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Showcasing the future of commercial egg production at the Sally Farm open days

Vencomatic Poultry UK recently opened the doors of its pioneering high-welfare egg production unit at Sally Farm, Helperby to allow the poultry industry and general public to see first-hand the innovations that will define the future of commercial egg production in the UK.

On Thursday 25th October, Adam Henson - BBC Countryfile presenter and ambassador for British agriculture - opened the unit with a rousing address calling for the industry to continue reconnecting with its’ consumers and telling the story on a worldwide stage, of how good British food really is.

The address was made to an audience of key industry individuals including NFU Deputy President Guy Smith, NFU Poultry Board members, welfare organisations CIWF and RSPCA and animal welfare campaigner Lucy Gavaghan. During the subsequent open days egg packing companies, producers and local community interest groups were also given the opportunity to visit the farm.

The Vencomatic team provided tours and demonstrations of the equipment on display which included the Vencomatic Veranda Gallery nest and Prinzen Timeline egg handling system. Key partners and suppliers were given the opportunity to exhibit, including: renewable energy generation by Alt-Energi; lighting by Hato; ventilation and control by Hotraco; egg printing by Hitachi; feed silos and augers by Collinson; buildings by Morspan and groundwork by Knights Construction. The Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity ran a raffle for a luxury hamper, and Camphill Village Trust, Botton Village displayed and sold their wares.

Sally Farm was established with the aim of creating a high-welfare free-range poultry farm which produces eggs efficiently and profitably, in an environmentally friendly setting.The unit showcases Vencomatic’s latest innovations in bird welfare including the Veranda Gallery nest, designed to exceed RSPCA standards in perching and nest availability. The nest incorporates the Miteperch which destroys redmite without chemicals, and welfare ramps which are proven to reduce keel bone fractures by 23%. Environmental enrichment is provided by Pecking Pans and the Forager, to encourage natural behaviour and reduce injurious pecking. The modular Dark Brooder was also displayed, demonstrating the benefits of dark rearing – a reduction in injurious pecking of up to 97% in adult birds reared in the system.

Production efficiency is maximised through the reduction of feed and energy costs, and in labour-saving initiatives. A uniquely-designed feed trough minimises feed wasted during selective feeding and Alt-Energi’s highly efficient ‘Energi Pod’ ground source heat pump combines with the vencomatic ‘Eco Unit’ heat delivery system to maintain constant poultry house temperatures and reduce dust and ammonia emissions. System and floor eggs are significantly reduced by the sloping floors and scraper systems incorporated in the nest – minimising the labour time spent retrieving them.

The high-speed packing and high-level palletising provided by the Prinzen Timeline further reduces labour costs, only requiring the transport of complete pallets every hour.

The second free-range unit will be built at Sally Farm in 2019 and will become the Northern Poultry Campus. The campus will provide a venue for education and learning for local agricultural colleges and schools, facilitating the provision of skilled workers into the industry. The campus will also allow scientific studies in controlled, commercial environments – initial studies are planned in temperature, lighting, non-beak trimming and ammonia and dust emissions.

The final piece of the puzzle will allow the public to visit the farm and see up-close the chickens that produce their eggs. A visitor centre will house a café and gift shop, with viewing galleries into the house, and across the range area.

Sally Farm demonstrates the highest standards of welfare, efficiency and profitability that will become the benchmark for the commercial free-range egg industry in the UK.

The farm is managed by Wot-A-Hen, and the eggs will be supplied to Noble Foods under the Happy Egg brand.

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