Showing posts with label Poultry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poultry. Show all posts

Monday, December 28, 2015

Looking to the future by looking at our past...

'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' 
George Santayana 
source: USDA

It has been quite a year.  I am reminded of the fact that many of our current trends of systems for producing eggs are directly tied to production systems developed prior to the First World War.  Many of the problems that we saw in those times are being experienced now by producers.  In order to feed nine billion people by the middle of the century, we will need to develop improvements in all poultry production systems to become more efficient.  Nutrition, genetics, housing, healthcare and flock management should all be reviewed and improved upon where needed in order to make the production of food as efficient as possible.  This will need to take some investment and some support by producers and consumers alike if we are to be successful.  Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Making the Margin

Knowing where you are at will help you know where you are going....
 Many folks question me regarding commercial poultry production and its true sustainability.  Many of the farms I work with are family owned yet have grown over the course of 60-100 years of operation.  At the same time I work with folks with smaller flocks, who sell directly to their customers.  In each case for me to be economically sustainable is where a farm pushes past break-even for a sustained period of time.  Enough so to reach the goals of the farm.  So, each farm can make it if they: 1) understand their cost structures 2) prices their products properly for the market they are trying for, and 3) never invests more than what they are getting out of the system unless they wish to.  This point of diminishing return (MR=MC) at times hurts many farms regardless of size.  So, by buying inputs in bulk, trucking only with full loads, and moving high volumes of product works for some.  Keeping costs to a minimum, producing a product that will sell in certain markets works with others.  Each system fulfills the needs of the market, and brings a return to the farm.  Whichever system employed, it takes keeping great production & financial records to know where you are at all times.  And in a highly diversified market each system is needed to fulfill the demand of their customers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Keeping it Clean

The C is more important than the D

When we speak of biosecurity, many folks immediately jump to disinfectants, application methods, and types of surfaces you have to C&D (clean and disinfect).  But if a surface is not clean first, there is no hope of disinfecting well, especially if the surface is really dirty.  To make your disinfectant work better, be sure to clean the item you are trying to disinfect. 
Dry clean and then wash in soap and water if possible.  The soap and scrubbing action will remove many of the germs that you wish to kill.  With a clean surface any remaining germs will be killed with the proper disinfectant.  So if I have to choose, I would pick hot water and soap over just a disinfectant on a very dirty boot.  Contact time and scrubbing will help with removing dirt from most surfaces.  I carry liquid soap, water and a shallow pan in order to wash my rubber boots from my car every time a make a visit to a poultry farm.  I always follow up with a spray of disinfectant to finish the job.  When washing hands, scrub with soap and water then use a gel to sanitize.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Make it FIT: Using Personal Protective Equipment

Proper use is needed to protect YOU
All poultry workers who work in hazardous areas should consider using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  PPE that is not properly sized or tested on the individual prior to entering a hazardous area could jeopardize the health and safety of that worker.  Consider "FIT" testing all equipment prior to entering the hazard zone.  Respirators need to be sized for the face used.  Equipment that is too small or large could pose a leak hazard.  Clean shaven faces will provide the best seal for respiratory protective equipment.  Disposable respirators may have a limit on time of use.  Consult manufacture and OSHA guidance toward use of these pieces of equipment.
Source: Moldex

When deciding of disposable clothing, consider upsizing to a larger size to ensure freedom of movement.  Trimming or rolling sleeves and pant legs will assist smaller persons in fitting into their equipment.  Consider using a "Valet" to assist in donning PPE that may need to be taped down around gloves, boots or other equipment.  Choose garments for the type of protection you need, considering that comfort may be compromised in high level protective clothing. 

Consider using layers, especially with gloves to provide protection from tearing or ripping. A protective glove against abrasion may cover a rubber glove that protects against biological hazards.  Be sure to size gloves to prevent cramping or tears.  Test wear gloves by tying around your wrist to see if you are allergic to latex, and consider other materials should you develop skin irritation.  Disposable footwear may tear in certain poultry environments.  Consider washable footwear that can take these irregular surfaces.

Hard hats and bump hats should be worn in areas where falling objects are possible, as well as moving equipment or objects in line of travel of the head.  These hats should be adjusted so that momentary stooping will not cause the hat to fall off.  Check suspension systems in the hat for proper operation.

Eye protection needs to be robust enough for the perceived hazards.  Flying objects such as grinder slag or wood chips in a mill may require full face protection in addition to protection surrounding the eye.  Consider eye protective equipment with seals for areas of high contamination.

