By Matt Donald, pig & poultry farmer, north Yorkshire
The recent spell of warm weather is a good test that all ventilation is in order and ready for summer. Summer usually brings with it some respite from AI news – however, it would appear to still be rumbling on which makes us think it is now here to stay annually.
Constant biosecurity on every poultry farm is the only way to keep it out of the commercial flock. I feel we must do something as an industry so that backyard outbreaks do not shut commercial premises, and it is something I hope to push for through work on the NFU Poultry Board.
We have one flock of breeders at 35 weeks – at this age the females are past peak production and therefore other than weight/ feed monitoring, the flock performance now turns to the cockerels as this is around the time the peak hatch should be.
We are working on constant cockerel management in order to select the best males, making sure that all males in the shed are working. We do this through thorough walks of the flock, picking up any paler or thinner looking males and checking their condition, as well as if there are signs of mating around their vent.
Hatch is also determined by equipment so a close eye on nests, egg transfers and the egg packer is maintained so as not to be causing any unnecessary hairline cracks. Our hatching eggs go to the hatchery and it can be a week after egg collection before they are placed in the setters, followed by three weeks to hatch and a few days to get the information back.
We aim to peak at 92% hatch if we can. However, due to these timings we won’t know if the work on farm is paying off until four to five weeks’ time. Therefore it is vital we are constantly on the ball with male management.