By Charles Macleod, commercial manager, layers, St David’s Poultry Team
This article first appeared in the Poultry Health supplement to August’s issue of Poultry Business magazine
As a veterinary practice, our health plans are focused on proactive and practical advice that deliver the right support, at the right time, in a way that is economically balanced, and drive productivity and efficiencies for the producers we support. Our role in flock health management involves reviewing and advising on all flock inputs and how they impact on productivity.
An approach that we know can deliver significant financial rewards and counteract some of the pressures that producers are facing, is to extend the productive life of the hens.
Planning is key
The modern commercial layer has the genetic potential to maintain good production for an extended period. However, to achieve this, it requires attention to detail and planning, as well as an in-depth understanding of the various factors that contribute – from the very beginning of the pullet’s life – including chick and pullet quality.
These will include support for the hen’s physiological and nutritional needs, focussed on skeletal development and sustaining good shell quality. Also required is intestinal support during key periods to maintain energy levels and body condition, a focus on gut health, the right nutrition and good water hygiene, to achieve a well-balanced and stable microbiome and support a competent immune system.
Fundamentally, a holistic approach is required that incorporates both veterinary support and on-farm management of the environment, nutrition and stress. Our health plans include this to make sure that bird health is fully integrated with the overall management of a site. And as a veterinary team, we also have the experience and knowledge to advise on these areas, and work closely with the expertise from our associated companies, such as FarmWater and Applied Bacterial Control, as well as our Field Services Team.
The average depletion age of flocks in the UK and The Republic of Ireland is currently 76 weeks. When we look at the financial figures of a flock that stays in production to 80 weeks, this would equate to an additional £40,960 (margin over feed) for a 32,000-bird flock. Take production from 76 weeks to 90 weeks and the margin over feed increases to circa £139,000 (this is based on a pullet price of £4.80 and £400 for a tonne of feed. We estimate the reduced depreciation on the pullet equates to 2.2 pence per dozen eggs).
There are many factors that influence the profitability of individual flocks, combining low mortality and good production with extended laying cycles will improve financial returns and reduce environmental impact.