My wife has her alarm set to play NPR (National Public Radio) in the mornings. A couple days ago, I caught the tail end of an interview with a poultry farmer. I only heard a little but I was curious to hear what I had missed. I pulled up the NPR website and found that they had done poultry articles two days in a row. I try to refrain from political and policy comments in this forum and instead let you all reach your own conclusions. Here are the links to the two articles:
I have had a little trouble with links lately. If they don’t work, please let me know.
I think that the comment section below each article is worth reading also. Both the articles and the comments show that there are still a lot of people that do not understand where their food comes from. There are comments that are more in the ‘you shouldn’t be eating meat anyhow’ line. It gets back to perception is reality. It is up to all of us involved in production agriculture to be agvocates, to spread the word about the good things we do and efforts to make our business greener and more sustainable every day. I was once told that feeding the world is a noble pursuit. I believe it. I hope you do. If you do, convince someone else.
The blog has passed a milestone. Today marked the 2500th view of the blog. These views have come from 54 different countries. Through the blog, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people, growers, producers and farmers from across the United States and Europe. I am very thankful to each of you who have reached out to contact me. Thank you all very much.
Please feel free to email me or leave a comment. Thanks again,
I had a request for help from a graduate student at Texas Tech University. Please read below and help her out. Thanks. Dave
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The hot topic among poultry growers is the propane price. The extra chill in the air is causing a shortage. Pretty simple supply and demand I guess but that doesn’t make the bill any easier to pay. I have heard of some of the integrators helping growers with the extra cost. I know of one who issued and extra propane allowance and another who is paying anything above a certain price. I am sure there are more examples out there. It is nice to see the integrators helping out.
A few winter strategies:
1. Check the gas lines and regulators for leaks. We had a regulator go bad last week. With a little checking, we replaced two regulators and a valve. We did a thorough check last spring, so we were a little surprised to find three problems. Spray all joints with soapy water and look for bubbles.
2. Check your static pressure prior to each flock. We close everything up and turn on one tunnel fan (20,000 cfm). The static pressure should be at least -0.15. Make sure the belt on the fan is in good shape. If your reading is less than -0.15, you have some sealing to do. We got ours up to -0.20 to -0.24. Not bad for 22 year old houses.
3. I have had a couple calls about 1/4 house and 1/3 house brooding. One of our students parents have houses set up as center house brood. They hung a center curtain and are going to turn their brood chamber into 1/4 house. I think, in the short term, these are viable strategies. Just keep a close eye on your floor.
4. Ventilate for humidity. We try to stay under 50% the first two weeks and between 45 and 65% thereafter.
The temptation to turn down the ventilation or temperature must be avoided. We have an ethical responsibility to do the right thing and manage flocks in a proper, healthy manner.
The Poultry Science Department sent 40 students to Atlanta for IPPE this year. A group from Crowder College in Missouri and from the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff joined in increasing the group to 60. Most of our students were interviewing for jobs or internships. Cobb-Vantress, Tyson Foods, Simmons Foods, Cal-Maine, Cargill, Pilgrims Pride, Case Farms, Perdue and Wayne Farms were all interviewing. Ten to twelve students had accepted offers before leaving Atlanta. More offers have been made since. I don’t have a count or destinations yet but I will try to post them latter.
We have a few new students working on the farm this semester. We welcome Lindsey Tharp, Villonia, AR, Mallory Clay, Paragould, AR, Clay Knighten, Mena, AR and Matthew Coale, Siloam Springs, AR to the farm.
We have a couple new professors also. Dr. Karen Christensen had joined the Poultry Science Department as an Extension Broiler Specialist. Dr. Christensen brings a lot of industry experience and is already working with the farm students. Joining the department as an Adjunct Professor is Dr. John Halley. Dr. Halley is Global Head of Nutrition Services for Aviagen. He is serving on a graduate students PhD committee and will be working with the Poultry Nutrition students on feed formulation. Congratulations and welcome to both of you.
Winter graduation saw the farm lose Landon Gross. Landon is now working for Cargill Turkey in Springdale, Arkansas. Landon worked on the farm his last three semesters at U of A. I talk to him frequently and it sounds like he is really enjoying the new job.
Flock 128 finished well, but late. We usually go 42 days but, due to what is known locally as snowpocalypse, we did not ship until 47 days. The birds finished with a plant weight of 6.81 lbs. and an fcr of 1.831. This was good enough to settle third for the week. We seem to settle third more often than not.
With the snow and resulting mud, we had a really hard time getting the decaking done.
We are working now on getting a litter storage shed built to avoid this problem in the future.
