuring both with a power meter to compare the cost difference, but thinks that he will likely be replacing at least one of the aviaries with LEDs.
For his first two flocks, Stahl says he has achieved about a 91 per cent production rate, which is pretty good for an organic free-run operation, but it’s not good enough for him. “I want to do better than the manual,” he says. For his third flock, he’s set himself a goal of 94 per cent. With his attention to detail and tenacity, he has a good chance of achieving it.
Egg Farmers of Canada’s chief operating officer, Neil Newlands, gave a briefing on the potential impact on Canadian egg producers that could result from last year’s agreement between the United Egg Producers (UEP) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at the Nova Scotia Egg Producers annual meeting.
Newlands observed that the HSUS has already achieved amendments to poultry housing regulations in six U.S. states, and it has targeted more states for ballot initiatives on poultry cages.
The UEP, recognizing the inevitable, met several times in 2011 with the HSUS, finally agreeing to jointly petition the U.S. government to pass poultry housing regulations as part of this year’s U.S. Farm Bill.
U.S. egg producers will have up to 15 years to convert to enriched colony cages under the new Egg Products Inspections Act, which will require minimum cage sizes, 124 square inches for white birds, and 144 square inches for brown birds, said Newlands.
He also stated there will be a labelling requirement for eggs, specifying the production environment: enriched cages, cage-free and free range, as well as new regulations on euthanasia, molting and beak-trimming.
The HSUS has agreed, in exchange, that it will not fund raise or support any further state legislation or
ballot measures against the egg industry, Newlands said.
He remarked that the UEP members support the new egg inspection law “as something they can survive,” observing that 80 per cent of new U.S. poultry housing is now colony cages.
The UEP/HSUS agreement offers a sustainable future for all American egg producers, remarked Newlands; but there is no assumption it will become the standard in Canada, “but sooner or later, what happens in the U.S. affects Canada.”
He wondered if multinational food companies would support different national standards across North America, envisioning a new campaign focusing on Canadian egg farmers. Therefore, the EFC is, “working to improve our understanding of enriched (cage) systems through supporting research and reviewing the code of practice. We need a national dialogue so producers will be aware of what is happening in the U.S.”
Newlands encourages egg producers to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of enriched housing, as well as understanding the risks and options of installing conventional as opposed to enriched, or alternative, housing.
Last year, the EFC set an interim cage density standard, a minimum of 116.25 inches per bird including nest boxes. In the future, Newlands said, minimum sized cages will have to contain perches and nest boxes.
New housing must also have the EFC’s enriched housing certification, as well as meet the animal care program requirement, he said.
Existing poultry housing will receive “grandfathering,” observed Newlands, if it meets minimum requirements.
Some of the UEP/HSUS agreement requirements “were pretty severe”, he said. Not all U.S. egg producers were happy with this; but they saw no alternative.”
EFC chairman Peter Clarke, when asked about two-tier pricing for early adapters of enriched housing, responded that, although some provinces were already doing it, it is not yet national.
Glen Jennings, Nova Scotia’s EFC director, added the EFC is supporting the Research Chair on Poultry Welfare at the University of Guelph, Dr. Tina Widowski, who will do research on alternative housing and other hen welfare issues.
Jennings also observed the EFC has established an Animal Care and Welfare Advisory Panel of scientists and producers to present recommendations on welfare issues.
As with many things in life, including farming, quality matters. Poultry producers carefully manage feed quality, conditions in the barn, and many other factors, but water quality needs more attention, says Charlie Hayes, president at Advanced Treatment Technologies (ATT) in North Carolina. “After spending ten years in the poultry industry researching and developing methods to improve performance and reduce cost, I came to the realization that the industry had analyzed just about every detail of production down to the finest point, except one,” he says. “I came to see that supplying high quality water to birds makes a large difference in bird health and maximizing profits.”
Hayes says the poultry industry has defined “effective water treatment” as having the necessary equipment to prevent the mechanical issues that dirty water creates — clogged lines, algae growth and so on — but that goal is not nearly enough. “Some growers take it a step further and have determined that by disinfecting the water, they can reduce the incidence of disease, so they added this goal to their water treatment plan,” he notes. “But the goal which will yield the greatest returns in bird health and farm profitability is to consider water the most important nutrient provided. And the pathway to reach this goal is to put the right water treatment systems in place.”
In evaluating water treatment systems, Hayes advises poultry producers to ask lots of questions, verify the answers, and remember that it is just as important to know what a technology will not do as it is to know what it will do. “In the past, and in most cases today, water treatment system purchases are viewed as “component buying” decisions — filters, chemical dosing pumps, and so on,” he notes. “Each decision is isolated and made mostly on its own merit, not on how it does or does not fit into the overall water quality plan for the facility.” He adds, “This thought process must change if we are to step into the next level of water quality management, developing a “Comprehensive Water Management Plan.””
This plan, says Hays, should focus on delivering water which will produce the healthiest birds possible, while reducing labour and the costs of water treatment as well as reducing a producer’s exposure to environmental and regulatory hurdles. “The first step is to determine your water quality by doing a detailed water analysis,” he asserts. “Find out your mineral and metal content at the source, and get a detailed analysis from samples at your drinker lines for bacteria and other organisms such as mould.” The next step, he says, is to set a goal for your water quality, and then look into the technologies that are available to bring you to your goal. “If you involve an industry person,” he notes, “the right person will help you look at all parts of your system — your water source, collection ponds or tanks, pumping systems, piping, spray bird-cooling systems, filtration, disinfection and so on.” Hayes says that as you move towards your goal of high-quality water delivery, any mechanical issues of your water system will also be addressed.
The water treatment technology you choose, Hayes says, should be capable of removing some constituents and leaving others in. “A worthy system should remove precipitated solids, iron, manganese and organisms of all types, but leave in ‘water hardness components’ such as calcium and phosphorus for the benefit of bird health,” he says. “An oxidizer in the water will accomplish all these things. It will also remove the biofilm growing in the water distribution system, but not affect the beneficial micro-flora in the birds’ intestinal tracts.” Hayes says chemical oxidizers of other types expose birds to potential negative aspects such as reducing water intake. Chemical oxidizers can also kill the beneficial micro-flora in the birds intestines
He says the best oxidizing technology is ozone-based, with filtration after ozonation — and if surface water is being used, pre-filtration as well. “In addition, ozonation results in an elevated dissolved oxygen level in the water, which provides additional benefit to bird health and performance.”
Hayes says the payback potential that can be expected by delivering higher water quality to your birds is mainly determined by the current water quality being provided to your birds now.
Pressure from animal rights groups to improve the welfare of laying hens has resulted in significant legislative changes in Europe and California with respect to layer housing. Welfare concerns have also caught the attention of consumers and retailers in the rest of North America, and egg producers are now faced with providing a better quality of life for the hens, while still providing a product that meets food safety standards and that is economically feasible, not only for their own bottom line, but also at the grocery case.
Consequently, many producers in Canada are considering installing (or have already installed) alternative housing systems, such as enriched cages or aviaries, on their farms. Although existing research in Europe and North America shows that these alternative systems provide many welfare benefits, many questions still exist with respect to cost of production, how best to optimize bird management in each different system, and how bird density and group sizing affects welfare and costs within the systems.
That’s why nearly two years ago, the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) decided that it wanted to support a research chair in animal welfare, according to EFC’s manager, corporate and public affairs, Bernadette Cox. The organization spent some time examining the research work and meeting with scientists in the field. Cox says that CEO Tim Lambert and EFC chair Peter Clarke felt that Prof. Tina Widowski of the University of Guelph was the person they were looking for, and announced that she was the new EFC chair in poultry welfare in May 2011.