PPE does not require a huge outlay to protect, so long as the chosen equipment is the right type for the job and is properly fitted.  Be safe, and check before donning.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Vectors and Fomites keeping - both at bay

What you carry is important - Keep It Clean

Source: Wikipedia
When we think of biosecurity on poultry farms we mostly think of live animals that could transmit a disease to our flocks.  These are "Vectors" that are carriers of different diseases that may not affect them but could bring losses to your farm.  Wild birds, rodents and wild mammals can harbor or transmit diseases to birds.  It is also the reason most poultry farms are single species so that chickens will not spread diseases to turkeys, and ducks to pretty much the other two.

A "Fomite" on the other hand is a inanimate object that can also transfer diseases mechanically.  Shoes and boots, tools and other equipment moved from house to house also needs to be cleaned and disinfected in order to keep infections to a minimum.  Even flies by the nature of their travels are considered fomites as the move from manure to bird.  These too should be limited on the farm as much as possible.

To to control the first thing to do is to clean the object of any obvious dirt, grime and manure.  Secondly, use a good disinfectant to reduce further any lingering viruses and bacteria remaining on the clean object.  A log sheet should be kept for farm
equipment that is loaned out to other farms or is rented to keep a trail of exposure to a minimum.  And a local car wash is a farmers friend as trucks move from farm to farm.  By staying on top of this task, you help reduce your chance of an exposure to disease.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Making Easter eggs and enjoying it...

Being Safe while enjoying the real thing

Easter is a time for most to come together and share a meal with those we care for.  I give thanks at this time for many things, but I also thank those who produce the food I eat.  Whether large or small, farmers do feed most of us.  So if you are lucky enough to have birds in your care and production enough to share, thank you!

I still like to boil eggs for Easter.  Dyeing eggs is one fun thing a family can do, and there are many ways to color eggs.   I prefer to use the off stove method of cooking eggs.  Cover eggs in water till at least an inch covers the eggs.  Bring these to just a boil, and then cover and take off the heat to stand for 10-12 minutes.  A little longer for larger eggs, a little less for smaller eggs.  Use older eggs, as it makes them easier to peel.  For dye I have used the box kits, food dye for cake making, along with yellow onion skins, beet juice, and other veggie pigments.  As long as the dyes are edible, they can be used.  A little vinegar helps with the staining process, and setting the color.  For those in a pinch, buy brown eggs or eggs from a farm with different colored breeds.  These naturally pigmented eggs will also be a hit on the bunny trail.

If you are going to hunt with real eggs away from home, the secret is the cooler and ice packs you carry the eggs in.  This will keep the eggs cold.  Keep eggs in their cartons and in the cooler until just before the kids are to hunt for eggs.  We did this in the morning while it was still cool, and then pop the real eggs back in the cooler just after the kids have found them.  Any eggs with broken shells should be thrown away.  

Eggs are a versatile food. I always enjoy egg salad sandwiches after Easter with my pigmented hard cooked eggs.  Folks around the lunch table would marvel at what I am eating, but are envious when they try my egg salad with spicy brown mustard and a touch of red onion for crunch.  Enjoy.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Keeping Warm Thoughts in Cold Weather

Taking Precautions When the Forecast is South of Freezing.

A reminder to all poultry and livestock caretakers and food processors to monitor building and other environmental spaces that would be sensitive to cold. 

  • Temporary windbreaks surrounding nursery areas should be considered if in high wind velocity area.  Smaller animals are more temperature sensitive.  Heat Lamps and other hanging heaters should be hung by a chain or cable to prevent falling into bedding.
  •  Water meters should be checked closely to spot broken or plugged (frozen) plumbing. 
  • Product refrigeration equipment needs to be checked to ensure continued operation even when exposed to outdoor conditions if product needs to be cooled. 
  •  Rod conveyors and other non-heated areas of egg farms should be cleared at the end of day to eliminate thermal checks. 
  • Diesel supplies on farm should also be checked for jelly formation, most especially backup generators and tractors.  
  • Heaters, clothing, hand warmers, and other safety equipment for workers should be considered in areas with frostbite exposure warnings
  •  Product holding areas should be monitored so that product awaiting processing is kept at optimal temperatures. 
  • For small flock enclosures partial wrapping with plastic film may help prevent wind from penetrating the coop.  Be sure adequate ventilation takes place after the wrap.  Loose hay and straw may help birds survive cold environments by burying themselves partially into the bedding. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Setting the Record Straight on Poultry Production

Just because it is seen in public doesn't always mean it is correct...

