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Tips for preventing poultry heat stress in the summer months

broiler drinking water

NFU MUTUAL has released a checklist for poultry farmers to help with bird management in the summer months.

The insurer’s risk management division said that the variable nature of summers in the UK means that sudden spikes in temperature can catch people off-guard – and preparation is critical.

See also: How to set up and operate ventilation for broiler chicks

“Our changeable climate means temperatures can vary widely from day to day during the summer months – and sudden spikes can very quickly lead to heat stress in units where cooling equipment is not maintained rigorously or staff aren’t trained to spot the signs of stress and react quickly,” Ian Jewitt, of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services said.

Broiler risk

“All types of poultry can be affected by heat stress – but the birds most at risk are meat birds that are towards the end of their crop cycle.

“To minimise the risk of heat stress losses, cooling equipment and controls must be maintained and checked rigorously and management systems put in place and tested to ensure a quick response if things start to go wrong.”

Here are nine tips for any poultry farmer to consider.

Stocking Density

Ensure stocking density does not exceed DEFRA guidelines or those of your assurance scheme. It is good practice to reduce the stocking density further in the summer months.

Ventilation

Ensure the recommended maximum ventilation rates are achieved to avoid overheating and reduce excess moisture.

Tunnel ventilation can be useful in achieving this or consider the addition of extra fans in the gable end or internal circulation fans.

Consider running ventilation overnight at or near-maximum in times of prolonged hot weather to ensure maximum benefit for the following day.

Planned Preventative Maintenance

Ensure planned preventative maintenance and testing is undertaken to avoid the risk of mechanical or electrical breakdowns.

Competent Staff

Poultry staff must be fully trained and able to recognise early signs of heat stress.

There should be written instructions on how to deal with hot weather emergencies. Ensure contingency plans are up to date and contains correct phone numbers.

Surveillance and monitoring

Staff should check the birds more frequently in hot weather but be careful not to disturb them unduly.


You may also consider hi-tech monitoring systems which can measure a range of factors including temperature and can remotely warn you about heat stress.

Avoid Delay

Consider temporary on-site accommodation for designated staff during periods identified as being at increased risk to reduce any delay in completing any time-critical interventions.

Misting Systems

Consider the use of external or internal misting systems (except where the weather is humid).

Environmental Alarms

Test the environmental alarm weekly to ensure it is fully operational and that all audible alarms can be heard on-site or at the point of any temporary staff accommodation facilities.

Ensure the system is serviced annually by a suitably qualified engineer with a test log retained.

The environmental alarm should also give a warning remotely to nominated staff by use of an auto-dialler or preferably to an approved alarm receiving centre.

Ensure the phone numbers provided are up to date and reflect changes to staff or staff circumstances (for example, Covid-19 self-isolation) and in the correct first call sequence.

A programme of testing, servicing, checking and maintenance following the installer’s recommendations needs to be in place and documented.

Manual Back up Alarm

Further consideration should be given towards the installation of a separate manual temperature variation alarm to ensure that you are aware of an alarm situation in the event of a failure within the main control panel.

Back-Up Generator

Ensure that you have an available backup generator with enough capacity to power the whole installation.

It is essential that the backup generator plant is subject to weekly testing for 15 minutes at a time and is tested under full load at least every three months for a 30 minutes duration. Test logs should be retained.

Generators with an automatic cut-in facility and heated engine with batteries on trickle charge are recommended.

If you have a fuel-powered generator, ensure that there is enough fuel available on-site to run and provide adequate time for additional fuel to be obtained for any protracted breakdowns.

You may wish to consider the use of a fuel polishing system to reduce the risk of generator failure.

Ideally, the generator should be in a detached location/building a minimum of 7m (but wherever possible 10m) from the main power intake.