Widowski, who is based in the Ontario Agricultural College’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science, was chosen in part because she has an impressive record of research in a variety of welfare issues, is actively engaged with other scientists in North America (including the University of Michigan and the Poultry Welfare Cluster, also based at the University of Guelph), and is the leader of North America’s largest group of animal welfare scientists as director of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare.
Cox says that, although EFC is not directing the type of work that is being done, Widowski does inform the organization of her progress and seeks opinions about what areas of welfare research are the most pressing for Canadian egg producers.
The funding partnership between the University of Guelph and EFC formally began in March 2011, and will continue through January 2017.
Not only will the partnership benefit egg producers, but it will benefit the University of Guelph as well, says Widowski. The funding has allowed for the hiring of a junior faculty member (currently underway) and has provided opportunities for several graduate students, who will become part of the next generation of technical experts in animal welfare. The university’s poultry unit at the Arkell research station has also benefited, with new, up-to-date equipment, she says.
Four rooms in the poultry unit were cleared to accommodate the new housing systems, all of which are manufactured by Farmer Automatic (FA), a Germany-based company that has a partnership with Ontario-based Clark Ag Systems Ltd.
One room houses FA’s pullet-rearing floor system, the Portal Rearing System, while another of the rooms houses the Loggia system, the company’s layer aviary. The other two rooms house the Layer Cage ECO, FA’s enriched cage system, which has been designed according to the regulations for layer housing set forth by the EU and that came into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
The equipment was installed over the summer of 2011, and the university and Clark Ag Systems Ltd. held an open house in mid-September for producers and industry representatives prior to the arrival of the birds.
What’s Being Studied
Widowski’s first project is to study the behaviour, welfare and production parameters of layers housed in the enriched system at two different densities — 80 square centimetres/bird and 116 square centimetres/bird (the EU regulation). The reason behind this, says Widowski, is that if the industry is faced with a “transition” period with respect to bird densities (as may happen in the U.S. with the proposed agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers), it’s important to know what production levels are achieved with smaller densities because more barns will be required to match the current production levels of conventional systems.
Two different cage sizes are being utilized. The larger cage is double the size of the smaller, and the amenities (i.e., “enrichments” such as nest area, perches, scratching area and floor space) are also doubled. To examine the effect of density in each cage size, the smaller cages have groups of 28 or 40 birds, and the large cages have groups of 55 or 80 birds.
What’s of interest to Widowski is how well the birds are using the enrichments. Decades of research have shown that hens are highly motivated to perform/express behaviours that are natural to them, which conventional cages do not allow. Four key behaviours have been identified as being important to a hen — foraging, dustbathing, nesting and perching. Enriched systems provide the tools to allow hens to express these behaviours, but Widowski says that although we like to give ourselves a pat on the back for giving the birds something to perch on and a nesting area, it’s important to make sure that these behaviours are actually being supported by the amenities provided.
For example, what is not known is whether the nesting area is sufficient for the number of birds in each cage, she says. She and her research team have observed that about 10 to 20 per cent of eggs are being laid outside of the nest area, with the majority of these laid in the scratch area. Widowski says she would like to know whether this is because the nest space is insufficient, or because, like the nest area, the scratch area is in a corner of the cage and this offers the birds the same seclusion they would have in the nest.
Methodology for data collection has been completed and Widowski says she has a team of graduate students ready to start collecting and quantifying welfare and behaviour data. Each room is equipped with video cameras, and the students will be examining bird behaviour on the videotape as well as through live observation.
One student will be looking at nesting in depth — where the birds are laying, why this varies and whether social competition for nesting is a problem, she says. Another student will be examining dustbathing and foraging behaviour.
This student will be looking at how well the birds use the scratch area, which is a smooth plastic mat (Widowski opted not to use an astroturf-type mat, as it gets full of manure and she says many producers are moving away from these). Because enriched systems do not provide litter or other material to stimulate foraging and dustbathing as the aviary/free-run housing systems do, this behaviour is being triggered by having a feed auger over the scratch area that provides 20 grams of feed 10 times throughout the day. The effectiveness of the auger approach will also be examined.
A third student gets the “night shift,” says Widowski. She will be looking at how well the birds are using the perches, and how the perches are being used. Widowski is interested in answering some previously unanswered questions, for example: Are the birds conservative in perching? Is it the same birds perching? Is there a specific spot that they always go to? Eventually, says Widowski, she will be comparing the bone strength of the keel and leg bones in perchers versus non-perchers.
Also of interest are activity patterns — the birds have a lot more space, but do they use it, and how? She will also be looking at the pattern of time the eggs are being laid. She says that depending on the strain of hen (the birds in the current study are Lohmann), some will lay their eggs in more compressed or wider windows of time, which will in turn affect the competition and pressure on the nesting area at certain times of the day. If the window of time is compressed, “it’s like a big family wanting to use the bathroom at the same time,” she says.
Parameters such as egg production and feed intake are being measured and will be compared to birds housed in conventional cages located in another room at the Arkell research station.
Research methodology is near completion for the aviary system, and later this spring chicks will be placed into the Portal Rearing System. Widowski says she will be examining how pullets raised in this system adjust to the aviary. Once in the aviary, she plans to look at how load-bearing exercise and the opportunity to fly increase bone strength.
Widowski regularly updates EFC’s research committee and board of directors on the progress of the research. Cox says that results from the research will be summarized and communicated to producers either through the provincial boards or directly from EFC by way of a mailing or Internet posting.
Clark Ag Systems Ltd. hosted an open house at the University of Guelph’s Arkell poultry research station in September 2011 to allow producers and industry representatives to see the Farmer Automatic Portal Rearing System, Loggia system and Layer ECO system. Dr. Tina Widowski and representatives from Clark and Farmer Automatic were on hand to answer questions and show attendees how the systems operate.
Mar. 27, 2012, Waterford, ON - Antimicrobial specialists BioCote Ltd. has become the first technology company of its kind to be officially recognized by HACCP International for its benefits within the food industry.
BioCote protected dispensers are available exclusively from Deb.
To reduce the risk of surface contamination and the associated risk of infection, BioCote silver ion technology has been incorporated into all Deb manual and Touch Free dispensers to create a hygienic solution - a permanent protection against superbugs such as MRSA, E.Coli and other microorganisms in the Food Processing Industry.
A dispenser's surface may look clean, but bacteria, germs and fungi can grow even in-between cleanings. BioCote is a silver-based antimicrobial agent incorporated into dispenser components at the time of manufacture reduces surface bacteria by up to 99.99% within a twenty-four hour period. BioCote is long lasting and maintains its antimicrobial performance over the life of the dispenser and will not wear or wash off.
The HACCP International mark is particularly aimed at those products that are required to be "food safe" compliant, or HACCP approved in order to meet the food safety demands of quality conscious customers.
To read more on BioCote antimicrobial technology: http://beta.debgroup.com/ca/technology-zone/biocote
About Deb Canada
Deb Canada is a division of Deb Canadian Hygiene Inc. and member of Deb Group Ltd; the world's leading away from home skin care system company. We provide dedicated skin care programs for organizations that value their employee and customer well being. Deb programs are based on the Deb Skin Care System, which is comprised of a complementary range of skin care products and support activities to help implement and maintain effective hand hygiene.
