If the pre-slaughter phase of broiler production is not handled with the same level of care as is given to the various stages of poultry production that come before it, then processing operations will not receive birds in the best possible condition, and ultimately the performance of the business will be affected.

Revising how birds are captured and loaded onto trucks can reduce the number of dead on arrival and condemned birds at the processing plant, and also can reduce worker stress and perhaps lead to a reduction in the number of workers needed to capture and send broilers to processing.

1.       Speeding up cage distribution

Using a winch to distribute cages within the poultry house can not only speed capture, but also reduce the physical exertion required by the catching team.

Once the empty cages have been downloaded from the truck and brought into the poultry house, they should be formed into groups of 4 to eight cages.

They can then be tied together and the winch can distribute them around the poultry house, much like a train pulling carriages.

Adding a winch to this stage of capture not only makes cage distribution quicker, but also requires less exertion from the catching team, which would normally have to push the cages along the network of plastic tubes laid down to facilitate cage movement.

2.       Proper catching

If bird catching takes place during the day, the area where the birds are gathered should be darkened using a special wire mesh. This reduction in light levels will not only result in the birds being more relaxed, but will make capture easier, so reducing the likelihood that they are harmed.

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Reducing light levels during broiler harvesting will reduce bird stress, making capture easier and lower the likelihood that the birds will be harmed.

Cages must be in a good state of repair if birds are not to be harmed. For speed, birds should be caught and placed into the cages two at a time. They must be handled by the body, not the legs, with their wings held down firmly to prevent flapping, as flapping can also result in the birds being harmed.

As the cages are filled and taken out of the poultry house, care must be taken that they are not stacked too close to each other, as this will restrict the movement of air between the cages and negate any positive effects of fans, resulting in a buildup of heat and heat stress for the broilers.

Once the cages have been filled, they should be moved to the ramp or conveyor belt that leads to the truck platform. This again can be accomplished using a winch.

3.       Loading the truck

The winch can further be used to lift the cages up onto the truck. Loading the trucks is usually performed manually by one or two workers. This is an exhausting task, as ramps are often 6 meters in length.

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Moving the filled cages onto the truck platform is usually performed by one to two workers. However, by employing a winch, which can be operated by one worker alone, the other can be freed up to perform other tasks, for example distributing cages on the truck platform.

4.       Organizing cages on the truck

Once the cages reach the truck platform, standard practice is for three or four workers to organize and distribute the filled cages.

As the filled cages are moved completely by hand, they are usually dragged and hooks are used to make handling the cages easier.

There are several negative effects associated with this practice.

Not only is this method of cage distribution exhausting for the workers, the friction of cages being dragged across the truck platform, and the careless use of hooks, can damage the cages and lead to the truck platform being damaged and worn down more quickly.

Not only does this mean that money will have to be spent on repairs, but a damaged platform also represents a danger to workers and birds.

To resolve this, rather than using hooks to drag the cages, specially designed carts able to support 8 to 10 filled cages can be used. These can then simply be pushed by the truck platform team, and offer the benefit of not only protecting the truck platform and cages, but will lead to the cages being organized on the platform more quickly.

To further improve this stage of operations, mobile fans can be placed along the side of the truck to help keep birds and workers cool.

The addition of two mobile winches and specially designed carts to the capture and loading process could result in a truck with a capacity to transport 2,500 birds being filled and ready to continue to the processing plant within 50 minutes.

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Birds should be placed in cages two at a time and held firmly by the body, not the legs.