Many times I will be asked "does this really happen in the poultry industry or on farms?" when folks read something online or see it on TV.  At times our industry will add to the confusion in their advertising to gain an advantage over their competitors by suggesting improper practices.  Once we discuss the real issue and explain the truth, then many folks will say that this make sense.  Some of the questions I get:

Don't you feed hormones to poultry? No, it is against the law to give poultry and swine hormones.  And the USDA has strict rules in public statements made when making claims about its use in animal production.  Hormone therapy was outlawed back in the 1950's for poultry.  To properly administer hormones to poultry you would have to pick up and inject a bird.  This would add time, cost and stress to a flock.  Because of breed selection, nutrition, health and management advances it was long ago realized that hormone therapy was not really needed.  So, if you hear a claim "we don't use hormones" you have to ask yourself why do they wish to perpetuate the myth?

All the birds are produced on "factory farms"  In my thirty years of work with poultry I have not heard a shop whistle in a poultry house.  It is ironic since most of our common consumer goods and foods are produced with some type of economy of scale.  Toothpaste, tires, lumber, gasoline, vitamins, clothing & shoes, catchup, ice cream, mayo, chocolate, milk, humus, tofu, bread, TV, telephones, and diapers are all made in - you guessed it, a factory.  So why can't a farmer gain some advantage by sizing his enterprises to pay for workers and equipment that are more efficient than those found on smaller farms?  A large six row combine can move through corn fields faster than a two row (yes some still in service) model when time is important.  So as a whole, family farms have grown in size, yet still stay a family farm.  There are discounts given to the farmer who can buy in bulk and single drop shipments, just like what is done at WalMart and Trader Joe's purchasing & distribution hubs.  The other alternative that does work as well is very small farms that have few employees or other inputs.  Many of these are supported with outside help and inputs to keep them in business.  Pricing for the smaller farms is critical to their sustainability.

Brown eggs are better than white eggs  If you are using commercial brown egg layers, there is enough white egg layer bloodline in the bird to make them almost indistinguishable with exception of feather & shell color.  Shell color is one of the last things added to the egg, and unless you are eating the shells, you are throwing out the only thing that is different.  If you think I am kidding, soak a piece of brown shell in a cup of vinegar.  Chances are You would see the brown layer dissolve leaving a white shell behind.   Feed has a bigger impact on egg flavor characteristics, so some claims regarding feeding are plausible.  So why are brown eggs more at the store?  The birds are a little larger and eat a little more feed, so costs are a little higher for these eggs.  I like the color of brown eggs so I will buy a dozen or so every year.

Chicken is just full of antibiotics!  Wow!  This misconception is tough simply because yes, antibiotics are used in animal production.  I can also say that humans use antibiotics as well.  If you were sick with a bacterial infection, wouldn't you want to use an antibiotic?  Well, farms both large and small will use antibiotics to treat birds that are sick due to bacterial infection.  Birds that are being treated can not be used for food.  There are strict laws on the withdrawal of all therapies before birds are harvested for food.  Antibiotics use on the poultry farm is normally in consultation with health authorities to ensure a positive result with the lowest use of drugs.  So are there antibiotics in the food?  No, not if they are following the rules.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Poultry IPM Really Counts !

Follow Sound IPM and save work!

Integrated pest management (IPM) uses a set methodology to help control pests on the farm.  By looking for pests and counting (index) them you are seeing each week if controls are
Source: Sergei Frolov / Wikimedia Commons.
actually working.  Environmental controls, especially water spillage in the poultry house is critical to good fly control.
  Be sure all waterers are adjusted properly to the size of the bird you are feeding.  Check for any leaks in the system.  Dry any wet areas in the house.  And, pick up any spilled feed eggs or any other materials that will attract flies.

If fly control is needed, consider using cultural controls to help control fly breeding in the house.  The addition of temporary drying fans to move or stir air in the house may speed manure drying.  Mechanical methods, such as fly paper and traps is a non toxic control that does not breed resistance into the fly population.  Biological controls can be deployed such as wasps and beetles that prey on the fly at certain points of the fly life cycle.

If considering chemical controls, be sure to read and understand the label for the material being considered for use.  Is spraying near poultry an acceptable use on the label?  If not apparent consider consulting a licensed pest control applicator or extension educator for your particular state for guidance.  It is important to rotate between classes of pesticides to help reduce pesticide resistance.  Apply to lower walls and posts where flies will emerge as they hatch.  Use baits indoors near birds to help reduce adults in the house.

Lastly, before spreading or selling poultry manure, make a final assessment to see if any flies are active in the manure that  is to be removed.  This will help keep the spread of flies in the area to a minimum.  Properly spread manure in the correct climate will dry down quickly to a point that will no longer support fly breeding.

By following good IPM controls, pests can be minimized on the farm.