Flock 129 placed on January 16. For this flock, we have two trials going, both using the test pens.
The first is part of Chance’s PhD research and involved super-dosing phytase at different levels. This was done until day 18. The birds were then weighed and removed from the pens. We caught, sorted and weighed another group. Placed them in the pens and started the second trial. This is being conducted by Stephanie Philpot and Callie McCreery, both undergraduate students who work on the farm. This trial is looking at different doses of yeast in the diets, both top dressed and mixed in the feed. Both trials will involve sampling from the birds to address gut integrity and health.
Chance will be finishing up his PhD in Poultry Nutrition this summer and leaving us. Both Stephanie and Callie will be going out on internships. Stephanie will be working for Cargill Turkey, in Springdale, Arkansas. Callie will be working at the Cobb-Vantress feed mill in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Of the rest of the farm students, Jeff Neal is interning with Cargill Turkey in California, Missouri, Ace Rice and Matthew Coale are still in the interviewing process. Lindsey Tharp and Mallory Clay will be working on the farm or on my water research this summer.
I think that brings us up to date. Sorry to take so long. Questions or comments, email me or leave a comment. Thanks.
I had a grower call me yesterday with some questions about ammonia levels in his houses. This was only his second flock on this bedding but he was having troubles keeping his ammonia levels where he thought they should be. This reminded me of a study I had finished at the end of the summer. To go to the beginning, I listened to a speaker talk about litter management a few years ago. He was discussing litter manipulation and he was very opposed to tilling. His discussion included the facts and figures his company had collected regarding ammonia and bacteria release due to tilling of litter. I don’t remember what he said that I disagreed so strongly with but something didn’t set right with me. Consequently, I wanted to test what difference tilling made. I brought the Boss in on the discussion. She is a tilling believer (as long as it is managed correctly) so she readily agreed. Our integrator is not thrilled with tilling but they are very open minded about improvements to the industry and agreed to work with us on the project.
We have four broiler houses. We chose to till two of the houses after each flock for one year. We did this August of 2012 to August of 2013. We started with fresh bedding. Each house was placed with a 50/50 mix of rice hulls and kiln dried pine shavings. After each flock, all four houses were decaked. Houses 1 and 4 were then tilled four consecutive days. We did this for five flocks (it was a slow year with a lot of down time between flocks, there should have been six). After the fifth flock, we cleaned out again.
Once the fifth flock was completed, the performance of each house over the five flocks was analyzed. I used JMP to analyze the data. The houses were compared using these variables:
Total Weight Shipped
The statistical analysis results are located here Till stats if you would like to see them.
What I found was not a whole lot. There was no statistical difference between the houses in any of these four areas. It is possible that, if I could collect paw scores or plant condemn information per house, I might be able to find some difference.
I think it is important to keep in mind when looking at stuff like this, that the results were based on the methods. Change the methods and you might change the results. For example, many growers who till only do so once per flock. I did it four times to make sure the litter dried. Control the moisture and you control the ammonia. Some growers till instead of decaking. I chose not to do this because of the moisture in the cake. By removing the cake instead of tilling it, I think I get more moisture out of the house. A grower who did not decake
and only tilled once may have very different results than ours.
Tilling is a little bit of a controversial issue and many folks have an opinion. You just read mine. We don’t till any more just because it apparently make a difference. At least not in the scenario I outlined. It may have some uses in moisture and ammonia management in certain situations.
As always, leave me a note or send me any email with thoughts or questions. Merry Christmas to you all.
I have mentioned the turbo feeders in past posts. We have used them for 7 flocks. Bart, a grower in Holland, asked me about them. I pulled my data together for him and decided to share it here. We use the turbo feeders in place of the chick trays under the feed lines. We also replaced the large, cardboard feeders in the aisles with them. There is a link in front of each section that will take you to a pdf file of the statistical analysis. The statistics were analyzed using JMP. Take a look, see what you think and draw your own conclusions. I would appreciate any feed back.
This picture shows the turbo feeders in use under the feed lines.
I ran a two flock trial testing the two different kinds of feeders. Each flock had two houses of turbo feeders and two houses of chick trays. Between the two flocks, we traded feeders so that each house had one flock with chick trays and one flock with turbo feeders. Here are the results:
7 day gain – Look at the chart on the top of the page. The horizontal green line is the average gain at 7 days. The turbo feeders had an average gain of .285 lbs. The chick trays had an average of .261. In the Summary of Fit section, the first line is Rsquare. This tells you the percentage of the difference between the two variables that is explained by this model. In this case, about 60% is explained and 40% of the difference is caused by something else, for example chick placement weights. On this type of experiment, we would not want to be much lower but that number is acceptable. Down a little farther is analysis of variance. The Prob>F number of 0.0261 means that there is 2.61% chance that this difference would have happened regardless of which type of feeder we used or a 97.39% chance that the difference is due to the difference in feeders.
