Breeding companies worldwide are striving continuously to bring the production results of laying hens to a higher level. Dutch poultry farmer Simon van Loon realised 500.5 eggs per hen housed in 100 weeks.
Only a few years ago ISA, the layer Business Unit of Hendrix Genetics, envisaged an unheard of increase in layer performance. “We were confident that layers would be capable of producing 500 Grade A quality eggs by 2020,” says Jeroen Visscher, Senior Geneticist at Hendrix Genetics. Today, five years earlier than predicted, field results from a commercial layer farm show that this was not a dream, but a realistic objective. Some flock performances are already reaching the target number of 500 eggs.
One of the companies that has reached the mark of 500 Grade A quality eggs per average hen is the farm of Simon and Marianne van Loon-Bruekers from the Dutch town of Nederweert. This farm has a total of 42,000 laying hens. The first flock of Dekalb White hens in an aviary system reached 100 weeks of age and produced 500.5 eggs per hen housed.
Van Loon: “The laying rate at that time was still a whopping 73%.” Their current flock consists of the same breed.
Importance of good management
Van Loon didn’t set out to pursue the goal of 500 eggs per hen housed, it wasn’t a conscious choice at all. “At first, we wanted to moult this flock of Dekalb White because egg prices in the Netherlands remained low for quite some time. But after a while, we saw an increase of the price and flock performance remained relatively high. We decided not to moult, but rather to purchase a new flock.” Because they had to wait for 20 weeks before the new pullets could be delivered, they kept the Dekalb White hens in production for up to 100 weeks. “To our surprise, we passed the magic mark of 500 eggs per average egg- producing hen.” According to Visscher, the high production per hen has to do with the genetic background, in combination with the excellent management capabilities of the poultry farmer. Farmer Van Loon: “An important point in this respect is not to aim for production in the animals too early. Don’t focus on extra eggs during the precocity period, so that the young hen can continue to develop. This ensures persistency to up to 100 weeks.”
The flat egg-weight curve of the Dekalb White hen is very good.
It is important to check the flock when it is still at the rearing farm. Van Loon: “I always visit the rearing farm to see how the hens are doing and how they look. I don’t interfere with the management of the farmer there, I only want to have a good feeling about what I see.” Concerning feed, for the last three flocks Van Loon used the same type of compound feed. “For the current flock, I actually use a specific feed to prevent intestinal infections. But that may not have had an impact on the results, because I started using it only recently.” According to Van Loon, the feed management is extremely important to produce that many eggs per hen housed. The poultry farmer ensures that the feed system is eaten empty and remains empty for at least one hour during the day. “This way, I prevent selective eating. This makes for a better uniformity among my hens, which is very important.”
In addition to the management measures already mentioned, there are a number of items to which Van Loon pays extra attention. He is meticulous when it comes to climate control and does his utmost to prevent dust and ammonia by running the manure belt only once a day for only one-third of its total length, instead of the whole belt every three days.
The mortality losses among the 500+-Dekalb White flock amounted to only 6.6%. This is not an exception as Dekalb White hens are known of their docile behaviour, which prevents pecking. The cumulative feed conversion was 2.05. Van Loon: “The feed conversion was very good for hens in an
aviary system.” According to the Dutch poultry farmer, the egg weight of the Dekalb White hen is slightly lighter compared with other breeds.
In terms of total egg weight per round, White hens lay as many kilograms per hen housed as their brown counterparts.
100 weeks as the standard
According to geneticist Visscher and Vepymo hatchery sales manager Alex Janssen, the ambition to provide the world market with hens that lay approximately 500 eggs per hen housed by 2020 will be realised. Janssen: “For brown hens, the magic number will be around 480 eggs per hen and, for white hens, even around 520 eggs per hen.” Flock cycles of 100 weeks will be the new standard in 2020. Visscher: “Currently, 500 eggs in 100 weeks is still a target point, but by 2020 this will be the standard.”
According to Visscher, the Dekalb White hen has lighter eggs, but the shell quality is also better than many other brands. “Other advantages are that the eggs have a very stable egg weight and that the eggs do not become too heavy at the end of the cycle. The flat egg-weight curve is very good.” According to the Senior Geneticist of Hendrix Genetics, more and more poultry farmers in the United States that want to make the switch to cage-free housing think that the best option is to switch to Brown hens. “In terms of total egg weight per cycle, the Dekalb White hens lay as many kilograms per hen housed as brown hens, but with more eggs.” Janssen stresses once more that, for the United States and other countries in the world, the Dekalb White hen is a very good variant for both traditional systems and alternative systems.
Simon (52), Marianne (50)
Nederweert (The Netherlands)
Van Loon-Bruekers has 42,000 laying hens. His Dekalb White hens of Hendrix Genetics produced 500.5 eggs per hen housed in 100 weeks. In addition to the genetic predisposition of the hens, the good management practices of the poultry farmer contributed to these exceptionally high production results.