Layer hen data can be captured in real-time with NIR imaging

Capturing layer hen fat pad data in real-time will help producers make decisions about nutrition programs and daily management practices.

Meredith Johnson Headshot
Rob Payne
Rob Payne

Layer performance data could be captured in real-time using near infrared (NIR) imaging to non-invasively quantify fat pad weight in live birds and help producers make decisions about their flocks.

Currently, much of the layer industry develops and makes changes to its nutrition programs based on past performance data. This means producers must work on the assumption that the next flock of birds will have comparable performance and health patterns as the previous flock.

Additionally, assessing a flock’s body condition is often done through necropsies. However, it is difficult to necropsy enough birds to understand what is going on in a large flock, explained Rob Payne, Ph.D., Cargill Animal Nutrition director, poultry nutrition and technical services, at the 2023 Poultry Tech Summit.

A cloud-based management tool that uses NIR imaging to gather fat pad information could help live production managers, veterinarians and nutritionists gather and analyze large amounts of performance data quickly and make decisions to improve flock performance.

According to Payne, the fat pad can give producers indications about the quality of the diet being fed or if the birds are being fed too much or not enough. Collecting more data in real-time by measuring more birds at once will help producers better understand a flock’s body condition and make decisions concerning nutrition and health programs, added Payne.

How it works

A handheld NIR scanner is held against the bird and uses calibrations to measure fat pads up to 120 grams in size. The data collected is automatically transferred to the user’s cellphone into a cloud-based management tool.

Over time, the data is aggregated in to charts and graphs that can help producers develop custom nutrition programs and optimize flock performance.

While the NIR tool is still in development, the data management tool has been available for many years.

NIR imaging has functionality that we are beginning to understand in the live animal space, said Payne.

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