Schotman Hatcheries is a typical example of the Dutch poultry industry. It embraces independence, but also includes extra services to its hatching eggs and day-old broiler chicks. Results show that it pays off.
By Wiebe van der Sluis, Rooster 45, Doetinchem, the Netherlands
The Dutch poultry industry is characterised by a unique open structure. Each link in the production chain is owned by independent producers who buy and sell products, and who often own the birds that they produce. This means that hatcheries operate independently and buy (often by short-term contracts) hatching eggs and then sell the day-old chicks to growers. The word ‘integration’ therefore has a different meaning to most Dutch producers than for producers elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, those operating in the poultry chain in the Netherlands show solidarity and are prepared to accept long-term arrangements with hatcheries to sell their eggs to, or buy their day-old chicks. These arrangements, however, will ultimately depend on how much trust and money is involved. Schotman Hatcheries knows exactly what triggers broiler PS farmers and broiler growers. As a result, they havea number of suppliers and customers that have worked with them for many years.
From small-scale to large-scale farming
In 1950, Mr Schotman began a layer hatchery in Lichtenvoorde, a small Dutch village near the German border. He discovered the secrets of artificial incubation, and when the demand for meat type birds increased he decided to focus on broilers. The first brick used in the creation of the Schotman broiler hatchery was laid in 1969, and many bricks have since followed. Today, the hatchery has a capacity of one million day-old chicks per week. The four Schotman children have remained active in the farm, contributing to the development of the business. Their partnership allowed them to convert the small farm of the fifties into a farming enterprise including 80 ha arable farming, dairy farming, 4,500 fattening pigs, 100,000 broiler parent stock, a hatchery, and one million broilers at sites in the Netherlands and Germany. All farms are located within a radius of 60 km of Lichtenvoorde. The family enterprise now legally exists of nine partners, including five children (three sons, a daughter and son-in-law) as well as the four grandchildren of the founder. Daugther Diny and her husband Aloys Wolterinck have taken on the responsibility for the hatchery business - Aloys manages the hatchery while Diny takes care of finances and administration. Their sons Erik and Rob, who grew up between eggs and chicks and who focus on the sales and logistics aspects of the business, represent the third generation and aim to take the business to a new level.
Three generations of incubators
The hatchery that produces one million birds a week represents the physical and mental history of the farming enterprise. Inside the facility you will find three generations of Pas Reform incubators. Aloys Wolterinck says he has always achieved good results with these machines. The older systems, however, require more attention and skill from the hatchery manager, while the new systems run independently and provide more information to go with the broiler chicks. Schotman Hatcheries specifically chose Pas Reform’s Smart incubation technologies for the benefits of modular single-stage incubation in reducing the hatch window. A small hatch window improves day-old chick uniformity, which forms the basis to optimising broiler management and achieving the lowest possible feed conversion. Wolterinck senior pays a lot of attention to chick quality and has always shown an interest in what results could be obtained with the birds they deliver. This resulted in the development, by the family and the Pas Reform Academy R&D team, of research efforts looking at the effects of breeder management on broiler hatching and growing performance.
The Schotman partnership, which owns 100,000 PS females and makes use of its own males, also has its own rearing farm for 100,000 birds. In addition, 300,000 PS are under contract. These PS farms have been selected in different disease defence compartments in the Netherlands and Germany to secure production in case a serious infectious disease outbreak results in restrictions on transportation.
The ownership of PS flocks provides a lot of information that can help the hatchery manager produce chicks of a high quality. This has taught them that it pays off to vaccinate breeders against salmonella and ORT twice. Competitors, however, believe the additional cost of over €160,000 annually is a waste. Erik Wolterinck says he is sure their clients appreciate this extra service as they experience a better return from their broilers due to more efficient growth, and an important reduction in downgrades during processing. Having their own PS farm allows them to gain experience with new strains from broiler breeding companies at PS as well as broiler level to better guide their customers. The first day-old chicks from new strains are always grown at the company’s own farm to determine how to feed and manage these birds in the most profitable manner. Schotman’s own broiler farm specialises in growing these birds, but also in growing birds originating from problem breeders or eggs that required a special treatment in the hatchery due to egg size or batch volume. Removing these “possible problem” batches from the commercial production line improves the quality of the sold day-old chicks and gives the customer confidence in the product they receive.
Appreciation and certification
Appreciation for the quality of the broilers born at the Schotman Hatchery is not only shown by the constantly growing number of customers in the Netherlands and Germany, but also by hatcheries elsewhere in Europe. Several of them have asked Wolterinck to hatch eggs for them, or to place orders to fill gaps in their own need for broiler chicks. A number of feed companies in the Netherlands and Germany prefer to cooperate with Schotman Hatcheries due to the fact that the processing companies they have connections with recommend broilers hatched by Schotman. “We appreciate this recognition,” say both father and son Wolterinck, “but what we enjoy even more is the national and international recognition from various quality control bodies. We even satisfied the tough Assured Chicken Production Scheme requirements of the UK Food Quality Certification. These acknowledgments are the result of excellent cooperation we have from and with our contract partners, our clients, and the suppliers of birds, eggs and the systems we use in our hatchery.”
World Poultry, Vol. 26 No. 2, 2010