By Charles Bourns, broiler grower and chair of poultry & eggs working group, Copa Cogeca
This year I made my annual trip to EPIC, more to see people than listen to the presentations, I am afraid to say. However, this year I found some of them interesting and even dare I say exciting.
As most people know I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology, having only just joined whatsapp, but at EPIC we had a presentation that showed a machine that is suspended in the shed and travels up and down sniffing the air, and in so doing can tell the manager two days in advance about any problems with the birds in the house.
This excites me because on Sunday a sixth sense told me that the chicken in house one had something wrong but the water meter, humidity and CO2 readings showed nothing. On the Monday the water meter dipped a little so I put in multi vit; on Tuesday the water consumption went backwards and we also had our prearranged vet visit. The vet did some post-mortems and found we had some necrotic enteritis so we have had to medicate.
The point of this story is that just maybe with the help of the sniffing machine I could have found the problem earlier and saved some loss of performance by treating earlier.
I also attended the NFU National Poultry board meeting that was held near York where we learnt from an organisation called FERA about the African Black Fly which apparently is not fussy about the source of waste it uses to produce offspring that can either be made into a meal or fed whole to chicken. It appears to be a very good source of protein but at present its cost is 4.5 times that of soya due to the lack of scale. It is however gathering pace and is being used in Canada to get rid of household waste as well as being developed fast in China and South Africa.
Our next crop will be our last crop on standard birds for a while we have been asked to grow the Better Chicken Commitment chicken. It should be interesting to see how they preform both physically and financially. We will be on a 58-day cycle as opposed to a 49-day cycle and we will be growing to 2.4kg weights stocked at 30kg per square meter unthinned. We have had for two years a rumbling low cocci problem and so have had to medicate most crops. I hope the change will break the cycle.