Combination of good feed programs, animal health protocols, and farm management assist producer in consistently achieving successful flocks with reduced antimicrobial use. Poultry World recently published an article by Harmen Jan Platvoet & Barbara Brutsaert of Trouw Nutrition discussing farm management phases for removing antimicrobials without compromising performance or profitability.
Preparing the farm to receive birds is crucial in successfully producing health chicks. This can start with a clean house where all-in all-out is essential. Barn structure should be sound and should not contain any openings for pathogens to enter. For example, cracks on floor can be housing bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli.
Brooding environment should be ready prior to chick arrival. Waterlines and drinkers should be cleaned to remove biofilm. Fill the lines with fresh water and periodically check the water quality with lab analysis. Feed and water lines should be adjusted to bird height so they can access feed and water immediately upon arrival. The optimum brooding air temperature is about 30-34°C – if walls and floor are warm, the barn will heat quickly. Air inlets and mesh wire should be clean and dust free. Monitoring air exchange throughout the barn will assist in figuring out weak areas for ventilation in the barn.
Chicks are vulnerable with immature digestive and immune systems. They depend on their environment to maintain and regulate body temperatures. Checking body temperatures and observing their behaviours is insightful in determining bird health and welfare. Bird behaviour should be monitored continuously and adjustments to the environment should be made accordingly to provide comfort.
Some other management practices that can be implemented during the brooding phase include flushing water lines (especially during hot summer days), manual and minute adjustments to ventilation, adding more feed to chick paper 24-36 hours after arrival if necessary, and removing chick paper on day 4/5 before mold appears.
Monitoring metrics and observing bird behaviours should continue during grow out period. Feeder and drinker heights should be maintained to match bird growth. Interventions that can be implemented during growth phase include:
Thinning presents biosecurity challenges therefor management practices must be in place to reduce the stress placed on birds during this time. Keep doors closed as much as possible to minimize in-barn climate change and keep out pathogens. Along the same lines, restrict the number of people entering the facility and follow strict biosecurity protocols regarding hygiene, clothing, etc.
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