14 day gain – It starts to get ugly now. The average gains are close, .85 and .827, but turbos are still ahead. The Rsquare is only 25%, so 75% of the difference in the results from the two types of feeders is unexplained. The probability that the difference occurred due to the difference in feeders is down to 20.43%. In most experiments, you need to be under 5% to say that the difference is statistically different. In some, 10 % is fine. Medical tests are 1% or less. It appears that the difference in feeders did not play a big part in gain to 14 days.
14 day fcr – The averages are 1.035 and 1.082, with the turbo feeders having a lower fcr. The rsquare is 39.44 % meaning about 60% of the variation is unexplained. The probability indicates that there is about a 10% chance that the difference is due to something other than the feeders.
We start picking up the supplemental feeders the day before we turn out to full house (we half house brood). We pick up 1/3 per day so that we are picking up the last supplemental feeders the day after we turn out. We turned these flocks out at 8 days. I chose not to evaluate 7 day fcr because the two types of feeders hold differing amounts of feed. Since the feeders were still in use on day 7, I felt that the fcr numbers would not be accurate.
We also used the turbo feeders as extra feeders in the aisles. These were filled by hand each day.
42 day weights and fcr – both show rsquares of about 10% and insignificant probabilities. I think this is far enough from chick placement that there are too many variables to say that chick feeders influence final weight and feed conversion.
There are two ways to look at this. From the scientific perspective, there is not enough significant difference. From a farmer perspective, I know that an increase in 7 days weights and a decrease in 14 day fcr is to my advantage. We will have to run a couple more flocks and reevaluate.
Let me know if you have any comments , recommendations or questions.
I admit it. I have a problem. “Hi, my name is Dave and I am a data junkie”. The numbers from the flocks fascinate me and I look at a lot of numbers. I thought I would share a flock with you. This spreadsheet, flock 127, is for the flock we just finished.
We start each day (unless something bad happens) by checking our numbers. Each day we record the following for each house:
Water Used; drinking and cooling are separate
electricity used; lighting, ventilation, and total
temperature and ventilation set points
temperature and humidity highs and lows as well as the actual at the time the numbers were taken
bird weights from in house scales
All this information can be found on the DATA tab of the spreadsheet.
The Flock Summary tab contains all the descriptive information about the farm and the flock. Here you will find the equipment in each house, various sizes and distances, the lighting schedule and maintenance preformed prior to or during a flock. All the weights, crop checks, water treatments, and vaccines are listed here. There is also a section for any problems encountered during a flock.
I wrote the Daily Comparison sheet when we were evaluating the sprinkler systems as a method of activity promotion. We started the sprinklers in one house at day 21. They ran every hour, morning to evening, for 10 seconds. This was enough to make the birds stand up and move around. The idea was that as long as they were up, they might as well eat and drink too. I used this sheet to track the differences starting at day 21.
Charts and curves are nice for a quick glance at a current situation. The Growth Curve tab contains a graph which shows how our current weights compare to the Cobb targets. The house weights are the daily readings from the in house scales. We hand weigh 100 birds per house each week, at placement, 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, etc. These weights are recorded in the check weights column.
Total Water is drinking water plus cooling water per house, per day.
We brood birds in front half of the house and turn out to full house on day 7 or 8. We pull out the migration fences, lift the brood curtain and allow the birds to move at their own pace. The Water Variance tab is useful in deciding when to put the migration fences in. Once the water intake in the back of the house equals the water intake in the front of the house, the birds are equally distributed and the fences go in. We may have to move some to even the intake, so the spread sheet tells us how many have to be moved.
I haven’t been using the Feed Inventory page the last few flocks, but it is designed to compare the amount of feed our scales say we have used to what the feed mill says they delivered. The Feed Summary tab contains all the feed delivered for the flock as well as the FCR calculations.
The Weekly Summary tab contains a comparison per house of feed, water, propane, and electricity usage. A standardized number is assigned to each to estimate their costs and make comparisons between houses. The Production Summary tab is the final evaluation of the flock. It includes the profit and loss per house and a comparison between the houses.
I am still tinkering with the Final Weights tab and it is a bit of a mess. When we go in to raise the water lines just before the birds are shipped, I weigh ten birds in the center of each house, fives roosters and five hens. This gives me a really rough idea of our final weight. I also use it to compare to the plant weight and estimate shrink.