March 16, 2012 - VAL-CO®has introduced a Community Nest with new winchable slats providing easy-to-clean, comfortable and easily-accessed nesting for hens.
Designed around the natural behavior of hens, VAL-CO’s Community Nest is an inviting and practical nest that provides an ideal location in a barn for hens to lay their eggs.
The new winchable slat design, unique to VAL-CO, is a key feature in improving hygiene while saving considerable time and labor in cleaning the nest and recovering drier, higher-quality manure. Waterproof PVC foam board is also used in the nesting area, which creates a more bird-friendly environment, helps ease the cleaning process and improves productivity. Because the Community Nest is easier to clean, it is less likely than conventional designs to harbor disease or parasites.
“The nesting area is comfortable, protected and well ventilated, so it’s very attractive for egg laying,” said Sean Francey, VAL-CO Product Manager. “Combined with the welfare-friendly expeller, these features increase egg production and reduce brooding.”
The Community Nest is made with durable components and designed for easy assembly. The nest is suitable for either a high-rise or floor-mounted installation, and is available in center-belt configurations with new winchable or standard slat packages to suit each customer’s poultry environment.
“The design of the VAL-CO Community Nest makes a big difference in terms of overall cleanliness, less maintenance and keeping hens producing good-quality eggs,” remarked Quarryville, Pennsylvania poultry grower John Harnish.
The VAL-CO Community Nest meets American Humane Society standards for cage-free egg production, with hens having open access to nesting and space for roaming.
Mar. 8, 2012 - Many poultry farmers, most of them with free range or aviary houses, would like to reduce the litter level and improve its quality in their houses.
Jansen Poultry has found a solution and developed a mechanical Litter Removal System.
When using this system:
- Litter level in the house can be kept in check
- Litter is mechanically removed
- Dust and ammonia levels are considerably reduced
How does the system work?
In the walkways of the house, a revolving steel cable with a scraper attached every ± 4m is installed. The back-and-forth movements of the scrapers move the litter to the back of the house.
During the cleaning of the house, the cable with scrapers can be removed so the system does not interfere with the cleaning process.
For more information, please contact your local Jansen Poultry Equipment dealer or http://www.jpe.org/.
The welfare of poultry in commercial livestock systems has been identified as a hot topic across North America and Europe in agriculture. From new poultry housing legislation in California to the banning of cages in the EU, increased consumer interest is driving change within our industry.
In Canada, a major welfare concern gaining momentum is the transportation of birds to slaughter. Our tremendous variation in climate — sub-zero temperatures, extreme windchills and snowfall in winter, cool and wet weather in spring and fall, and hot, humid summers — presents numerous transport challenges. These transport challenges add additional stressors for the birds who are also trying to adapt to being mixed with unknown birds in a new environment without access to food or water. Loading compromised birds into a stressful environment makes transportation more difficult and increases the incidence of having a high number of “dead on arrivals” (DOAs) at the plant.
Unlike other livestock sectors, the poultry industry is behind with respect to providing educational materials to those involved in the handling and transport of birds. The cattle, swine, sheep and goat industries have led the way by creating and utilizing transport decision trees that assist farm managers and transport crews with making decisions about which animals are fit for transport. Such decision trees have been in use for the past 20 years, and are updated as new regulations and results from research are implemented.
Representatives from the Agri-Food and Rural Link Program, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Poultry Industry Council (PIC), University of Guelph (U of G), Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC), and the Ontario Provincial Marketing Boards (Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO), Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO), Turkey Farmers of Ontario (TFO), and the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission (OBHECC)) partnered and funded the development of poultry-specific educational materials for the poultry industry in Ontario.
This project has developed a set of resources entitled “Should this bird be loaded?” that will help catching crews, transporters and farmers decide whether or not a bird is fit for transport. By identifying visual symptoms associated with DOAs and common condemnable conditions and by providing reminders regarding transport conditions, these resources should help to reduce loading of birds that are unfit for transport.
Definitions and Codes
The materials found within the “Should this bird be loaded?” documents were based on other livestock transport decision trees and were reviewed by transporters, catchers, processors, marketing boards, government, academia and poultry farmers from each of the sectors. The material was also guided by the following definitions and codes:
- The U.K. Farm Animal Welfare Council defines animal welfare generally by stating, “The welfare of an animal includes its physical and mental state. Any animal kept by man, must at least, be protected from unnecessary suffering.”
- The Canadian Health of Animals Act (138 (2)(a)) states, “No person shall load... or transport... an animal that by reason of infirmity, illness, injury, fatigue or any other cause cannot be transported without undue suffering during the expected journey.”
- The Canadian Agri-Food Research Council (CARC) states within its Codes of Practice (7.1.18) that: “Loading of compromised birds such as visibly sick, injured, disabled, or wet birds (in cold weather) or birds with any other condition that further compromises them must be avoided.”
Table 1 provides a brief overview of the percentage and number of birds that are dead on arrival or condemned at the processing plant.
Table 2 lists the top four reasons broiler and turkey carcasses are condemned. The challenge lies with identifying the visual symptoms associated with these condemnable conditions and preventing the birds that are most likely to be DOA or condemned from being loaded onto the truck. The “Should this bird be loaded?” materials will provide individuals (those in charge of making loading decisions) with industry-accepted information and guidance to make the right decision to help reduce the number of birds which are condemned at the slaughter plant. The decision tree materials will in no way eliminate all of the condemns, as some conditions do not provide external visual cues; however, it should reduce the number of unfit birds being transported.
Federal Legislation and Fines
The need for a poultry loading decision tree is compounded by a number of factors. Of primary importance is the welfare of the birds – to ensure birds are handled and transported in a manner that protects bird welfare, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has increased its Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs) to those who violate the Health of Animals Act.
Previously, minimum fines were set at $500, and maximum fines at $4,000; now minimum fines are set at $1,300 and maximum fines at $10,000. Not only have initial fines increased, but also the CFIA can now issue up to a $15,000 fine for repeat offenders and can reference the previous five years (instead of three) for earlier offences. Repeat offenders will also be posted on their publicly available website.
Decision Tree Materials
This project has resulted in the development of three resources that can be referenced when loading poultry. The resources are a double-sided laminated Decision Tree document; an Anteroom Poster (containing the same information as the Decision Tree); and a handbook that provides more detail on the components within the Decision Tree.
(Double-sided 8.5" x 11" laminated document)
The front of the “Should this bird be loaded?” decision tree has three main sections: Do Not Load Conditions, Caution Conditions and Regulations and Fines.
The “Do Not Load Conditions” include physically injured, weak, thin and emaciated birds and signs that a bird is sick, such as a discolored comb or wattle.
All of the conditions in the “Caution” category should be assessed by the farm manager before transport and catching crews arrive. This section includes cautions with respect to the environment, the entire flock and individual birds.
The “Regulations and Fines” section presents information contained in the Health of Animal Regulations and information regarding fines and actions that will be taken against violators of the act.
The back of the decision tree provides visual representations of birds that should not be loaded, such as birds with broken wings, and birds that appear weak and emaciated. It also provides a reminder regarding the “Identify – Cull – Dispose” concept, which promotes proactive attention for farm crews to cull unfit birds prior to loading. Good husbandry will lead to good welfare for the birds and it is the responsibility of the farm staff to decide whether a bird is in condition to endure transport. This should not be the responsibility of the catching crews. Environmental factors and loading density recommendations are also provided.
