Egg Industry Presentations

Three Years of Experience with Enriched Colony Housing, Tom Silva, J. S. West Milling Company

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Tom Silva reported on the third year of operation of the J.S. West, Big Dutchman colony system installed in two adjacent houses on a company farm. The fourth flock has recently been placed and the fifth will soon be transferred from pullet housing. In total 450,000 hens have been housed and evaluated.

J.S. West has been proactive in promoting the enriched colony system which they view as complying with California Proposition #2. Their documentation and video monitoring shows that hens are able to stand, turn around, and extend their wings without touching the sides of the enclosure.

The system has received the American Humane Certified seal of approval, the first facility to gain this accreditation. The American Humane Certified requirements include 116 in2 per hen, 4.7 inches of feed space, 5.9 inches of perches, a nest area, a scratch pad and a minimum height of 17.7 inches at the lowest level within the module.

Three consecutive designs for the scratch pad have been evaluated and successively improvements have been achieved with respect to use by the colony and reduced feed conversion. The current pad comprises a flat plastic surface with raised areas for traction and a small recess adjacent to the delivery auger which supplies a trickle of feed.

     

Tom Silva

Some teething problems were experienced with the first flock but data from the second and third flocks amounting to 302,400 hens showed a mortality of 5.9% (of which 2% was due to ILT unrelated to housing), average production from 18 to 80 weeks of 85.66%, 363 eggs per hen housed, average case weight of 49.1 pounds, consumption of 21.3 pounds of feed per 100 hens per day and a conversion of 3.02 pounds per dozen. At the termination of the laying cycle body weight was 3.47 pounds.

In summarizing impressions gained over the three years, Silva commented "feels good; looks good; shows good to the public; performance is good or better than conventional cages". The disadvantages with the system include the initial higher capital cost of the module compared to conventional cages especially when operated at 116 in2 per hen. Feed is approximately 1% higher in cost although modifications to equipment and management have improved the unfavorable differential.

More research is needed specifically on the scratch area. It is possible that auxiliary heat will be required in northern tier states since the climate in California supports adequate house temperature even at low stocking density.

The slide set used by Tom Silva is reproduced with permission for the benefit of Subscribers and readers of EGG-CITE.

 

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