For further analysis, I will pull this data into JMP and run the statistics. Here is a pdf of an analysis I ran comparing the houses. house comparisons2
We thought that one house was producing at a higher level than the other three. The statistical analysis demonstrates that there is no statistically significant difference between the houses. Since we are a research farm, this is really important to know. It means that a product, an LED bulb for example, does not have an advantage or disadvantage based on the house in which it is placed.
I hope you found this useful, enlightening, or at least entertaining. Leave me a comment or email me if you have any questions or to admit that you too are a data junkie.
Sorry to be gone so long. Let me catch you up on what’s been going on. A mistake was found in the settlement for our last flock. Our final numbers changed a little. We had a 5.69 lb. plant weight with a 1.698 feed conversion in 42 days. This put us in second place for the week.
We placed flock 128 on Thursday, November 7. The chicks averaged .091 lbs. (41.4 g) at placement. At 7 days, I like to see the birds at 4 times their placement weight. This was achieved and the birds averaged .385 lbs. On day 7, the birds were water vaccinated for ILT. Due to the vaccine, I expected a little lull in performance at 14 days. The Cobb target for 14 days is 1.012 lbs. We were .044 lbs. under target at .968 lbs. Based on previous flocks, I would expect that we will catch up by 21 days. The 21 day target is 1.964 lbs.
This is a quiet flock for us as far as research goes. We have the LED lighting trials continuing. We are documenting the effect of the water vaccination process on water quality. The process includes the use of a water stabilizer and citric acid, both of which can aid in bacterial growth. I am also looking at bacterial growth on three types of chick feeders in the first seven days. The dust emissions and water run off research is continuing.
We have few projects coming up. We will be doing some more water quality work with anthium dioxide. We are building more test pens for a nutrition trial on the next flock. I’d like to start the turbo feeder-chick tray trial back up. I am working with an engineering group on some alternative cooling strategies for summer. We will run that for two flocks starting in May. With the new year, we have a couple different animal well being projects planned.
Our students are already interviewing for summer internships and educational opportunities. Of the current farm crew, two have already had offers and made commitments. Stephanie Philpott will be interning with Cargill Turkey. Landon Gross, another of my farm students interned with them last summer and will be going to work for them after he graduates next month. Stephanie will be working in all parts of turkey production from breeders through growout and on to the plant.
Callie McCreery will be going to Mozambique and South Africa as part of a study abroad program. She will be working with the poultry industry in those countries as well as going on a three day safari. Jeff Neal is number one on the waiting list to go on this trip also. It will be students from Poultry Science, Ag Business and Health Sciences all going together and working within their specialties. Quite a trip. The students that have been in past years have said that the trip was life altering. Even the student who got bit by the monkey loved the trip.
All of the rest (except Landon), are continuing to interview. Many of the final internship interviews will take place at IPPE in Atlanta in January. This is a really exciting time for the students.
Its really nice when we have enough people to put our supplemental feed as we place chicks. In a few minutes, they will have spread out and this will be hard to do. Also, chicks are ‘programed’ to follow anything that moves. This helps them find food the first time. Its difficult to put the feed out with all the chicks following.
There is Stephanie Philpott putting out chicks. Stephanie will be interning with Cargill Turkey next summer. I believe Stephanie was the first one of our students hired for a summer internship next summer. Well deserved.
That’s about it for this week. Leave me a comment or email me with questions or comments.
The Poultry Science Graduate Association hosted their annual Pig Roast on Saturday, October 26th. It was held at the home of Dr. Susan Watkins and her husband Phil. The Watkins live about an hour from school and the trip includes a very scenic 9 mile drive on dirt roads. There was about 100 students, grad students, faculty and staff present which made for a lot of fun. There was horseback riding, fishing, volleyball, horse shoes and some really great food, including bbq’d pork and chicken. I am posting pictures, most of which were supplied by Justina Caldas Cueva. Justina is from Peru and is working on her PhD in Poultry Nutrition. It is fortunate that she took such great pictures. I took a few and then was distracted by food and good times. Thanks to PSGA and the Watkins’ for a great time. Hope you enjoy the pictures.
One of my favorite saying for our students is, “This isn’t rocket science, but it’s pretty cool science”. When you start looking around, there is a lot of cool chicken (who knew those two works went together?) stuff our there. I posted some a few weeks ago (A few things I have run across lately) but I’ve got some more.
