By Tom Woolman

 

LOOKING after your male birds is paramount to successful broiler production, according to Aviagen broiler technical specialist Kieron Daniels.

Mr Daniels works supporting Aviagen customers with managing their broiler birds, covering eight countries. 

See also: Top tips on ventilating broiler farms properly

The position was created by Aviagen three years ago, wanting to provide more support for growers. He describes his top three tips for improving broiler performance to Poultry Network.

Focus On The Males

Broiler male management has been a passion of Mr Daniels for some time. 

When he worked with sexed broiler programmes, he noticed that despite obvious differences in the bird requirements, they were often treated the same. 

With the females going earlier at the thin, the male birds stay the longest and are often the trickiest to manage towards the end of their lives.

“They are big birds, and if you get any losses towards the end, that will cost you because of all the feed they have consumed,” explains Mr Daniels. 

“The male is responsible for 70% of all rejects and losses on farms. If you are trying to improve your performance and welfare, then this is where you need to focus,” he says.

The male bird will give you the best liveweight and a much better FCR than the female, so it makes sense to set the management according to these birds, Daniels continues. Welfare and performance are closely linked to one another.

“If you are looking at a group of birds in a house, you can afford to ignore the females. They are hardier and feather faster, so look at what the males are telling you. Are they happy?” says Daniels.

Watch Your Birds

Set temperatures is one key area where he says producers often could improve.

“Some farms have the same set temperature which has been on the controller for ten or even more,” he says, arguing that this needs updating with modern birds growing faster and emitting more heat.

Mr Daniels says that heat stress in birds of all ages is a problem he encounters in most other European countries, including Scandinavian areas where temperatures can be down to -20°C.  

“It’s not just in the summer when it is warm,” emphasises Mr Daniels, “Watch your males for heat stress all year round.”

Farmers must watch for behaviour like legs coming out when lying down, which is often mistaken for dustbathing. 

Wing droop is another subtle sign that birds are getting uncomfortably warm. 

When birds are panting, they are well out of their ideal temperature.

He suggests when the industry moved more to indirect forms of heat, some may have overcompensated for temperature, given the reductions in humidity.   

“The 50-70% humidity guide is based on research done in the 70s,” Mr Daniels says, “It all goes wrong if you focus on the guide rather than what the birds are telling you.”

Water And Ventilation

A further area to watch is water provision. Farmers tend to manage water flow rates tightly to reduce the risk of wet litter, but this can also have adverse effects on the bird.

“As birds get older, they drink more but over a shorter space of time,” explains Mr Daniels. 

“In order to get the best performance, birds need to be able to eat in full and drink in full.”

Ventilation can equally be restricted due to fears that over-ventilating will chill birds and dampen litter. 

Mr Daniels advocates that farmers are much bolder with their air provision, arguing that it is a false economy to focus on the needs of the litter rather than the chicken.

“Ensure your air is moving across the floor and across the birds,” he says, adding that increasing airflow correctly is the best way of reducing humidity and drawing moisture levels out of the litter.

Mr Daniels says that many people mistakenly smoke test at their inlets and check that the air is reaching the centre of the house, which he says is not adequate to prove that ventilation is cycling correctly.

“Smoke-test your floor, not your inlet, so you can see if you are getting the air movement where it is needed,” he says. 

“Air needs to be moving across the whole width of the house, not just part of it.”

Summarising, Mr Daniels says a good grower keeps birds comfortably in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’, where it is not too hot or too cold, with enough fresh air and water to meet the birds’ requirements. 

By paying attention to some of these points, he claims one grower achieved a 6-point improvement in their FCR.

“A happy bird will grow,” he says.