A WELSH free-range egg farm is spraying non-infective bacteria into poultry sheds to reduce ammonia levels.

Sensors have been installed throughout the shed at Wern, near Welshpool, as part of the farm’s work as a Farming Connect demonstration site.

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They measure ammonia and carbon dioxide levels, as well as temperature and humidity, in the 32,000-bird shed.

Automatic misters spray the bacteria product at set times, and if the misters detect a spike in ammonia levels.

Speaking at a Farming Connect event live from Wern, Aled Davies, of Pruex, said harmless strains of bacteria sourced from soil would replace the harmful bacteria in faeces to prevent uric acid from being converted into ammonia.

Optimal hen health

Ammonia affects the efficacy of vaccines, can cause damage to the throat of chickens and increase mortality rates but, by influencing the environment, bird health can be optimised, he said.

At 77 weeks of age, flock mortality at Wern is 3.7% with birds performing exceptionally well, achieving 359 eggs per bird with an average egg size of 65g.

But Osian Williams, who farms with his parents, Dafydd and Eleri, and his partner, Nikki, aims to improve efficiency further through this Farming Connect project.

Egg production

“Egg production is a numbers game, we have to be as efficient as possible,’’ he said.
An environment in a poultry shed is healthy when it contains more harmless bacteria than harmful types.

A bacterial supplement is also being added to water at Wern, to prevent harmful biofilms occurring. Vitamins and herbs will also be introduced to boost bird health and combat challenges such as red mite further.

“We know we can measure ammonia levels over time and by adding non-infective bacteria to the water to improve the quality we can take the pressure off the birds’ immune system,’’ said Mr Davies, who is working on the project with the Williams family.

Reducing ammonia levels

“Farmers are practical people; if they see a hole in a fence, they can fix it, but they can’t see ammonia and bacteria and analysing data allows them to do that.

“We surround hens with faeces, uric acid and ammonia, but if we can take the pressure off them by reducing ammonia levels, they will pay us in eggs, and there will be less mortalities.’’