That chick suppliers supply good-quality, healthy chicks is a given, but what else can hatcheries offer to help to maximize returns at the egg farm?

Developing a close working relationship that pays dividends for both parties came under scrutiny at the 53rd Lohmann Franchise Distributors meeting, held in Istanbul in late September.

It is in the interests of both the day-old chick supplier and the egg farmer that egg businesses do well, and as one hatchery manager commented: “We need to get more into the skin of our customers,” tailoring service offerings to what egg producers really need.

Most egg businesses will have long- and short-term needs, with the requirement to keep productivity increasing in the long term, and the need to solve day-to-day problems being a more immediate issue.

Workshop discussions at the event brought together hatchery owners from around the globe to discuss what services beyond simply day-old chick supply they offer to their egg-producing clients on a regular basis.

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Chicks should be high quality and healthy, but hatcheries can also offer a lot more support and advice to ensure that flocks perform well.

Tailored technical support

Chick suppliers are often a mine of knowledge and expertise, and advice and technical support is often available if the egg producer wants it.

One Egyptian hatchery manager noted that, for his clients, the hatchery team make themselves regularly available to help improve flock management, particularly when problems are identified. This usually results in a resolution of the problem, and an increase in performance. Similar service offerings are offered in many markets; egg producers simply have to pick up the phone and ask.

Flock management training

Training on flock management may be another area where a hatchery is able to help the producer to ensure that the birds are performing to their full potential.

One delegate, from Colombia’s Pronavicola, explained that his hatchery is offering monthly webinars for egg producers. These Web-based classes, hosted by the hatchery’s technical team and announced a month in advance, reach 40-50 egg producers in the country, and numbers are growing.

They allow egg producers to understand how to better manage their flocks, without having to leave the egg farm, and to attend only if it suits. Distance learning in this way also serves to protect biosecurity.

A forum for egg production issues

In Egypt, Wadigroup organizes a Lohmann club for its clients. This brings egg producers together on a number of occasions each year to discuss issues and best practices.

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It offers a good environment for learning new ideas and, given that growing a business is rarely easy, hearing how other egg producers have grown their businesses can offer valuable insight.

Flock data management

Without a yardstick, it can be difficult to really know how well your egg business is performing.

Some hatcheries offer data management tools that allow comparisons with the performance of a farm’s previous flocks and/or with flocks on other, anonymized, farms.

Recording and analyzing performance data can highlight whether changes to flock management could be made, and guide any management decisions.

Data management also can be used to show where certain common practices may not necessarily be the most profitable for the business, for example forced molting.

Legislation and attitudes to forced molting vary from market to market, but good, hard data analysis can reveal whether the practice is one that should be followed.

Long-term partnership

Additional services beyond simply chick supply can help to ensure that a laying flock is as productive and profitable as possible on a day-to-day basis.

However, alongside this, any egg producer needs to be sure that the day-old chicks received are from breeding flocks that have the latest and most relevant genetic traits, and that these breeding flocks and their progeny will continue to advance and to exhibit the latest developments in the field.

Professor Rudolf Preisinger, chief geneticist with Lohmann Tierzucht, noted that the company’s breeding focus is on traits that which determine profit per hen housed, and not on those which are "simply nice to have.”

He continued that the company’s breeding work was concentrated on persistent rate of lay and egg quality, longer laying cycles, feed consumption, as well as welfare and egg quality. Egg producers could expect breeding developments to respond to long-term trends in the egg industry, and not simply to current consumer or market trends.

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Egg production can be maximized not only through sourcing birds that are persistent layers over a long cycle, but by examining flock management and making necessary adjustments.