A poster has been created that can be hung in barn anterooms. The poster contains the same information as the decision tree, but the information has been captured on a single side of a 11" x 17" laminated poster.
Decision Tree Handbook
(4" x 5" 30-page laminated handbook)
The handbook provides an easy-to-read, in-depth description of each of the points contained within the decision tree document.
- Welfare Definitions
- Federal Regulations
- “Do Not Load” Conditions
- Identify – Cull – Dispose Information and Guidelines
- Handling Guidelines for Catching Crews
- Caution Conditions
These materials will be released through the Ontario Marketing Boards (CFO, EFO, TFO, OBHECC), the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors and the Poultry Service Association. Materials can also be ordered through the Poultry Industry Council or the Farm & Food Care Foundation. Materials will be distributed to marketing boards across Canada.
These materials are intended to assist poultry handlers and producers in making ethical and responsible decisions regarding poultry transportation. For more information on the Decision Tree and the “Should This Bird Be Loaded?” materials, see the PIC Pick’s section in this issue (February 2012)
January 9, 2012 – Researchers from North Carolina State University and West Virginia University have developed a new technology that can reduce air pollutant emissions from some chicken and swine barns, and reduce energy use by recovering and possibly generating heat. | READ MORE
One of the most important and mis-understood jobs a producer must perform in the poultry house is to maintain the correct pressure in the watering lines.
Water coming to the poultry house usually has a pressure of 20 to 40 psi (1.4 to 2.8 Bar). That is simply too high. Pressure this high can damage the system, causing drinkers to leak and spray water. Also, the birds cannot activate the trigger pins on the drinkers with pressure this high.
That is why all enclosed watering systems have pressure regulators. A regulator allows the producer to decrease the pressure in the drinker line to a level that will provide the birds with all the water they need to thrive, but not too much that the system will over-deliver water and wet the litter.
This article offers nine tips that will help producers achieve the optimal water pressure for systems and flocks.
- No two flocks are the same. What worked well for one flock can produce disastrous results for the next. The pressure in the system must be managed to reflect the conditions in the poultry house.
- Manufacturer guidelines are not precise rules. Most manufacturers of enclosed nipple-type watering systems issue guidelines on the pressure settings to use. These, however, are just recommendations, and each producer must manage according to observed conditions, not according to specific preset pressure settings.
- Litter conditions are key. Litter readings are the most reliable method for determining the correct pressure setting. The litter beneath the drinkers should be dry and friable. That means when you grab a handful of litter and squeeze, the litter should clump together briefly and then fall apart. If it remains in a clump, the litter is too wet and the water pressure is probably too high. If it will not clump at all, the litter is too dry and the water pressure is probably too low.
- High water pressure doesn’t mean more water consumed. The higher the water pressure, the more water the drinkers will discharge, but that does not mean more water goes to the birds. Birds can only consume so much; if you keep raising the pressure the excess water goes into the litter.
- Warm weather requires more water delivery. As the weather warms, your birds will drink more, requiring increased water pressure. The reason for the increased consumption is to help the birds regulate their body temperatures. Birds do not have sweat glands and will pant to blow off excess heat. The panting causes water loss through the lungs.
- Cold weather requires less water delivery. Conversely, birds consume less water in cooler weather. Leaving the water pressure at warm-weather levels causes an over-delivery to the drinkers. This results in wet litter and significant problems that accompany that condition.
- Broilers consume more water as they age. Therefore, the system requires constant adjustments to water pressure as birds mature to ensure they get all the water needed without an oversupply.
- Delivering more water cannot force a bird to eat more. There is a direct correlation between the amount of water a bird consumes and the amount of food it consumes. Broilers drink about 1.6 to 1.8 lbs. (0.7 to 0.8 kg) of water for every pound (0.45 kg) of feed they consume. However, you cannot force a bird to eat more simply by turning up the water pressure. A bird can consume only the water it can hold in its beak. Any excess will result in spillage and wet litter.
- Pressure may not be even throughout the house. If the line is level, the pressure in the line is constant throughout the line. If the line is not level, the pressure will be greater in the downhill portion of the house. This can cause wet litter in these lower portions of the house. Slope neutralizers should be installed in each drinking line to help even out the pressure in the house.
Applying these tips will help you achieve a level of water pressure that will allow birds plenty of water to thrive, and avoid problems related to over-delivery and wetting of the litter.
As energy costs continue to rise and the ban on the sale of incandescent light bulbs looms (occurring in 2012), alternative light sources are quickly being adopted by the poultry industry. However, chickens see light differently than we do. Thus the spectrum of light emitted from these new sources must be considered, as it can have an impact the reproductive efficiency and behaviour of chickens.
A lighting option that is quickly gaining popularity is the light emitting diode (LED). Dr. Gregoy Bedecarrats, a professor with the department of animal and poultry science at the University of Guelph, has done some initial studies on LED lighting in laying hens, and found that the spectrum of light emitted may slow or delay the reproductive efficiency of layers. He presented his results at the Poultry Industry Council’s Research Day this past spring.
Chickens and light
Chickens don’t just “see” light. They can absorb light through the retinas in their eyes in ways that humans do not, and they can also sense light through their pineal gland and hypothalamus, which are located on top of and within the brain, respectively. Consequently, chickens can “see” a greater range of light wavelengths than we can.
To activate the receptors in the pineal gland, light needs to penetrate the skull and for the hypothalamus, light needs to penetrate even deeper.
Retinal stimulation impacts behaviour, pineal stimulation affects circadian rhythm and hypothalamus stimulation affects reproduction and homeostasis.
The pineal gland works like a clock to “set” the rhythms between light and dark. For example, if the light-dark cycle is constant, a rooster will crow at the same time every day. But if the light cycle is changed, the rooster will adapt and change the time it crows.
Meanwhile, the hypothalamus is connected to all main physiological functions such as reproduction and feeding. To stimulate the hypothalamus the light has to be powerful enough to penetrate deep, and the red spectrum is powerful enough to do this, says Bedecarrats.
This is important to the poultry farmer because the type of lights may affect the wavelengths emitted and stimulate different areas of the chicken.
For example, green light slows the birds’ maturation and, while red light has been shown to be needed for sexual maturity, it also may be tied to hyperactivity and aggressive behaviour.
In the study, an RGB (red, green, blue) LED system was installed for layer cages, and the effect of wavelength on growth and sexual maturation in blind and sighted Smoky Joe pullets was tested and measured. Smoky Joe hens are a strain of White Leghorn harbouring a recessive mutation causing retinal degeneration. By eight weeks of age, all affected animals are blind. Smoky Joe hens were used to further determine whether or not the retina is involved in mediating the effect of light wavelengths.
The experimental room was partitioned into three independent sections, each equipped with LED lights providing either pure green (G), red (R) or white (W) light. For all groups, intensity was adjusted to 10 lux at hens’ level. At 14 weeks of age, 20 pullets were randomly allocated to each section (G: 11 blind, nine sighted; R: 11 blind, nine sighted; W: 12 blind, eight sighted). During the first week, incandescent lighting was provided (10 lux, eight hours photoperiod) for pullets to adapt to their new environment. At 15 weeks of age, LED lights (G, R and W) were turned on for eight hours and at 20 weeks, pullets were photostimulated by an abrupt change to a 14-hour photoperiod. Feed and water were freely provided throughout the study.
During the study, body weight progressively increased with no difference observed between light treatments or between blind and sighted birds. Similarly, no difference in tibia length was observed, suggesting that, in cages, light wavelength did not impact feeding and body growth.
