This issue, livestock editor Sarah Kidby speaks to Vencomatic’s senior poultry consultant Andy Pond for his top tips on key points to consider in a poultry housing system.
1. What are some key considerations?
Systems need to be hygienic, high welfare nest systems with an ease of access throughout the whole system – that’s really essential because of flock hierarchy. The nests always need to be dry and warm and correctly lit, otherwise birds won’t frequent them, with good quality air and sufficient ventilation. The lighting is really important; it’s got to be poultry-specific, high frequency adjustable lighting throughout the whole of the shed, to encourage birds to lay in the nest boxes. The whole system needs to be easily cleaned and maintained during turnaround time. Fortunately, with the Vencomatic design, frequent manure removal is easy.
2. How do Vencomatic systems improve health and welfare?
Firstly, we use a soft rubber matting design for the point of contact for the bird where it lays its egg in the nest box. This stays cleaner and is gentler on the bird. With the opening and closing of the nest boxes, there is also a gentle and progressive movement of the bird off the nest box floor, so birds are not stressed.
We have more than ample perching, encouraging easy movement across the system which is always really important due to the hierarchy and hen pecking scenario.
Obviously one of the most important things for poultry is food and water, so we always incorporate easy-flush nipple drinkers, which gives them 24/7 access to clean water. We have a design on our feeding troughs called anti-selective feeding, that ensures the bird gets a rounded and complete diet as opposed to picking out the bits they want.
We have a rounded mushroom design perch that’s proven to ensure comfortable and stable perching in the system, which is really important for protecting the keel bone – a big welfare issue. We also provide step-up tubes and welfare ramps to encourage ranging around the system and, again, to reduce keel bone damage.
3. What are the wider impacts for productivity and profitability?
There is gentle and complete transport of the freshly laid egg to the tray, minimising contact and contamination and increasing output.
Really importantly, a massive design feature on all our systems is inwardly sloping floors which greatly reduces the number of system eggs. Otherwise, these need to be hand collected, meaning you have to employ more people, which is a really big issue.
The Vencobelt gentle egg handling design greatly reduces labour and increases profit by minimising cracks; it’s a very gentle system so there is no stressful movement causing cracks.