Egg production and the table egg industry
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List the 5 key steps in the production of table eggs
Layer parent stock --> fertile egg production --> DO chicks are sexed and graded at hatchery --> brooding and rearing period in cage or on floor --> production unit - cages, barn or free range
What is the temperature and humidity required for brooding and rearing commercial layers?
- Temperature = 325-35°C
- Humidity = 60-70
How can heating during the rearing period be provided?
Gas heaters or whole house heating
How can the position and behaviour of the chicks in a floor based system help the stockman to judge if the environment is uniform throughout the whole house?
- Too hot - the chicks will all be distributed outside the area of the heater
- Too cold - the chicks will all be distributed inside the area of the heater
- Draughty - all the chicks will be huddled together in one area of the floor
- Correct - chicks will be randomly distributed throughout the floor
Why is it important to have correctly adjusted ventilation?
To prevent build up of noxious gases, promote circulating oxygen and help maintain an optimum temperature and relative humidity
Give an example of a noxious gas that can build up if ventilation is poor
How often must water be available in a poultry house?
24 hours a day
What can a sudden increase/decrease in water consumption indicate?
Stress, disease or poor feed
Give examples of different types of water drinkers and feeders
- Bell drinkers
- Nipple drinkers
- Chain feeders
- Pan feeders
What component of a poultry diet provides their major energy source?
Apart from energy, what do fats provide in a poultry diet?
Essential fatty acids needed for some bodily processes
Give examples of processes protein is required for in a poultry diet
Synthesis of body tissue, physiological molecules, feathers and for egg production
What mineral is required for egg production?
True or false: poultry can be fed meat or bone meal?
False - they can only be fed fish meal
What 3 factors affect the stage at which a pullet will start laying eggs?
Age, bodyweight and day length
How do the following diets differ: a) starter b) grower/developer c) pre-lay?
- a) High in energy, protein, vitamins and minerals
- b) energy requirements reduced. Aim is to maintain a growth rate that will lead to the pullet reaching sexual maturity at the desired age whilst avoiding obesity
- c) increases in some of the nutrient levels e.g. calcium that will be required by the bird when it begins to lay eggs
What is the natural stimulus for egg production?
Increasing day length in the spring
What are the two basic rules of a lighting programme for layers?
- Never increase the number of hours or its intensity during the rearing period
- Never decrease the numbers of hours of light or its intensity during the production period
What is the typical light:dark hrs ratio and light intensity for laying hens?
- 15hrs light: 9 hrs dark
- 10-20 lux
True or false: chickens have two ovaries?
False: they only have a left ovary and oviduct
How long does shell formation of an egg take?
What are the different production systems for commercial layers in Europe?
- Enriched cages
- Floor based systems - periphery, aviary or barn
- Free range
What must be present in an 'enriched cage'/
Nest, litter, perch space of 15cm per bird, 750cm2 area per bird
List some advantages/disadvantages of non-cage production systems
- Advantages - consumers associate better hen welfare = better product quality, hens have more opportunities to express natural behaviour
- Disadvantages - birds are at more risk of contracting health problems, egg production is also generally lower, feed conversion efficiency poorer and mortality higher
What type of system is normally used in poultry production to improve their biosecurity?
All in all out system
What is the current production target for a commercial layer?
320 plus eggs by 72 weeks of production
Why are layer hens prone to bone fractures?
They are selected for early egg production and high egg yield so get progressive loss of structural bone required for egg formation leading to osteoporosis
Are old fractures more common in caged or non-cage systems?
Non-cage systems - thought to be due to collisions with perches
When do new fractures most commonly occur?
At depopulation due to handling, more common in cage systems
How can beak trimming be done? When must it be done?
- Hot blade or infra red methods
- Carried out in the first week of life
Why is beak trimming carried out?
To prevent feather pecking
Why is beak trimming a welfare issue?
Beak trimming causes acute pain and reduced the effectiveness of the beak as it changes the shape of the beak and causes loss of sensory feedback
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