Former researcher Piet Simons has been retired for fifteen years now but he is still active in his beloved subject area, poultry farming, every day. Simons discusses his new book ’Egg signals’.
Piet Simons (79) does not beat around the bush. For more than 50 years, he has dealt with laying hen farmers. Professionals, driven, they have an enormous amount of knowledge about feed, housing and management. Forerunners in the world. But, and here it comes, “the laying hen farmer knows far too little about eggs”. A shame, Simons thinks. “My belief: everyone who knows a lot about eggs can significantly improve the profitability of his company. The quality of the complete production process can be deduced from the egg. Of course, you do need to know what to look for.”
Piet Simons (79) does not beat around the bush. "Poultry farmers are professionals, but the laying hen farmer knows far too little about eggs.” Photo: Koos Groenewold
Simons scans the pages of his book Egg signals. It makes him extremely proud; it has really become his book. He points at pictures of specks on eggs, special fracture lines and deviations in the yolk. All of them signals that should make the poultry farmer take action. Unfortunately, according to Simons most laying hen farmers do not know what they should be paying attention to. “That can change now. They should read my book first, of course”. He does add however, that reading is not enough “The book is meant to inspire poultry farmers to really look. After looking, comes thinking and after thinking comes action. Egg signals offers practical advice.”
He is convinced that most poultry farmers do not know why eggs have a pointed and a rounded side. That has everything to do with the egg’s path though the chicken’s body. The egg’s shape, colour and for example firmness are signals, often they are warnings too. Red specks on the egg? Red mites! Black specks? Flies in the poultry house. Many eggs with fractures? Problems in the transport system. Simons asks “Did you know that you can tell from the fracture’s shape which passage in the system caused it?”
Look at the egg, at its exterior and interior and take action. Whether or not feed, housing or logistics are involved. “Anyone who draws the right conclusions and takes adequate measures can improve his company’s profitability. Less fractures and a higher percentage of first type eggs will result in hard cash” he mentions.
The Dutch version of his book is for sale, as is the English version and throughout the year more publications in other languages will follow. Simons took his time; a deadline imposed by publisher Roodbont fell on deaf ears. “I wanted to finish the book before my 80th birthday. I succeeded.” Simons is no stranger to the poultry world. For decades he was a researcher at the Spelderholt, the former poultry research centre in Beekbergen. For years, he chaired the World Poultry Science Association. At the moment, he is still an ambassador of the Dutch Poultry Centre. In the coming months he will visit expositions in the US, Thailand and Rwanda, as ambassador to the poultry business.
He has been in the sector for a long time. During his studies at the former Landbouw College in Wageningen he already knew that poultry farming was on the eve of an enormous development. He was right and he helped make it happen. As a researcher Simons made an important contribution to the improvement of the digestibility of phosphorus in feed by adding the enzyme phytase. Developments continue, he says, if only because global egg and poultry meat consumption will significantly increase. This forces the sector to make production even more efficient. “The end is not yet in sight. We will get to laying hens that produce for a year and half and lay 500 eggs during that time.”
Simons cannot imagine having to enjoy his retirement. “Of course I enjoy it, but mostly because I am still active in my beloved sector. Maybe I will write a book about chickens, together with a writer of children’s books. If we want to improve our image, we have to start with children.”