Vencomatic recently opened the doors of its ‘first-of-a-kind’ Bolegg Starter rearing system in a well-attended open day.
The Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs unit at Westwick Hall Farm, near Boroughbridge welcomed nearly 100 guests who enjoyed a hog roast sandwich, provided by The Pantry from Thirsk. “We were really pleased with the turnout’, said Vencomatic’s CEO Gordon Alexander, ‘this is a ground-breaking new system, and everyone was eager to see it for themselves.”
Guests were given guided tours of the unit by the Vencomatic team, who were keen to highlight the welfare benefits of the system.
Replicating the natural habitat
“The Bolegg Starter offers chicks the opportunity to move vertically around the system from day one” explained Mr Alexander. “Chickens climb trees in their natural habitat, and we want to replicate that environment in rear, both to ensure the chicks’ wellbeing, but also to develop the three-dimensional spatial awareness that is essential for a smooth transfer into lay. The key feature of the Bolegg Starter is that the platforms and drinker lines are winchable, allowing the operator to increase the height differences across the system. This encourages the birds to climb and allows the system to grow with the pullets.”
Ease of movement….
“Once the chicks are 15 days old (for Freedom Foods standards), the compartment doors are opened and the chicks can access the floor area” explains Alexander. “This is quite a jump for them at this age and awkward landings can damage their still-developing keel bones so to allow them to move comfortably and safely between the floor and system we add welfare ramps, and we see the birds using them confidently from the start. The ramps we use in rear differ from those in laying houses - the bottom couple of inches is open, to allow the chicks to move underneath, preventing them becoming trapped or hiding behind the base of the ramp.”
…but not too much freedom
“One of the really clever innovations on the Bolegg Starter system are what we call the ‘anti-surf grills’. They’re a protective grill that prevent the chicks from being transported along the feed track. This alleviates the problem that occurs when the chicks enter the feed track - they are moved along and effectively bypass the compartment walls. This can lead to overcrowding in the end compartments and can increase competition for food, water and space which places unnecessary stress on the bird.”
The rearing units have been fitted with the Vencomatic ECO Unit – an efficient air-to-air heat exchanger which recovers up to 80% of the heat contained in the exhaust air. This heat is transferred to the fresh air entering the shed and is then delivered both to the house environment and directly to the manure belts – to dry the litter and provide luxury ‘underfloor heating’ to the chicks in the compartments. “The ECO Unit can provide up to 300% of the fresh air requirement for the shed at a consistent temperature, despite the changes in the weather outside” explains Alexander. “This warm, fresh air ensures the chicks get the best start in terms of their immunity, which is further enhanced as they are encouraged to roost on the perches inside the compartments, away from draughts and contaminants on the floor.”
Alt-Energi Supplied LPG Gas boilers to provide a heated hot water circuit for the ECO Units installed at Westwick Hall Farm. The boilers provide heat when required and are controlled from the ECO Unit. This will provide indirect heat ensuring combustion gases are external to the bird rearing area.
A constant supply of fresh water is available to the birds thanks to the Lubing auto-flush system, which ensures there is no build-up of biofilm. This further protects the health of the chick and makes the necessary vaccine delivery simple and measurable.
Lighting was supplied by HATO in the form of CORAX LED lights, specifically designed to deliver a perfect light spectrum and uniform light distribution to ensure the welfare of the birds.
Full control from anywhere in the world
The operator has full control over the functions in the rearing houses via the Hotraco FORTICA-PS control panel. The Fortica controls the entire ventilation system to maintain the internal environment – the ECO-unit heat exchanger, side air inlets and tunnel air inlets and also manages other functions such as feeding, water, in-system bird weighing and lighting control. The FORTICA-PS is fully operable via the remote app SyslinQ, allowing the operator an at-a-glance overview, or the opportunity to configure settings and respond to alarms from anywhere in the world.
Bespoke design and optional extras
The rearing unit will house 64,000 birds, supplying the James Potter/Yorkshire Farmhouse laying operation. The buildings were built by Morspan Construction Ltd who were “delighted to be chosen by the Potter family to provide the 2 poultry houses at Westwick Hall. Working closely with the team at Vencomatic, we have designed and delivered bespoke Morspan houses to enable this pullet rearing facility to achieve its full potential.” Groundworks were completed by Pell Plant, and Collinson supplied two S3 County Range Silos, selected specifically for the unique 67° cone to provide the optimum, problem free feed flow for poultry mash. The silos were constructed in a Juniper Green Plasteel™ finish to colour match the new house and comply with building regulations. For improved feed management the silos were supplied with load cells integrated in the silo feet to allow live feed level data to be fed into the Fortica control panel. The Potter family chose to boost their on-site biosecurity by including a Cyclone Dust Collector as an optional extra, keeping the base and surrounding area clean and vermin free.
Knowledge, experience and the right breed
Determined to get it right first time, Potter’s chose the proven Hendrix Genetics’ Breeds, Warren and Bovans. Having had proven success with the robust and reliable Warren in the past, and hearing the Bovans reputation for livability, persistency and its potential to lay larger eggs, they decided to rear 32,000 of each breed. The Joice and Hill hatchery in Peterborough is recognised for its excellent chick quality, and through Peter Rogerson, Area Technical Sales Manager for Yorkshire, will be able offer experience, advice and technical support.
Hendrix Genetics has over fifty years of experience in layer breeding and is now one of the world’s leading breeders and distributors of white and brown layers. The extensive research and development program has created a base of knowledge and experience which delivers high quality products and service to the egg supply chain. The key to this success is the extended laying cycle adopted in their breeding program. This sustainable strategy benefits the birds, egg producers, and the environment.
Visitors to the open day were given the opportunity to attend the 6th Vencomatic Connect roadshow in the evening, where they heard short informative talks on the latest innovations from Vencomatic, Prinzen and Vencomatic Energy before talks by special guests Jean-Paul Michalski – Noble Foods, Aled-Davies – Pruex, Will Garton - Avivets and Eloise Lawlor – Premier Nutrition.
Not a company to rest on its’ laurels, Vencomatic will hold its next open day and roadshow evening in Devon on 26th November. The open day will showcase the new, high-welfare Veranda Aviary 2 nest system and the ECO Unit heat exchanger.
For more information or to reserve a place, email Lindsay.Fletcher@vpauk.com