Beginning of March 2015 Dutch commercial layer farmer Jos Mans started to use a new housing system. On one of his poultry houses with an aviary system he built extensions on both sides of a 4 meter wide covered ranging area. The ranging area is equipped with an automatic grain dispenser, Alfa Alfa, platforms with mineral blocks and bushes of bamboo. In this way Mr. Mans anticipates to current market developments and the upcoming ban on beak treatment in 2018. He placed 16,000 NOVOgen Brown Light females of Verbeek with untreated beaks in this new system. “With this extra attention to animal welfare aspects I get more money for my eggs and it is an excellent learning process towards 2018.
It all started with his participation in a project of the province of Limburg that drew his attention. In this project different groups of farmers could share their vision on the future of the market with a focus on transparency and society. Mr. Mans, who has 26 years of experience as a poultry farmer, has been looking for added value for his barn egg production. His farm consists of 5 houses with in total 77,000 layers. “Barn egg production is at a crossroad at this moment; to go with the bulk for which cost price is leading, or to realise a better price through new animal welfare concepts”, he says. With a good presentation to all his clients (packing station, retail), he was able to get subsidy for the realisation of this new housing design. In fact it is an intermediate system between barn egg and free range production, with the advantages of extra space, light and air, but with lower risks for AI contamination as wild birds are kept out of the system.
The covered ranging area gives 50% extra floor space lowering the density from 9 to 7 layers per m2. This is an additional advantage for layers with untreated beaks. Mr. Mans is not waiting till 2018. “With this new extension I have all possibilities to give my hens a stress free environment. I also had heard positive stories from the egg industry and other farmers about the excellent behaviour and adaptability of the NOVOgen Brown Light. So why should I wait, while I can learn now?” Till now everyone goes well. On March 5th the pullets were placed at an age of 18 weeks. Exactly at day 147 the flock arrived at 50% production. The 16,000 pullets were delivered with a body weight of 92 grams above the standard weight with a uniformity of 89.3%. “That is extremely high for brown layers, but I have no issues with eggs being laid outside the nestboxes." The only practical implication compared to previous flocks was the adjustment of the lighting program. To attract the birds to go inside in the evening the light is switch off at 19.30. In this way it is earlier dark outside than inside.
Both sons are still studying and have not yet made a decision to take over the farm. But this new housing concept is giving energy and trust towards the future. “This year I will have to make a choice for the next placement if I go for brown layers in the renovated house and white in the other houses or vice versa, to be able identify the difference in housing system on his farm by the colour of the eggs. For this first round I got a derogation to use brown layers in all houses.” This switch from brown to white layers will also be a learning process for Mr. Mans with a different egg market and bird management. Tailor made support of the rearing company is crucial for him, the same accounts for using layers with untreated beaks. A vision which is fully supported by Verbeek Hatchery, distributor of Novogen. The more parts of the production chain are matching each other well, the stronger the chain will be! The right breed, rearing system, volumes and management are key to this.