By Matt Donald, pig & poultry farmer, North Yorkshire
As the breeder flock on the newest site turns 30 weeks all focus turns to getting the most out of the birds. We have managed to get production to above 90% and the first of the hatch results are out. The previous two flocks on this site had a poor start with the hatch. We were unsure of what had caused this so we tweaked our lighting programme slightly, resulting in much improved early fertility, and we are now achieving 85% hatchability at 25 weeks.
Every year we look for improvements to strengthen our end result of chicks per bird; the focus at the moment is bird longevity. Although low mortality has always been a target, it’s time to take a step back and look at the routine and question what we do. Reducing the stress on the females is everything, as I’ve mentioned before a fast and even feed distribution in breeders is absolutely critical, so staff have focused their attention on fixing and getting feed tracks running again if anything fails. This has always been relevant but an aim to replace items such as motors or feed corners before they fail is starting to be a business policy.
Another new practice of ours comes when collecting floor eggs, initially it’s thorough walks to move birds and disturb them from laying on the deep litter area. This has worked and floor eggs are at low levels. Now we have passed that, we aim to disturb the birds less, simple practices such as walking around them when they are laid out dusting instead of among them, or not splitting up groups as they flock together to settle before lights down. We hope these minor changes should help reduce stress, thus mortality, I mean I’d get pretty stressed if every time I got sat down and settled I was made to move!
The hope is a few small changes can accumulate to strong flock performance with our next target being 160 chicks per bird. This was unimaginable only a few years ago, however it’s now becoming a realistic aim for us all to achieve.