Age at first egg was significantly advanced for pullets from the red light (165.9±1.3 d) and white light (166.8±1.7 d) groups compared to birds under green light (188.4±2.2 d). However, although no difference in age at first egg was observed between R and W hens, levels of estradiol after photostimulation were the highest for the R birds, suggesting that activation of the ovary and recruitment of follicles was the strongest. Combs from R and W birds were significantly taller than for G birds, again showing advanced sexual maturation.
Overall egg production peaked first for the R group (25 weeks), followed by the W group (26 weeks), while it was not yet reached for the G group at 29 weeks. At 27 weeks of age, total egg production was greatest for the R group (662 eggs; 33.1±1.5 eggs/hen) followed by W group (586 eggs; 30.8±1.2 eggs/hen) and significantly lower for G group (242; 12.7±1.8 eggs/hen). No difference in corticosterone levels was observed between groups before and one week after lights were turned on. However, levels did slightly increase in the R birds after 44 days of exposure, suggesting that longtime exposure to pure red light may be stressful.
“The key message here is that the green really has an impact on reproduction,” says Bedecarrats. Red is required for sexual maturation.
If you have white light that has red within the spectrum, you’re fine. But if you’re lacking the red you’re going to have problems, he says.
In conclusion, although light wavelength did not influence growth of pullets in cages, red light is required for advancing sexual maturation and this effect does not require a functional retina. Using LED lights, the spectrum could be precisely adapted to promote faster sexual maturation and sustained egg production.
Lights are not created equal
Incandescent lights are inexpensive to buy but come with a short life span and because more than 90 per cent of the energy is used to heat a metal filament they use a lot of energy for the light they emit. They are, however, dimmable and instant on, and their spectral peak is in the red at 630 to 780 nanometres.
Fluorescent and compact fluorescent cost more to purchase, but are more energy efficient. The spectrum varies from green to orange, depending upon the fixture.
There are also growing concerns about disposal of fluorescent lights because they contain mercury. “The benefits of energy efficiency might be outpaced by the problem of disposal,” he says.
High-pressure sodium lights are also an option. They are in the yellow to orange spectrum – closer to red – but take longer to warm up and may not be dimmable.
LED lights are still expensive but can create the light spectrum needed with no heat generation. They are instant on and dimmable. They also have great energy efficiency and a long life span.
The next step is to look at what happens on the floor, especially with broiler breeders, for example, with regard to hyperactivity. Something that might be really good in cages might not be good on the floor because of behavioural issues, he says.
What’s needed is to:
- Test light wavelengths on birds maintained on floor (broiler breeders, turkey breeders, aviary systems);
- Test if the positive effects from red light can be achieved by providing bursts (or short-term exposure) during the time of photostimulation;
- Compare optimum LED protocol with other light sources currently used by the industry;
- Test on “commercial strains” in a commercial environment.
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This book provides information on the needs and responses of poultry to aspects of the climatic environment, by means of reviews of the scientific literature. Biological responses to environmental factors are discussed, as well as some principles of the movement of air through and within buildings. Many of the principles apply to both indoor production and to the housing attached to free range systems. |READ MORE
Peter and his wife, Elsa, own and operate the Cedardale Poultry Ranch Ltd., 32926 King Road, Abbotsford, B.C.
For years the Cedardale Poultry Ranch has been a "slat barn" operation. But the Koch's knew that they would have to modernize in order to compete in today's marketplace.
After investigating several types of new facilities and equipment, Koch employed John and David Pankratz, partners in Northwest Agrinomics Ltd., Abbotsford, B.C., specialists in agricultural management. About that same time, Koch had a visit from Ian Peacock, manager of Peacock Equipment Ltd., Cloverdale, B.C.
"I had heard about Peter's modernization plans, so I called on him to introduce one of my newest lines, Favorite Poultry Equipment," Peacock said. "I felt certain we could meet the needs of Cedardale Poultry Ranch with Favorite's new Cal-Aire reverse cage system in a 4-deck configuration."
Koch says the type of cage system he would install in the new facilities was critical.
"I was interested in the operating plusses offered by the reverse cage system," Koch admits. "The idea of greater bird density, more eggs per bird, better feed conversion, lower mortality and cracks and especially no dropping boards, scrapers or plastic sheets to clean, convinced me that Favorite's Cal-Aire System was my best choice.
Checked in Atlanta
Nonetheless, last January, Koch visited the Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association Conference and Exhibit at Atlanta, Georgia to evaluate all brands of equipment. The trip reaffirmed his choice of Favorite.
With the assistance of the Pankratz brothers, financing for the project was secured through Perry Creighton, manager of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Abbotsford.
Upon Peacock's suggestion, Koch decided on the Cal-Aire 4-deck reverse cages, four rows to a house. This allows for 62,720 birds at four birds per 18" x 12" cage, or 31,360 birds per barn.
The cages were put into two fully automated, 390' long by 42 ½" wide deep pit, total confinement layer barns. Barns are 20' apart and connected by an enclosed passageway. On one side there is a 20 ft. x 30 ft. egg room and a 30 ft. x 30 ft. cooler room to serve both barns. Eight ft. deep manure pits run under the entire cage system of each barn; barns are metal clad wood frame construction on 3 ft. high concrete foundation walls. A skid steer loader can be used for manure removal.
The cage feeders are Favorite flat-chain-in-trough type, travelling at 60 ft. per minute, powered by 1 ½ HP 3 phase electric motors through a new industrial type gear box that has a 3 year manufacturer's warranty and is claimed to need less power than competitors'.
A unique system of feed supply using the Favorite multi-flex hoppers is used to give maximum flexibility i.e. immediate ration change and to ensure that the old feed is used up before the new. In front of each barn there are 4-8 ton feed storage bins to make a total of 8. The bins are paired, standard 4" augers from each pair of bins supply feed to a multi-flex hopper located between them. Each multi-flex hopper has two flexible coreless augers. One flexible auger going to each cage row supplying the manifold that keeps the flat chain feeders filled. The bulk feed bins have a new design of boot developed by Peacock Equipment that completely cleans out the feed in the bins. The 4" augers have ½ HP 1 phase motors; the 2 7/16" flexible augers have ½ HP 3 phase motors. All motors are controlled by high/low feed level switches. The flat chain feeders are controlled by time clocks.
For egg collection Koch chose the Favorite system using 4" poly web belts to collect the eggs from the cage rows to the collector towers at the row ends. The eggs are moved on to the escalator belts with the new flexible finger cups and conveyed down onto the 12" wide cross conveyor belt. The cross conveyor belt runs under the floor picking up the eggs from each row end in both buildings, taking them to the egg room. The eggs are then elevated to an accumulator before being candled after which the eggs are packed onto plastic flats by a Seymour 60 case per hour farm packer. The egg flats are then stacked on pallets and moved into the cooler, which has a 2 HP 3 phase egg cooler to maintain quality until they are picked up by Canada Safeway for grading and cartoning.
Control of all egg belts and the counters for each of the 64 cage belts are mounted in impressive panels located in the egg room.
For watering Koch chose Swish, as this is what he was using in his rearing barns.
Importance of Ventilation
The ventilation system is another first. At Peacock's suggestion Variable speed fans were not necessary. A number of single speed fans of sufficient volume would give the variety of air movement required. Twenty 48" dia. belt drive fans powered by 1 ½ HP 3 phase motors individually controlled by thermostat met the required air movement of 6 c.f.m. per bird. The fans are mounted 10 per building in 5 banks of 2. Koch also pioneered the use of a new air intake system that Peacock offered. This continuous air intake vent can deflect incoming air either up or down or both at the same time. Intake can be automatically controlled by the static pressure to maintain a steady velocity of the incoming air.
