"When rearing layers, feeling is very important. Our systems form a good basis, but it is all much more than looking at a screen and pressing a button. Do the animals show the behaviour you want? The farmer has to pay attention to that."
Alex Welbergen is Poultry Specialist at the Vencomatic Group, he regularly guides farmers through the rearing of laying hens. Below, he discusses six ways to guarantee the quality of rearing layers.
Right people and right climate
"The most important factor in rearing layers is the people. The farmer must understand his animals and be able to make decisions on the basis of his own feelings. The mutual relationship between supplier and customer is important, as is the proper exchange of information. Especially in remote communication, you need to understand each other well, sometimes things are interpreted differently due to language differences or cultural differences."
"A good climate system is also very important of course, to raise the chick in the most optimal environment. If the temperature is not right or the air not fresh, the animal will have a very hard time. Hens often move to comfortable places, but these are not always optimal. So you have to manage that well.”
Good rearing system and the right management
"When choosing a rearing system, it is important to have a good connection to the next phase, when the birds have to lay. If they are reared in a 'three-dimensional' system, for example, they must also be housed in such a system. Fortunately, our systems fit any laying system, including those from other suppliers."
"In rearing, the management is also important, there must be good communication between all parties involved: not only the farmer and Vencomatic, also the supplier of the animals and preferably also the feed supplier. In many countries, the feed supplier is not involved in the set-up and often not even the supplier of the hens. Often you see that all suppliers are part of the same company, an 'integration'."
Feed, water and light
"The feed and especially the drinking water must of course be of good quality: does it look good? Is it easy for the chick to absorb? Is it tasty? It has to be according to the chicken's needs, in terms of nutrients. Water should always be available and of good quality, fortunately farmers are becoming more aware of this. The lines also need to be cleaned regularly."
"The lighting regime is also very important: the right type of lamps, the right light intensity. But also the right dimming programmes, which regulate the day and night period of the young stock. The mutual relationships between the animals are also determined by light: if there is too much light, they can become aggressive and start pecking feathers. Light may not always be the cause, but it does have an influence.”
"The light regime in rearing should be copied as much as possible to the production process, which is often not done. Rearing companies often do not have a relationship with laying hen farmers, which is why many farmers in countries like Canada do their own rearing. Then it is also in their own interest, to get it right."
One last aspect
"Finally, one last factor we should not forget is disease prevention. A rearing hen is in an extensive vaccination programme. You make them a little bit sick every week to produce antibodies, the monitoring is then important. Animals must of course be protected against the diseases that traditionally make them sick, if you don't combat them you may have to cull."
"The importance of disease prevention does depend on the country: the closer the animals are together, the more that protection is needed. And this density is different in every country, in Canada there is a lot of space between farms. So there are less diseases there."