By Matt Donald, Donald Pig & Poultry, north Yorkshire
Our most recent flock has just hit peak production, it is slightly disappointing that we did not peak as high as the other flock that were at peak production in June. We are asking questions about differences in rearing, feeding, lighting and so on to try find a reason for this.
For breeders, the environment is controlled carefully, not only with ventilation, water, feeding but also lighting. The light stimulation brings the birds into lay once condition scores have been carried out to check the birds are ready.
We condition score by checking fat cover around the breast and pin bones. Usually they are lit up around the 21-week mark. The light stimulation is done using both day length and intensity, as much as the shed is a controlled environment, I can’t help but feel the birds still know what time of year it is.
Even in modern sheds, if the birds can pick up that we are in the autumn months then it may explain why we haven’t seen the peaks that we did in June, when the other farm was at a top production levels. Early hatches have been straight above 80% so this is a positive and counteracts some of the production dip.
We have just completed the installation of a ground source heat pump to heat the on-farm properties and offices. We are keen to keep pushing towards net zero for the business and this will be another small step in the right direction, alongside a biomass boiler on farm we will have no fossil fuel heating left. Battery storage to allow more solar will be the next step. I feel it is slightly too early to be looking into that, as batteries are becoming better and cheaper all the time as technology advances.