Koch is especially proud of his standby electrical power system: two Winpower 600 amp. 3 phase, liquid propane fired generators. Each unit has an 85 KW capacity. The primary circuit powers all lights, fans and water; this is easily handled by one generator. Koch figures his standby system is good for eight 24-hour days of full power before his liquid propane tank would be exhausted.
In addition, a complete alarm system monitors barn heat, water pressure, burglary, fire and the proper operation of fans throughout the barns. A radio-controlled paging system sounds the alarm. The system was supplied and installed by Ashley International Electronics.
Two Age Groups
"We have two age groups of birds," Koch explains. "One age group in each barn. Within each age group there is spacing of two weeks representing his pullet growing facilities.
Because of age-group spacing, an entire flock can be replaced over an eight-week period. This allows sufficient time for vaccination and precision debeaking of new birds, as well as in/out handling. "Further," Koch states, "our processing plant has a capacity of about 8,000 birds per killing lot, so we're geared to their capacity."
Month's Mortality Less
Dr. Douglas McCausland, Cedardale's Veterinarian, worked out a plan to move 28,000 birds already on the ranch and at six to eight months of lay, from older facilities to the new barns. The results: little or no loss of production, and only about half again the normal mortality for one month.
Koch and Dr. McCausland keep all birds under a health maintenance program, which includes blood testing, vaccination/medication, and vitamins to assist stress. A complete bird health history is constantly maintained.
Aart Spyker, manager of Ritchie-Smith Ltd., Abbotsford, has supplied feed to Cedardale Poultry Ranch for years. "We've found the 'preventative' health maintenance program works best for our mutual needs. Our company nutritionist, Dr. A.J. Leslie, works closely with Cedardale's Dr. McCausland, to set rations and contents. Weekly visits check progress. We put heavy emphasis on least-cost production and lots of cooperation."
Lucerne Foods Ltd.'s Plant Manager, Don Martin says, "As far as I'm concerned, the product quality out of Cedardale's new facility is tops and improving weekly! We see one of the lowest Grade B outputs in the area, and the eggs are definitely at the low end of the percentage of cracks and checks. We purchase Cedardale's total output, and pick up 3 times a week." Lucerne Foods is located at Langley, B.C.
The bottom line was, of course, the cost to produce eggs. For Peter Koch, that led him to select equipment from Favorite Manufacturing of New Holland, PA, U.S.A. a the heart of his system.
"Equipment quality, low maintenance features, and thus, the projected lifetime of the equipment, were all high in my mind when making my choice," Peter Koch relates. "With every day that passes, I'm more convinced that we've made the right decisions for Cedardale's future."
There is a mixed opinion among cage operators regarding the number of birds to be house in the same cage. Good results have been obtained with two or even three birds, but the trend is toward the single bird in a cage. This, of course, does not apply to battery operations, a field in itself.
Fly control is more necessary than before. Combatting flies is beneficial to the poultryman, as tapeworms go through a stage of incubation in the fly, and the presence of the host encourages infestations. In addition, the common fly is a carrier of many disease organisms that can hurt production and cause high mortality.
DDT and the gamma isomer of benzene hexachloride are being used with good success for fly control. By using them alternately, one has an opportunity to confuse the natural immunity which flies may develop to either alone. Remember that alkali acts as a neutralizer of the active ingredients of benzene hexachloride. We suggest mixing sulphur with 1% benzene hexachloride and dusting the mixture over the dropping about once a week.
We do not recommend the use of a roof spray in cage houses, as it will have killing power for weeks, and flies contacting the treated surface will often fall into the feeders. The birds will immediately eat them, thus exposing themselves to worm infestations.
When replacing cull birds with new stock, remember that birds on both sides of the new arrival will have a tendency to bully the newcomer. Frequently, fighting ensues, and the new arrival will go off feed and drop in egg production. Three-quarter-inch hardware cloth barriers are an economical method of protecting the new arrival.
Be sure to check your watering system daily, as any decreases in water intake will be reflected in egg production. During hot weather, the sun may cause the water to get too warm to drink. If shading is impossible, open the system for a continuous flow of water, thus keeping it cool. Some operators are using wood or metal trough in back-to-back cages. Such a system is easy to clean and the birds seem to consume more water when it is used.
To avoid winter troubles, we recommend the use of an electric-resistant wire wrapped around or run through the pipe to prevent freezing. It is also a good idea to keep the water system slightly open during freezing spells, to insure a movement of water.
One of the original talking points of cages was the freedom from mites that would apparently be possible. This pest has now, however, invaded birds in cages. Operators first notice mites on the eggs in the trays, or on the top eggs after collection and when they have been allowed to set a few minutes prior to grading. On examining the birds, the operator will notice a cluster of mites in the fluff below the vent.
Mites eat into the tissue of the vent, causing a great deal of discomfort to the birds and resulting in a drop in egg production. In examining a cage containing a bird with mites, you can find mites crawling on the wire of the cage end; in some instances they will be between the record card and holder.
In examining the bird, you will find hundreds of mites at any time of the day or night, feeding around tender tissue of the vent. As soon as the bird is turned to expose the vent to light, the mites will seek cover in the fluff.
To control parasites, dilute six to eight ounces of nicotine sulphate in one gallon of water and spray this solution up under the cages, wetting the floor with the birds remaining in the cages. This procedure should be done at night, as it frightens the birds considerably if done in the daylight. Repeat the application within 10 days. Two such treatments should be sufficient.
When we talk of feeding, let's remember that the cage operator cannot afford to use guesswork in making decisions that will affect the cost of producing a dozen eggs.
Feeding for the cage operator poses many more problems than for the floor operator, for it is up to the owner to supply wire-raised birds with everything they need. Wire-raised birds never touch the ground and therefore have no opportunity to forage for the nutrients they require. All must be supplied through the ration. Our advice is for the cage operator to adopt a scientifically proved and profit-tested program of feeding and stick with it. Here are a few of the more important factors to consider:
Clean Up Feed
Insist from the first feeding that the birds clean up their ration before feeding more. This habit, if established during brooding, can have a tremendous effect on the bird's eating habits during their life on wire.
By feeding your birds twice a day, and by insisting that the birds clean up their ration, you will find mash consumption can be more easily maintained at the proper level. A morning feeding around 8:00 a.m. stimulates activity in the hoppers. Then, around 4:00 p.m., when the hoppers are cleaned, another feeding creates interest and the birds go to roost with a full crop.
Wherever possible, anticipate trouble. During extremely hot weather, the birds are likely to neglect the feed troughs, but you can tempt their appetites with a 2 o'clock feeding of pellets, fed at a rate of two pounds per 100 birds on top of the mash.
Any variation in feed consumption means "look out!" – any variation from normal sends the cage-wise operator looking for a reason.
Culling should be a simple operation for we have a record of a bird's performance before us at all times. Operators have generally been able to cull satisfactorily with the exception of answering the question: "If a bird pauses, how long should I wait before culling her?" A rule that seems to be gaining popularity is to check the egg cycle. If a bird has laid long clutches (a dozen or more eggs without a miss) give her three to four weeks to come back. If a hen lays short clutches (two or three eggs) or lays only 16 eggs a month, give her not more than two weeks.