Bart Janssen, a broiler grower in Holland told me about Satarehu, a company in Finland specializing in broiler feeds and getting some impressive results. Bart told me they are getting a 67 gram (.15 lb.) average daily gain finishing at 2.6 kg (5.73 lb.) in 39 days. Awesome. That is on a Ross 708 bird. Pretty cool site that converts to English, just click on the flag: http://satarehu.fi/index.html
I don’t know much about the Ross birds. The integrator we work with uses the Cobb 500 bird and my career has always exposed me to this bird. I looked at the Aviagen website to check out the Ross 308 and 708. I’m a bit of a data nerd so I thought this http://en.aviagen.com/Ross308FCRLeader/ was pretty interesting. It is three independent trials comparing the Ross to another line. Makes me want to run that trial.
Have you looked at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Associations web site? I looked today to find our when research grant proposals are due. I found this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzkP_qUY6DE which describes the poultry industry. Their Training Materials section includes a Carbon Footprint Estimation Kit and a link to order the ‘Poultry and the Hormone Myth’ DVD. That’s really important. I get asked about hormones in chickens on a regular basis.
Here is a video from a few years ago; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpm3rvkyuJM . This is when we first started the sprinkler cooling research. That was 2009. The sprinklers have been used every summer since. At that time, only one house had sprinklers. The house in the video is the system designed and built at U of A. Today, that system is updated but still in operation. Also, the other 3 houses have the Weeden System from Weeden Environments, http://www.weedenenvironments.com.
I grew up in California and remember the Foster Farms tv ads from when I was a kid. They were really funny. One was about 2 chickens that came to California from Arkansas to try to be Fresh Foster Farms Chickens. Now that I live in Arkansas, they are even funnier. This will get you to several: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWdkmvIecMs&list=PLB007CB5CC2F5E0B9
Here are a couple pictures from some of our research. Sheri Herron is looking at the dust emissions from the broiler houses and where is goes. This culvert channels the rain water runoff from between two houses. You can see the tube going into the water in the culvert. It collects water which is analyzed inside the big box for content. There is another sensor about 100 feet ‘down stream’. She is able to compare the two and see what is absorbed by the grass. The analytical equipment sends her a text message every time there is enough water to analyze. The whole thing is powered by the solar panel on the side of the box. Very nice.
I have received the preliminary settlement information for Flock 127, which was sold last Thursday, October 17th. The flock was 42 days old (barely, it was really early in the morning). They weighed 5.61 lbs. (2.55 kg) and had a feed conversion of 1.73 (pounds of feed per pound of weight gained). I actually thought that they would weigh a little more (and therefore have a better feed conversion) but, especially considering some of the troubles we had, I am pretty well satisfied with those numbers. I usually check bird weights right before the house starts loading. I weigh 5 roosters and 5 hens in the center of each house. Based on that weight, I guessed us at about .10 pounds larger, but I did say ‘guessed’. Using 10 birds to predict the weight of 20,000 is probably not an exact science.
I want to wait a bit before I make public the exact settlement numbers. Next week, the Production class will meet with the Broiler Manager and Live Production Accountant from Simmons Foods (with whom we are a contract grower). They will explain how the settlement works and how our pay is calculated. After that, the class will meet with a representative from Farm Credit. He will be explaining where all the money goes and how loan payments work. I think both will be very enlightening.
I mentioned that we are a contract grower. This is how much of US poultry market works. A farmer contracts will an integrator (Tyson Foods, Cargill Turkey, for example). The integrator provides chicks, feed, technical expertise, and assumes the market risk. The contact grower provides the facilities, utilities and labor.
We are paid based on the Tournament system. All the growers who shipped to the same plant in the same week are grouped together. Their cost per pound of live weight is averaged using standard costs for chicks and feed. The growers are ranked based on cost. Growers with lower costs are typically rewarded by being paid more. Higher cost farms will receive less. Payment schedules are part of the contract, so a grower will know in advance what his minimum and maximum payment could be.
This is the math I like to do for the students: We shipped 81.436 birds at an average weight of 5.61. That is 456,856 lbs. of live birds. Once processed, they will yield about 70% of that as edible product. That is 319,799 lbs. If we fed each person 1/3 a pound of chicken, we would feed 959,359 people. We typically raise 6 flocks per year. At that rate, we would feed over 5,750.000 people per year from this farm alone. This amazes me every time I figure it.
Now, we are working on de-caking the houses, removing the hard layer of litter that forms on top of the bedding, mostly under the water lines. Once this is done, we will start checking the houses for air leaks and prepping for winter. We will be out of birds for 21 days. We will place flock 128 on November 7th and then we’ll do it all over again.