New technologies that could transform operations are right around the corner.
Changing consumer demand for Net Zero, higher welfare and no-antibiotic-ever (NAE) has transformed modern poultry production. Innovative thinking and new technologies will be required to meet these challenges and remain efficient and profitable.
At the 2022 Poultry Tech Summit, three senior live production panelists highlighted areas where creative solutions from innovators could have the biggest impact. The panelists were:
- Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, senior vice president of technical services and innovation, Perdue Farms
- Dave Wicker, Ph.D., vice president of live operations, Fieldale Farms Corporation
- Carl Heeder, DVM, senior director, avian health and nutrition, Mountaire Farm
“We need stuff to work and that takes a while. It takes experimentation and cooperation between the inventors and the people really using it,” Stewart-Brown explained.
“I think there’s a lot of learning to be done, but as precision farming gets more integrated, we’ll learn more about it and there will be better tools,” Heeder added.
1. Poultry weight estimates
More accurate weight predictions would give farmers the information they need to make better decisions, especially when it comes to supply chain planning. Forecasting also allows them to react early to red flags, such as illness, more quickly, preventing disease outbreaks and maintaining flock well-being by reducing periods of suboptimal growth patterns.
2. Less specific poultry health assays
When it comes to assays, the poultry industry – and particularly the veterinary side – is guilty of getting too specific too early. If signs of respiratory disease appear, the immediate response is to test for Newcastle disease or infectious bronchitis.
“What we’ve missed a little bit is an assay about general physiology,” said Stewart-Brown, adding that he thinks that assays that measures for stress, inflammation, muscle health and/or blood chemistry would be helpful to operations.
3. Houses for chickens, not chicken houses
The modern poultry house is amazing, however they were designed by engineers and need further refinement. The poultry industry still has a lot of work before it figures out what the optimal chicken house looks like, Stewart-Brown said.
“We need to figure out what a chicken’s house looks like and start building this house,” he explained. “We need to know what they’re doing all the time in different parts of the house.”
4. Understanding of chicken behavior
The poultry industry still has a lot to learn about chicken behavior. New technologies could allow us to become more knowledgeable about how often they eat, drink, rest and play, as well as give the industry a better understanding of what the behaviors are, when they occur and for how long.
5. Environmental monitoring
More accurate data about the environment of the poultry house, including relative humidity, temperature and ammonia concentration, can help farmers optimize poultry production.
“I want to know the temperature every 15 to 20 seconds, not every 20 minutes. I want to know the water consumption every 10 or 15 minutes because we’ve seen that even 30 to 40 minutes difference of feed consumption can make a difference in performance,” Heeder explained.
6. Litter management
Litter management is a complex topic, but it plays an important role in everything from food safety to economics to poultry health. There’s still so much to learn about it. How long an interval between changes is optimal? What’s the difference between good litter and bad litter? What kind of litter treatment should be used?
The answers to these questions would improve the process and give producers a valuable tool for their operations.