Some poultrymen carry their best hens through a fall molt. A good way to select the best of these birds is to mark the hens that drop feathers almost over night. Poor layers molt slowly.
Birds on wire are more susceptible to temperature variations than birds on the floor. For this reason, many producers cool their houses with roof sprinklers and provide other heat and draft protection devices. Since the chicken in a non-sweating animal, it is more necessary to guard against overheating than exposure to low temperatures. An increase of six to eight degrees over normal will bring on heavy mortality. At an air temperature of 80 degrees F., a hen's body temperature begins rising, and by the time 100 to 105 degrees is reached, death by heat prostration occurs.
Egg production is noticeably decreased by continuous exposure to 90-degree temperatures. One progressive cage operator has two thermometers to insure accuracy.
The cage system is proving itself popular wherever weather conditions permit, but the prospective poultryman or the present operator should never forget the keystones of any good poultry system consist of: (1) good breeding; (2) proper and adequate feeding; and (3) continuous good management.
Poultry production is following the general pattern of agriculture – growing into large operations and becoming mechanized.
And the device which is making this change largely possible and profitable is the automatic or mechanical feeder, a comparatively new invention. Ever since the incubator permitted large scale hatching of chicks, the bottleneck of the poultry industry has been the feeding of flocks. When done by hand it was a costly, and time – and feed consuming process. The automatic feeder has broken that bottleneck.
The feeder is simply a machine that takes feed from a central hopper or bin out to the birds continuously all day. In place of having to fill a score of separate feeding troughs, the poultryman fills just one – the hopper – and does it just once a day. With some machines it is even possible to use a direct spout from an overhead bin and never have to fill the hopper by hand.
Every mechanical feeder consists of three basic parts. They are:
1. The hopper. This holds the supply of feed and usually also has the drive mechanism mounted on it.
2. The distributing system, which carries the feed from the hopper throughout the poultry house.
3. The driving mechanism, consisting of a motor, usually electric, a reduction gear, drive shaft and sprockets.
The distributing system consists of an endless chain driven by the motor and gears, a trough in which it travels, leg assemblies, which form joints between the lengths of trough and provide a means of raising or lowering the trough; and corner units which permit the chain to run corners.
Usually the distributing system is set up so the trough forms an oblong in which the chain travels.
After the feed is put into the hopper and the machine started, the operation is continuous.
Feed in the hopper is moved to an outlet port in the bottom of the hopper. It falls through this opening onto the slowly moving chain. The chain, which travels in the trough, carries the feed along with it out to the flock. The birds eat it from the trough.
Basically, that is the way every automatic feeder on the market today operates. But there are many differences in design. A major one is the chain. Some machines use ordinary heavy sprocket chain with bars or scrapers welded on one edge of the link. These scrape along the bottom of the trough, moving all the feed. Another makes use of a riveted chain. Another has a novel Y-shaped link. One has a chain, which was developed just for the automatic poultry feeder. It consists of a light steel link curved at one end. This patented design allows the chain to go around corners and still run flat.
A good automatic feeder today will make money for its owner under a variety of conditions. It will feed baby chicks, broilers, laying flocks, adult turkeys. Some of the feeders will handle any kind of feed and operate successfully with any of the usual litter materials. For a machine to work under all these various conditions requires a wide flexibility.
It must be possible to adjust or control the amount of feed delivered by the machine to the flock. Baby chicks naturally will consume less than laying hens. Hence it must be possible to slow down the amount of feed going from the hopper to the chain. One automatic feeder has a further control – it can slow the speed of the chain from 20 feet a minute to 6 feet. Another control is provided by time clocks which will turn the machine on and off for varying lengths of time.
A most important adjustment is that of height. Keeping the top of the trough level with the backs of the birds means that the flock will waste a minimum of feed. The better automatic feeders today have hoppers and trough supports, which permit a quick and easy adjustment for height as the birds grow.
The advantages of automatic feeding over hand feeding are many. First, of course is the saving of feed. Many users claim the machine will pay for itself within one to two years on the saving in feed alone for hens and 3 to 4 months for broilers. Pennsylvania State College made strictly controlled tests of automatic vs. hand feeding. Those fed with an automatic machine consumed .49 lbs. less feed per dozen eggs laid and .45 lbs. of feed less per lb. for broiler meat.
The saving in feed comes in two ways. The birds do not waste feed by billing it out from an automatic's trough as they do from a hand-filled trough. The movement of the chain seems to attract them, encouraging the birds to eat more and more often.
The second big saving is in labor. In place of spending hours each day filling troughs, the poultryman can dump a few bags of feed into the hopper, check the chain and feeding system – and forget the feeder for the day. He does not have to clean troughs. In place of taking in one set and putting out a larger one as the birds grow, he merely raises the trough and hopper a little higher. Unlike hand feeders little or no cleaning of the trough is necessary.
An indication of the time and labor saving is given by the experience of the Buffalo County Poultry Farm at Kearney, Nebraska. There, one man cares for 40,000 to 50,000 broilers instead of 10,000 he could when hand feeders were used.
An example of what an automatic will do for a poultryman was furnished last year by A. H. Douty of Clovis, Calif. He started two similar flocks of 10,000 broilers each in two houses. One was hand fed, the other had an automatic. The flock using the mechanical feeder netted 6 cents more per bird, or a clear extra profit of $600, which came close to paying for the machines.
The past few years has brought about many changes, and most notable, is the trend towards quality eggs and the possible increase in the total hatch of chicks from high quality eggs.
Three years ago a group of hatcherymen in the Fraser Valley started to candle all eggs before setting, and to this, the increased hatch for the Province is in great part due. The total hatch on all eggs set climbed from 63.4% to 69.8% of saleable chicks.
With the quality factor in mind the writer had high hopes when Dr. A. L. Romanoff of Cornell announced the inventing of an electronic Egg Candling Machine, as this would remove the human factor in candling. This was short lived as it was not possible to secure a machine.
At this point Mr. T. Gascoigne of Cloverdale, British Columbia let it be known that he was working on a machine and the task of ironing out the difficult points started.
Early this year the Bureau of Animal Industry U.S. Dept. of Agriculture released a Farm Paper letter on Pre-Incubation for Higher Hatches and we give it as it appears in Poultry Digest.
"A new method of handling hatching eggs has been found whereby infertile eggs can be detected and removed by candling on the farm where they are produced before being sent to the hatchery. This method, according to the Bureau of Animal Industry, USDA, makes it possible for those producing hatching eggs to guarantee almost 100% fertile eggs to the hatchery. To effect the extra cost of pre-incubating and candling, it would be to the interest of the hatcheryman to pay the flock-owner a premium for such eggs."
"The method consists of incubating hen eggs for 16 to 18 hours at 100 degrees F., then removing them, and with the aid of a candler separating the fertile and infertile eggs. The embryo a this state of development is about the size of a dime, and appears before the candler as a small bubble floating on the surface of the yolk."
"After the fertile and infertile eggs are segregated, the fertile eggs to be sold for hatching purposes are place in open wire trays in a cooler for two hours at 50-95 degrees F. This is done to check further embryonic development before the eggs are shipped. The eggs are then packed in pre-cooled cases and shipped to the customer."
