Who’s Who – Ontario – Melissa Sinnige
By Treena HeinFeatures Producers
Young broiler hatching egg farmer already taking industry by storm.
As co-manager of her family farm and director on two association boards – as well as having a year under her belt as chair at the Ontario Broiler Chicken Hatching Egg Producers Association (OBCHEPA) – Melissa Sinnige is a leader in Canada’s poultry industry at just 25 years of age.
“In 2004, I immigrated from Holland with my family and we got into the hatching egg industry, which is something I quickly fell in love with,” she says. “At that age, I loved going to the barn and collecting eggs, working with the chickens and as I learned more about the industry, I got more interested. So, I knew from a young age that it was my passion. I find chickens fun and interesting animals to work with. Also, each flock presents new opportunities and challenges and I really like that I am a small part of helping to feed people.”
Since finishing programs at Fanshawe College (general science) and Ridgetown College (agriculture) four years ago, Sinnige has been farming full time. She and her family have four barns around Woodstock, Ont., three on the original farm site and one finished in 2020 at a new farm nearby. She runs the farms with her father Peter and her boyfriend Wietze van den Brink. Other family members help whenever they can, which is always greatly appreciated.
At the original barn at the home farm, Sinnige and her father made a lot of changes over the years – moving feeders, changing the nesting system and lights, updating fans and recently adding tunnel ventilation with cooling pads. They built the second barn there in 2009 and a third in 2015.
For the barn at the new second farm, the producers did a lot of research on equipment and, for several reasons, selected a fully automatic egg packing system. “We went with a Jansen packer, specifically programed for this barn, which speeds up the packing process,” she explains. “All the eggs are automatically packed and then the trolley loader picks up the full trays and puts them into the cart.”
They had already installed a Kletec trolley loader at the home farm and loved its performance. Before the purchase, they’d inspected one on a farm in Belgium, one of only five of these loaders in operation globally at the time.
“It’s a big time-saver and great for ergonomics,” Sinnige says, “because we no longer need to bend down with trays or lift them above us. Overall, we wanted to be able to collect and pack eggs with one person in a timey manner, allowing us to go back and forth and work at both the farms throughout the day. The new barn also has MagFans, which are direct-drive variable fans. They run smoothly and save on electricity.”
In Sinnige’s view, trying to keep fertility up near the end of a flock is one of the biggest general challenges in broiler breeder farming. “Managing the health and weight of the flock,” she explains, “is one of the most important factors to keep fertility high. We do this by weighing weekly, fleshing (checking body condition) twice a week and, at all times, making sure the chickens are happy and healthy.”
They also feed the hens on the slats and raise the feeders after feeding, which is important for reasons of efficiency and saving labour. Raising the feeders decreases the number of floor eggs and it’s good for uniformity as well. It also allows for easy access to the water line and nests (a Jansen nesting system, which works very well for them).
In 2019, at the age of 22, Sinnige became an OBCHEPA board member, and still serves on the board today. “Being a director is something I am passionate about and really enjoy,” she says. “I love the opportunity to help fellow producers with questions and concerns, update the producer group on the latest news in our sector and share any new information and education.”
In March 2020, Sinnige had the opportunity to be chair and she served in that position for a full year. She loved the experience, running the meetings and seeing board operations from a whole new perspective. It also allowed her to make new connections and be a part of “incredible things,” which included networking events and helping develop projects for engineering students at the University of Guelph.
This spring, the chance came up to become a board member at Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission (OBHECC) and Sinnige took it. She describes this decision as “super-exciting step for me, and I am learning so much. It allows me the opportunity to be part of another aspect of our industry and learn how it works. This board is made up of both producer directors and hatchery directors, sets the prices for our industry, regulates quota and sets the allocation.”
On the farms, Sinige and her father plan to add a spiking rooster barn and change the remaining cross-ventilated barns over to tunnel ventilation with cooling pads. They would also hopefully like to build a fifth barn at some point. “The main goal that’s always top of mind for me is making sure our barns stay up-to-date, comfortable for the chickens and efficient for us,” she explains. “By doing this, we hope that we are being the best broiler breeder farmers we can be.”
And looking forward, she would also like to serve on the national Canadian Hatching Egg Producers (CHEP) board one day.
“I am passionate about our industry and want to be a part of ensuring its greatness,” she says. “There are several things that fascinate me about the CHEP board. One is that it’s a group that spans multiple provinces but working together towards a common goal. Each province has different practices and standard operating procedures, yet we all do the same thing. We just achieve it differently and I find that so interesting.
“What also really interests me about CHEP is how much detail goes into the calculation of chicken production for each coming year. It takes into account previous years’ chicken consumption, immigration, demographics and much more.”
Outside of farming, you can find Sinnige cooking traditional Dutch food and trying different ways to make chicken. She also loves to bake cookies and cakes, keep up with science news and travel. She says, “I am very fortunate that I am able wake up every day and do something I love and call that my job.”
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