The EUR12 million (US$15 million) investment in doubling the capacity of the Herveld pedigree farm – the hub of Cobb research in Europe — was celebrated at three customer events at Kasteel De Haar, near Utrecht, Netherlands, during VIV Europe 2014 week. The expansion of the Dutch farm, which came to Cobb when it purchased Hybro breeding company from Hendrix Genetics in 2008, is the latest move from Cobb in increasing the company’s global research and development (R&D) program.
“The Herveld farm investment reflects our commitment to the importance of the European market sector to our business,” said Jerry Moye, president of Cobb-Vantress Inc. “Europe remains a key focus for Cobb’s long-term growth, and so this investment is part of our overall strategy for the future.”
“These are exciting times for Cobb in our region,” said Roy Mutimer, general manager of Cobb Europe. “Expanding and renovating Herveld has transformed Herveld into a world-class research and development facility, and our expanded R&D team will deliver accelerated genetic progress to all our customers.
“With the equally impressive investments in our European great grandparent facilities, we have an operation to ensure continuity and quality of supply to Europe, Middle East, Africa and markets beyond.”
Herveld is set in Gelderland, the largest and least populated province of the Netherlands, and is now developed as a state-of-the-art pedigree complex that will ensure continuing breed improvement.
With the Hybro purchase, Cobb saw this as an opportunity to expand and remodel the farm along the lines of their five other research complexes in the United States.
The investment, which brings around 70 additional jobs to Herveld, is in three phases. The initial work was to renovate the on-farm hatchery in a EUR1.0 million (US$1.25 million) project to increase capacity and install the latest incubation technology. Thirteen new poultry houses have been built, with renovation of the original Herveld accommodation now well-advanced.
The Herveld project is alongside an ongoing investment in Europe and the Middle East where EUR4.5 million (US$5.5 million) has been spent in rebuilding an re-equipping great grandparent farms in the UK, with a further investment in opening a hatchery in Turkey to produce five million parent stock per year.
The new development at Herveld takes advantage of local landscape features to reduce its carbon footprint. Lake water is used to help cool the chicken houses in summer while ground-source heat is used in winter. It is believed to be the first such a combined system to be adopted in the Dutch poultry industry.
The strictest levels of biosecurity are routine, with staff members taking showers and fully changing clothing when moving from one group of birds to another. To guard against airborne pathogens, all air entering each house is filtered and positive pressure is maintained — a policy that has helped to keep the location free from disease for over 25 years.
The European breeding program, like its U.S. counterpart, places great emphasis on feed conversion efficiency while advanced technologies such as digital X radiography (using the lixiscope), blood oximeters and ultrasound ensure continuing development of the robust, high yielding broilers customers expect.
“Genomics is becoming a more important part of the selection process,” said Gosse Veninga, Cobb European research director. “Genomics brings a higher accuracy of breeding values, especially for those traits which have not been measured at selection, such as reproduction traits or where we apply disease challenges off-farm on sibs or even on cross-breds. That data will be used via DNA analysis for pure line selection.
“Currently we are measuring more than 50 traits. That does not mean every individual bird is selected on the basis of 50 traits — but if you look to the pedigree population as a whole, we are definitely measuring over 50 traits altogether. Based on our experience, and the experience of our customers, we believe that the Cobb500 is a really good balanced bird.”The commercial trial farms that Cobb has also opened in the Netherlands over the past year are an integral part of the European breeding program and offer challenge testing environments to supplement the genomics efforts to generate an increasingly robust broiler for a world where responsible use of antibiotics is key.