Successful poultry farm management depends on farm managers and staff making the right decisions at the right time, and data plays a key role in facilitating this.
Properly organizing, centralizing, analyzing and sharing the growing amounts of data available from a modern poultry farm, however, is not easy, yet there are clear benefits to using data to achieve precision poultry farming.
How do poultry farm managers make business decisions, or prevent problems from compromising performance? Do they know how well the farm will produce, or what the financial results will be at the end of the production cycle?
If these questions make uncomfortable reading, it may be time to adopt a data-driven management strategy.
When we talk about poultry farm data in this context, we are referring to production data - feed consumption, water consumption, body weight, egg production, egg weight, climate, and medication, for example, and financial data – egg prices, feed prices, chick prices, and hen prices, for example. These data sets are key performance indicators (KPIs).
Regularly measuring key performance indicators can reveal whether flocks are being managed and are performing as well as possible.
Everything starts with structured -- and, most importantly, regular -- data collection. In practice, most poultry farmers work with paper or Excel, followed by farm management systems or smartphone apps. Digital is the future, but in larger organizations, collecting and centralizing data in a structured and scalable way can become a highly complex burden. Fortunately, the Internet and the Cloud are making this easier.
Mining production data
Once all the data is organized in a central tool, it needs analysis to find the relevant KPIs.
For weekly evaluation, Excel tools offer good overviews. Excel is good for evaluating the performance of one chicken flock at a time. Financial information can also be added to these tables, to calculate egg income and feed gain, for example.
Where analysis becomes difficult is in comparing multiple – current and historical – flocks to understand structural problems on the poultry farm.
Good poultry production management is carried out at least daily, and Excel tools become harder to use when you add daily graphs and tables. Farm management programs are more suitable for interactive graphs for all KPIs, although they too have limitations.
But analysis on a daily basis, for most people remains difficult. There are more data points, and tables with daily data can be hard to interpret. Yet real management gains lie in the ability to interpret daily fluctuations, as insight into emerging problems and negative performance changes, making for better management decisions.
Extracting this information necessitates that farm staff have a certain level of expertise, both in poultry farming and data interpretation. Problem detection, via early warning systems, is increasingly included in farm management systems, based on fixed deviations from general standards.
But, in reality, no two flocks are the same, and there can be a large variation between flocks, and within the same flock, throughout the production cycle.
To address this, a self-learning system is needed that can adapt to a specific flock on an individual, unique farm at any given moment.
Each chicken flock is then taken as its own reference, with defined flock-specific performance limits, and deviations can be signaled early on. The Internet and the Cloud provide novel solutions for this.
The next step in data analysis is prediction. This not only helps with adjusting feeding strategies to achieve performance goals, it also supports production planning and cash flow management.
Share information, optimize collaboration
Once analysis has provided the required information, it needs to be shared with the relevant people in and around the poultry business. Sharing should be simple and easy, so that each person has the relevant information at his or her fingertips. Only in this way can everyone play his or her full role.
For data sharing, Cloud-based solutions are the way forward. Each person has his or her login, providing access at anytime, anywhere, via a smartphone app or a Web-based application. Such Cloud-based systems have no restrictions on the size of your organization.
Activate collaboration, improve poultry business results
With a good sharing strategy in place, collaboration can really work.
The farm manager takes the lead, empowering and motivating staff. Then, trusted experts need to be selected: a nutritionist – independent or from a feed company – for optimizing feeding strategies, a veterinarian for health and hygiene, a farm business or financial consultant for business and/or financial strategies.
All these people play their respective roles, sharing and applying knowledge to the business, and a “living expert system” is created. Central to this strategy is that expert support is available when needed, not only when a problem arises or because four weeks have elapsed since their last visit.
With all this expertise focused on the broiler or egg business, insight increases and decision making is improved. Improvement does not only occur in decisions relating to the farm’s daily operational management, but also in strategic decision making, such as for feed and genetic choices.
Bringing information together and providing easy access to all team members creates a living expert system, available when needed and not simply when convenient.
Cloud-based solutions service – farm intelligence solutions
We live in the era of big data and Cloud computing, yet the poultry industry is running far behind.
Adopting new technologies to improve bird performance, connecting farms via the Internet, applying powerful data-analytics tools to turn data into valuable information and sharing it on mobile devices, can raise output and improve the bottom line.
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