When feeding the most expensive birds in a breeding company, you want to be sure that the feed is the safest that you can provide. Technology and biosecurity aid poultry breeder Aviagen to manufacture absolutely safe feed for their breeding stock.
By Dick Ziggers
Aviagen develops pedigree lines for the production of broiler chickens and turkeys. Head-quartered in Huntsville, Alabama, US, the group currently delivers day-old broiler chick and turkey grandparent and parent stock to over 300 poultry producers in over 100 countries worldwide through a comprehensive global network of distributors. For many years a key focus has been - and still is - the effort to keep flocks free from salmonella infection.
In order to achieve this, and to keep this task under corporate control, a dedicatedfeed mill was built in 1999 in Athens, Alabama. The investment in feed processing facilities for heat treatment of feed ensures a significant reduction in the exposure of breeding flocks to the risk of infection from feed-borne pathogens. The implementation of strict protocols on the movement of people, stock and equipment within the production operation ensures that the risk of infection is considerably reduced. “We are selling a salmonella-free chick,”says Richard Obermeyer, Director of Feed Production at Aviagen. “We monitor our facility and feed for Salmonella.
Over 200 samples are taken, even inside the compartments of the feed trucks, and sent to our lab for analysis each week. So far they all returned negative.” To achieve this result the feed mill is split into a “clean” and a “dirty” area. In the dirty area, the ingredients come in, are weighed, ground and mixed. From this side of the mill the mash is transported to the clean part of the mill, where the feed is processed and heat-treated (building two) and then goes into the final product storage and load-out, part three of the mill.
Basic but consistent feed
Only a few ingredients are required for making feed for broiler breeders. Corn and soy are the main ones complemented with micro and macro additives and a little fishmeal, which has a positive effect on fertility. Three basic types of feed are manufactured: pullet starter,pullet grower, and layer feed. Next to that,small quantities of feed are manufacturedfor pedigree birds. “Consistency of feed quality is very important,” explains Obermeyer. “Suppliers of ingredients have to comply with our standards. When selecting birds you don’t want to select on feed variation, but on genetic variation.”
The whole layout of the mill is focused on biosecurity. Around the mill a large area is paved with concrete. “Rats do not like to cross large distances in the open,” Obermayer says. Around the buildings there are also bait stations for rodents. In the receiving area for raw materials, trucks enter the building through high-speed doors, mainly for dust, rodents and bird control. Furthermore, there are no pits, everything is built above ground. “We wash and disinfect the outside facility every month. Also, insecticides are sprayed regularly, because insects can carry Salmonella,” Obermeyer says.
Processing with heat
In the central processing building ingredients such as phosphates and limestone are transported pneumatically to avoid dust. Special filtration units are placed where needed to deal with dust. After the mash bin on the third floor the feed is volumetrically fed into a feeder screw that transports the mash to a Wenger DDC conditioner located on the second floor. In this twin shaft conditioner the mash remains for two minutes and steam is added to obtain a temperature of 185°F (85°C). The shaftsin the conditioner run at different speeds, which suspend the feed and gives better penetration of steam into the particles. From the DDC, the hot feed is discharged into a Wenger Universal Pellet cooker (UPC). This area is ventilated with filtered air and the extruded feed from the UPC is moved through an airlock to a Bliss counterflow cooler. The UPC produces 3 mm pellets at a rate of 19 mt per hour.
Strict biosecurity rules are enforced in the processing area. The operator inside the building enters the area, takes off his clothes, showers and slips into work clothes. He stays in the clean area for the duration of the whole shift. If he leaves and re-enters he has to showeragain. Even the work clothes are washed and dried inside the area. Food that operators take with them also has to meet specific hygiene requirements.
Once the pelleted feed has cooled to an ambient temperature it is either crumbled or the crumbler is bypassed and the feed is directly conveyed to the finished feed building. From here the feed is transported with Aviagen’s own trucks to the farms, which are located in a 90 mile radius from the mill. When loading a truck the driver enters the load-out area through high-speed doors. He stays inside his truck and moves his vehicle back and forth underneath the load-out scale on horn signals from the operator room. Once filled, he leaves the load-out unit again through the high-speed doors. The feed mill is ISO 9000:2000 certified for quality management. Weekly, around 1,100 t are manufactured. In total, five technicians operate the mill in two shifts. Each shift has a supervisor and a maintenance mechanic. The feed is hauled with three trucks and three drivers. Furthermore, there is one mill manager. Obermeyer acknowledges that the feed they make is more expensive then regular poultry feed, but “we can ensure our quality 100%, and the birds that eat the feed are so expensive that it justifies the investments and efforts,” he adds.
With a number of wholly-owned operations across Europe, the US, Latin America and Oceania, and joint ventures in Asia, Europe, South Africa and Turkey, Aviagen is a leader in poultry breeding. Aviagen has three chicken breeding brands: Arbor Acres, Lohmann Indian River and Ross delivering day-old grandparent and parent stock chicks worldwide for the production of broiler chicks. Next to that are its two turkey breeding brands British United Turkeys (BUT) and Nicholas supplying day-old turkey poults worldwide, while CWT Farms provides hatching eggs for the broiler market.
Aviagen was acquired by the Erich Wesjohann Group (EWG) in April 2005. Headquartered in Germany, EWG is the global market leader in the breeding of egg layer genetics. With its subsidiaries Hy-Line International, Lohmann Tierzucht and H&N and a number of wholly-owned operations and joint ventures across the world, the group serves theworld's egg industry in more than 100 countries. Besides the core business the Erich Wesjohann Group is internationallyactive in the fields of animal health, functional food ingredients, grain storage, mushroom integration, and SPF egg production. The group employs about 2,000 people worldwide.