"Test shipments of pre-incubated eggs as well as unincubated eggs have been sent on round trips from Beltsville, Md., to Hartford, Conn., St. Louis, Mo., and Des Moines, Iowa. On return, the eggs of each shipment were replaced in the incubator and allowed to hatch. It was found that the pre-incubated eggs, after being shipped to these points and being en route from 50 to 96 hours, hatched as well as unincubated eggs of the same quality which served as controls and which were shipped along with the pre-incubated eggs in the same cases. Slightly over 80% of the pre-incubated fertile eggs shipped hatched and 18 hours earlier than the eggs used as the controls."
"These studies have now been extended to include turkey eggs. Some 1,500 Beltsville Small White turkey eggs have been pre-incubated and shipped following, in general, the same procedure as that used for chicken eggs. The turkey eggs, due to slower development of embryos, are incubated for 24 hours before being candled. They are then cooled for tow hours at 50-55 degrees F."
"Although it is more difficult to see the turkey embryos than chicken embryos, eggs with near perfect fertility can be sent if the shipper is willing to withhold all "doubtfuls." These "doubtfuls" can be incubated by the producer in order to salvage any mistakes. With a more powerful candler many of these "doubtfuls" could probably be eliminated.
"Cases of pre-incubated turkey eggs have been shipped all the way across the country, and the hatchability of fertile eggs of the pre-incubated group was as good as that of the unincubated eggs used as controls."
"Getting rid of infertile eggs at the farm before the eggs are shipped has many advantages. It is estimated that on the average 15% of all hatching eggs are infertile. Removal of these eggs at 18 hours incubation thus saves incubator space as well as reduces cost of shipping and handling. Since almost all the pre-incubated eggs shipped would be fertile, the hatcheryman could be assured of a near-perfect fertility and consequently a higher percentage hatch of total eggs set."
This was brought to the attention of Mr. G. R. Wilson District Inspector of Poultry Services of B.C. who thought some test work would be in order, so with the co-operation of several Hatcheries, Mr. Gascoigne, and Mr. Pat Cain, Head of the Egg Grading staff, a number of hatches were run through, a few of which are given as a progress report.
5 cases – at 17 hrs. incubation
Fertile A or No. 1 – 656 eggs, 505 cks. = 77 %
Fertile B or No. 2 – 672 eggs, 405 cks. = 60.3%
Not candled – 236 eggs, 142 cks. = 60.1%
2 trays marked Top Grade A hatched 81%
1 tray marked Low Grade B hatched 54%
On a set candle for quality only before setting.
No. 1 or A's, 1878 eggs, 1412 chicks = 75.2%
No. 2 or B's, 537 eggs, 316 chicks = 58.2 %
On a set with Incubation for 18 hours:
Fertile A's or No. 1, 1044 eggs, 797 chicks = 76.5%
Fertile B's or No. 2, 304 eggs, 176 chicks = 57.8%
In this set a very interesting point appears – In the A's – 82 eggs were removed at the 18th day transfer and 165 were left on the trays.
On the B's – 81 eggs removed at the 18th day and 47 left on the trays.
This gives a 7.8% death rate up to transfer time on A quality while B quality is 26.5% and the left on trays is the same in both i.e. – 15.4%.
A top grade A tray hatched 86.7%
A low grade B tray hatched 50.8%
From these hatches one might reason that candling at the incubator would solve a lot of problems, but candling should be done at the nest. The question is, will a chick hatched from a low quality egg, in turn, lay a low quality egg, if so, why should the breeder ask the hatchery operator to correct mistakes made in the breeding program.
To ship fertile eggs only, would require more study, but it is quite possible to put the program into operation on a breeding farm or hatchery. Incubation must be stopped at the 18th hour by quick cooling if the eggs are to be shipped. And it also would be wise to do so even if the eggs are going back into the machine so as to insure hatch time.
Infertile eggs show no change as the 18th hour period. On the electronic machine they show a drop of 2 points while a fertile one drops 8 to 10 points.
The job of cleaning dirty eggs in a manner that will not damage the quality of the eggs has long been a tedious and time consuming one.
There is little question that washing is the quickest and easiest method of removing visible dirt from the shells of eggs. However, washed eggs are at present discounted on certain markets, particularly for cold storage purposes.
The reason for this is no doubt due to the unsanitary manner in which the eggs are often washed and to quite general opinion that washing removes the natural "bloom" from the shell, thus permitting a greater loss of moisture. Washing large numbers of dirty eggs with a damp cloth or even in a pail of water no doubt spread bacteria through the whole lot of eggs, thus increasing the spoilage. This is particularly true if could water is used.
The new machine washes the eggs in a sanitary manner, and, according to a test, removes a negligible amount of the "bloom." The eggs are fed into the machine between moving fingers that carry the eggs in back of revolving wet abrasive-coated cloth disks where the cleaning is done. From a tube above the disks the hot water (165 degrees F. or hotter at the disks) drips down on the disks to the eggs where it softens and loosens the dirt so that the disks can more readily clean the eggs. The water flushes down through the machine and runs to waste, taking the dirt with it. The disks are self-scouring and are constantly flushed with hot water. The hot water may be obtained from any convenient source, but to insure the desired minimum temperature an automatic water heating attachment is being developed.
Thus, the eggs are flush-washed with clean water that is hot enough to kill the common spoilage bacteria that may be on the outside of the eggshells. The ends of the eggs are cleaned as well as the sides, and the action of the disks is so gentle that seldom is an egg broken. In fact, cracked eggs can be washed.
After the washing of the eggs, they are carried by the moving fingers around to the front of the machine and are rolled across the drier to the discharging opening. A piece of toweling in the drier quickly absorbs the free water from the eggs and a blast of hot air completes the drying. The eggs are dry enough to pack when they roll out of the machine on the receiving tray. Another machine has been developed which will transfer the eggs from the drier to a grader.
The eggs are in the washer for 22 seconds and an equal length of time in the drier. The temperature of the eggs at the discharge is only two degrees above that at the feed end. The rapid evaporation of the moisture in the drier removes most of the heat picked up by the eggs while in the washer.
Five Cases an Hour
The machine has the capacity to wash and dry approximately five cases of eggs per hour. By use of the attachment for transferring the eggs to a grader, it is possible for two people to wash, dry, grade and pack at the rate of five cases per hour.
Although the machine has adequate capacity for large producing establishments, it has been designed to meet the needs of the small operator with only a few hundred birds.
In cooperation with Dr. G. O. Hall of Poultry Husbandry and Dr. C. N. Stark of Bacteriology at Cornell University, tests have been made on the keeping quality of eggs washed in the machine.
Samples of fresh, nest run eggs were soiled with chicken manure and cultures of the common bacteria that cause eggs to spoil, stored at room temperature (70-75 degrees F.) for a day, then washed in the machine, using cold water, warm water, hot water, soapy water and with chlorine solution of 500 ppm. After washing, all samples, including the "nest clean" untreated samples, were stored under a controlled temperature of 81 degrees and a relative humidity of 85 per cent or more for a period of 33 days. This was estimated to be the equivalent of six months in cold storage.
Washed Eggs Keep
At the end of the storage period, the eggs were candled and broken out to test for quality, spoilage and any damage that might have been done by the hot water. It was found that in every case where the washing was done with water at 165 degrees F. or higher, the treated washed eggs kept just as well as the untreated nest clean eggs. The samples washed in cold water or warm water did not keep as well.
There was no visible evidence of damage having been done to the interior of the eggs by the hot water.
This new type of cleaner should make it possible for poultrymen to clean eggs conveniently and quickly in a sanitary manner immediately after gathering, so that they can be packed or stored in better condition than has been the general practice heretofore.
- From the American Agriculturist
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