Verbeek's business evenings were held on 8, 9 and 10 October. The various speakers advocated the theme of 'behaviour and balance go hand in hand'. In a market in which egg prices and feed prices put enormous pressure on the balance, all aspects which can influence that balance become increasingly important. It was also time to present the first results for the Novogen flocks on the Dutch market, precisely one year following introduction of the Novogen hen.
Behaviour is a genetically determined reaction to ambient factors. Rick van Emous, researcher at Wageningen University, has studied the degree of desirable behaviour. The Novogen hen is less nervy, more inquisitive and especially more confident, as has been proven by conducting scientific tests such as the Novel object test and avoidance distance test (Welfare Quality®).
Thierry Burlot, a Novogen geneticist, explained why behaviour is an important selection criterion. Novogen looks for the very best hen qualities for poultry farmers, and hens are therefore selected under the same conditions as those at the poultry farm. Pure lines are no longer simply selected in the traditional manner in individual cages but also in group and free range housing situations. Moreover, RFID (chip reader) technology is applied in order to gather individual information within a group in free range housing. This technique provides information on the nesting behaviour of hens in a group: how many eggs are laid in the nest, how long and when does the hen sit in a nest? Together with other modern techniques, this gives a picture of the desirable behaviour for hens. Evaluation of genetic values for an animal, which are calculated by a molecular score based on their genotypes, gives a large number of DNA markers (SNPs). Each of these SNPs contains various characteristics which stand for more than 30 selection criteria applied by Novogen. The laying properties can therefore be genetically determined even for cockerels, in order to arrive at the ideal cross for breeding. This not only gives genetic advantages but also considerably accelerates the process, as is apparent from the annual genetic progress which has been forecast for the coming years.
Egg quality forms the basis for the balance. The sheer egg volume is no longer the norm which determines the balance, but rather the large volume of top-grade saleable eggs. Yet this is only a small part of the story, according to Jan van Esch, head of quality at Kwetters. For many years, the main price differences have been determined by those aspects not directly related to egg quality, e.g. the housing system. Many eggs are exported, due to overproduction, or under-consumption, of Dutch eggs. As the main export country, Germany tends to set the requirements. The extremely strong Novogen eggshell then suddenly becomes the norm. The keeping of uncut hens who are still nicely feathered at the end of their laying period, are but two of the requirements which will influence our balance in the future. Egg quality will therefore entail more than simply resistance to breakage, Haugh units and the absence of contaminants, and will instead be partially determined by behaviour.
Johan Verhoek, Verbeek's product manager, explained the influence of behaviour on the poultry farmer's balance, using the initial results of the Novogen hens. The results show that Novogen's pledge in terms of genetic progress is actually reflected in the figures. The NOVOgen Brown Light persistently produced extremely good quality eggs. Its great liveability and keen feed conversion rate contribute directly to a higher balance per m2 housing. The laying period was problem-free for 91.2% of all the flocks supplied. There was also considerable variation in the nature of any problems.
The Novogen hen converts feed more efficiently, therefore requiring earlier switching to the following feed phase. This is not only cheaper but also prevents start-up problems. The NOVOgen White really is a performer. The high laying percentage is not only persistent but the egg quality, liveability and feed conversion rate all provide poultry farmers with directly higher balances. The NOVOgen White is therefore the best choice for poultry farmers looking to sell the highest volume of eggs per m2 housing area.
Verbeek Hatchery wishes to thank all poultry farmers who have contributed to this opportunity to present these figures. They were the ones to put out the first flocks of Novogen. Of course we also greatly appreciate the efforts of our feed partners, who have achieved these top results with the Novogen hens, together with the poultry farmers and Verbeek.
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