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News and analysis on the global poultry
and animal feed industries.
on June 23, 2009

Time and technology achieve flock performance

Growers utilize a combination of manpower, electronic controllers and clean-out techniques.

Poultry growers are vigilant and resilient. Continuous monitoring of how they invest their time and maintain their houses is required to achieve high performance of their flocks.

WATT PoultryUSA’s research team asked growers for an update on how they manage their poultry houses today.

Ninety-six percent of the respondents are owners; 91 percent carry responsibilities as principal caretakers for their flocks. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents are broiler growers, 13 percent are turkey growers, and the remaining 9 percent are broiler/turkey breeders or pullet growers.

Here is what they said.

How much time? 

The standard 40-hour work week is close to the halfway point in the responses to "how many hours do you personally spend caring for the flocks or overseeing the work of other caretakers?"

Hours Per Week – Fifty-six percent of the growers reported spending 40 hours or less – 30 percent said fewer than 30 hours and 26 percent said between 31 and 40 hours.

On the forty-plus side, 18 percent of the growers invest between 41 and 50 hours a week, with 15 percent contributing between 51 and 60 hours. The remaining 11 percent dedicate more than 60 hours a week to caretaking duties.

Number Of Caretakers – Twenty-five percent of our respondents handle the caretaking job on their own. Half of our growers report that they have one additional person sharing the responsibilities. Fifteen percent have two assistants, bringing the total number of caretakers to three. There are four caretakers on 4 percent of the farms. Six percent have five or more individuals overseeing the flock.

Overall Farm Care – On average, a grower spends 80 hours a week taking care of the farm. This number includes the hours of those involved in the overseeing and caretaking of the flocks.

House characteristics 

Maintaining houses is never a question, but whether or not to invest in renovations – and when – can pose questions.

Sidewalls – Forty-three percent of the growers have poultry houses with solid sidewalls. Curtained sidewalls protect poultry in 39 percent of the houses. A combination of solid and curtained sidewalls are found on 8 percent of the farms.

Of the growers with curtained sidewalls, 36 percent are considering closing them in.

Major Renovations – When it comes to renovations, growers are close to a 50-50 split. Fifty-three percent report that their houses have undergone major renovations; 47 percent have not. Major renovations included closing in sidewalls, adding drop ceilings and new roofing.

Added features 

As growers look for ways to save their utility dollars and protect their flocks, features in houses are becoming more important. Here is a brief run-down on the features reported.

Back-up Generators – Ninety-four percent of the houses are protected by back-up generators.

Heating And Cooling – Evaporative cooling brings the temperature down in 66 percent of the houses. Brooder stoves provide heat in 61 percent, with radiant tube heating warming 10 percent of the houses.

Alternate methods of heating have not been generally adopted as shown by a 96 percent negative response. Of those who do use alternative methods, use of poultry litter and wood or wood products each came in at less than one percent. Heat generated by three main components – propane, coal and gas – account for alternative heating methods in 5 percent of the houses.

Tunnel Ventilation – Tunnel ventilation appears in 76 percent of the houses.

Nipple Waterers – Nipple waterers keep the poultry hydrated in 90 percent of the houses.

Lighting – Lighting has become one way of saving on utility bills. Cold cathode light bulbs are found in 11 percent of the respondents’ houses. Eight percent of the houses use LED lighting.

Litter management 

The reuse of litter is one area where responses from broiler and turkey growers were considerably different.

Broiler Growers – Litter reuse is the norm for the large majority – 90 percent – of broiler growers. Half of the houses are completely cleaned once a year. Clean-out occurs every other year in 12 percent of the houses, and after every other flock in 3 percent of the houses. Twenty-five percent of the broiler growers report cleaning out houses "only if there is a problem."

Turkey Growers – Among turkey growers, 52 percent completely clean their poultry houses after every flock. Responses from those who reuse their litter are evenly distributed, with 16 percent each, between once a year, every other year, and "only if there is a problem."

Litter Use – Once litter is cleaned out, 20 percent of the growers utilize all of the litter on their farms; 28 percent don’t use any. Between 26 and 75 percent of the litter generated is used on-site by 10 percent of the growers. On 30 percent of the farms, less than 25 percent of their own litter is used. The remaining 12 percent of the growers utilize between 26 and 50 percent.

Litter Sheds – Sixty-eight percent of the farms include a litter shed.

Litter Removal – Fifty-seven percent of our growers remove litter with their own equipment. Companies specializing in poultry house clean-out accomplish the task at 35 percent of the farms. The remaining 8 percent of the growers use a neighbor’s equipment.

Age of electronics 

Our industry continues to embrace the benefits of electronic information, monitoring and communications to increase efficiency in their houses.

Controllers – Electronic controllers help maintain poultry environments in the large majority of houses for both broiler and turkey growers – 82 percent of broiler houses and 89 percent of turkey houses.

PC Interface – About 30 percent of the growers use a personal computer for controller interface.

Back-up generators and nipple waterers are the most frequently found features in today's houses.
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