Given the market demands, egg production in alternative systems continues to increase in Spain, also in line with the trends of their European neighbors. We all know that these laying hens need to be reared properly for a good development of their productive life in laying houses in alternative systems.
Rearing pullets growing significantly in Spain
In this context, the presence of Bolegg Starter, the equipment offered by Vencomatic Ibérica for rearing pullets is growing significantly in Spain. An example of this system for rearing is found in Avícola Velasco, where we interviewed its manager Jesús Velasco to tell us about his experience with the use of this system for the rearing of future layers.
Jesús Velasco has been the manager of Avícola Velasco since 1991, but he has been involved in poultry farming all his life "I learned on my father’s family farm and then I had to take charge of the family business".
Avícola Velasco has facilities for 850,000 laying hens housed in modern sheds that meet the animal welfare standards required by the European Union. It is a company with very modern equipment and the main objective is to produce good quality eggs. Since its foundation, the company's philosophy has been to respond to the needs of its customers and to be a point of reference in the egg business.
"Right now at Avícola Velasco we have about 550,000 birds in cages, 215,000 birds on the floor and 29,000 free-range birds, which we want to increase to 90,000. We also have a new project for the rearing of 220,000 birds with the Bolegg Starter system installed by Vencomatic."
Avícola Velasco has more than 45 years of experience in the sector, so we discussed with Jesús Velasco all the changes that have taken place in the laying poultry sector in Spain over the years. "In terms of health and animal welfare, we have come a long way, from the vaccination against Salmonella that marked a before and after, to the adjustment we made in the sector in 2012 due to the change in regulations towards enriched cages. Due to market trends, alternative production is now presented as another option, so we have to keep adapting. It is clearly a sector that does not stand still and is evolving every day."
As they produce their own feed for laying hens, we also wanted to know what advantages this offered. "In 2007 we started building our own feed factory, we wanted to have full control over what our hens were eating and we were also in a cereal area, which saved us transport and gave us greater flexibility, so these were all positive points for the development of the factory".
A leading-edge project for rearing
This new project consists of 2 houses for 112,000 pullets each, equipped with 4 rows of Bolegg Starter and Hercules Cross Conveyor for manure removal, without the need of a pit. In this project, Vencomatic Ibérica collaborated with its distributor ANTELCO for the entire construction of the house, ventilation, electrical installation, lighting, etc.
“The design of the Bolegg Starter makes the combination of QUANTITY and QUALITY of reared pullets perfect as it allows the birds to develop in such a way that their adaptation to the different aviary systems is perfect.”
“The system not only has the right number of drinkers, feeders and perches for that number of birds, but also has two platforms that are raised (with motors) as the hens grow, so they can "train" (jump, etc.) for their proper development.”
"We are also committed to egg production in alternative systems. In fact, we believe that all new investments should be made in this type of production, whether it is on the ground, free-range or organic."
The training of the pullets from day one
During the first weeks the pullets are kept in the system, which opens lenghtwise (sliding doors from left to right and lifting from top to bottom) so that they can move freely and develop their instincts and habits according to the lighting and feeding program.
"The Bolegg Starter is a system that has the first level in a lower part, so that during the first weeks of life you have a very clear and comfortable view of the hens, being very easy to handle during this stage."
Next, the mesh of the lower part of the system is opened (where there is also a light line), giving the birds more space and getting them used to leaving that area when the lights are turned off, then the aisles and finally the inside of the system. This way, the birds get used to what they will find in the production aviaries, so the adaptation will be perfect.
"We chose the Bolegg Starter offered by Vencomatic after visiting several rearing centres in Europe and Spain. The fact that the hens can already move, jump, start to fly and move around the perches at a very young age, we think, ensures that the birds' behaviour is better adapted for when they arrive in the layer house, thus avoiding many management problems that usually occur."
During the interview, Jesús Velasco also told that Vencomatic offered him advice and follow-up at all times "from the beginning, we had technical advice, both on management and veterinary issues, either in person during the first days or via video conference".