Why chicks from EmTech systems do not need ‘early feeding’ to improve farm performance and chick welfare
It has been several weeks since we published our first article on ‘early feeding’. Since then we at EmTech have had a chance to talk with DOC producers and integrators who have been able to compare chicks from EmTech systems with those from an early feeding facility.
To date we do not have any scientific evidence that ‘early fed’ chicks reach growth targets any earlier, but anecdotal evidence suggest that all birds seem to complete the cycle at a similar rate regardless of being ‘early fed’. These are, of course, early days but it would seem strange to charge more for chicks that do not perform any better than those from EmTech hatcheries where we can guarantee that the hatch window is short enough for chicks not to require feed and water before they reach the growing farm.
Some of our customers recently compared higher priced ‘early fed’ chicks from a 35 week flock hatched in the Netherlands with a traditionally hatched EmTech chicks in the UK, and found no significant difference in quality or farm performance except that chick mortality was slightly higher with the ‘early fed’ chicks.
EmTech incubation systems have now been installed in many hatcheries worldwide and we find overwhelmingly that once their customers have experienced the superior quality of day-old chicks from EmTech systems, they do not want chicks from any other source. We have championed the reasons for this in many articles. With a well-sealed incubator cabinet, offering superior thermal insulation properties and optimal trolley orientation we have optimised heat transfer and temperature bandwidth within the egg pack. No other incubator can match this. This is why we believe that ‘early feeding’ systems were developed to cover the inadequacies of poor environmental conditions within their incubators. Clever marketing, aimed primarily at the supermarkets, has ensured that if welfare is in the mix it will spark the industry to react. You can be sure that early feeding systems were not developed primarily for chick welfare, however welcome that is.
At this stage it may be worthwhile to look at why some incubation systems require early feeding to provide better quality chicks and improved welfare and why some, such as EmTech, do not.
In the 1960s and 70s the demand for chicken meat grew very quickly and many incubator manufacturers set out to build larger machines to satisfy this demand. Many manufacturers chose to expand their individual machines widthways. This had major benefits for the manufacturer because only one central fan was required to ventilate double or triple the quantity of eggs. The downside was that with several banks of eggs in trolleys each side of the fan, some turned against the air flow, eggs were deprived of air movement and subsequently hot (under-ventilated) spots and cold (over-ventilated) spots became the norm throughout the egg pack. The remedy for this was to regularly move trolleys throughout the 18-day process. We are sure that many readers will be familiar with this practice. When CO2 was realised to be beneficial in the early embryonic stages some remedial changes were made to improve the air flow so that trolleys did not have to be moved and the CO2 lost. Unfortunately, these ‘improvements’ were not enough to create a true homogeneous environment within the egg pack, and therefore the legacy of that early decision to expand machines widthways has dogged many manufacturers to this day.
The problem is that however hard manufacturers try to remedy it, hot...
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