New barn with Red-L
It is actually a miracle that Eric Hubers, in addition to his extremely busy schedule of activities as LTO/NOP's* department chairman for poultry farming, also manages to be a laying hen farmer with 135,000 chickens. He recently replaced two of his five barns with the Red-L aviary system in one large barn.
Eric Hubers (53) has been the Poultry farming group chairman at LTO/NOP for seven years now. He considers it essential that the interests of the sector are represented by someone who really understands what he is talking about, as the issues involved are often complex. Eric: ‘My motto is ‘by and for farmers’. After all, you can only provide good and effective advocacy for poultry farmers if you are a poultry farmer yourself.’
It requires a lot of time and energy for Eric to be the group chairman, but he also finds it fascinating. ‘You talk to governments, NGOs, animal rights organisations, you name it. You get to see beautiful places and in unique circumstances. With the last outbreak of H5N8, for instance, I unexpectedly sat at the table with the king. Willem-Alexander wanted to know exactly what the situation was with the bird flu.’ So it's nice work, but because of the great responsibility, it's also hard work. When Eric talks to the minister, he feels the pressure. ‘You want to do it right because there's a lot at stake. Everyone relies on you; you are claimed by everything and everyone. It's pretty demanding, especially in a crisis like bird flu or fipronil.’
Eric is successful as a poultry farmer and as the group chairman in no small part thanks to his wife Marga (55). ‘The chairmanship means that I've been away from home a lot in the last seven years. Marga takes care of the lion's share of the work. We run this poultry farm together, but Marga is actually the director of our company.’ The fact that all three of the children are a little older now also makes things a little easier. The youngest is 21 years old and is studying Animal Sciences in Wageningen and may eventually succeed them, but for the present Marga and Eric are continuing to run the company.
Well thought out
Until April 2019, the Hubers family had five barns with 125,000 laying hens. They received a broader permit in 2018, which means they could expand up to 135,000 chickens. Two barns were demolished to make way for one large barn. This created space for 70,000 free-range and 65,000 barn chickens. For the five older barns - two of which have now been demolished - Eric chose the Red-L aviary system at the time. ‘Twenty years ago I went to see Lammy and Roelof Pol, the inventors of Red-L, and I thought: “They had given this a lot of thought.” It was all very new at the time, but I had immediate confidence in it and I was willing to accept any teething problems.’
As in nature
Besides teething problems, things worked out well. However, it was necessary to learn exactly how chickens behave in this aviary system. They decided to restrict the chickens on this system with nets and gauze so that they could not reach the ground, but that was not necessary at all. Eric: ‘We were used to that confinement from the cage...
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