The first Dekalb White flock to reach over 500 eggs within 100 weeks in an organic system has been recorded on a farm in Germany, where birds were housed in a converted cowshed.
The Lux family, from Hammhinkeln, North Rhine Westphalia, run 15,000 organic laying hens for organic company Naturland.
The 6,000 birds were brought on to the farm in February 2017 within 16 weeks of birth and housed at temperatures hovering around 5°C. As a result the pullets ate more to produce greater body heat.
The Lux family receiving their recognition for their achievement. Photo: Teun vd Braak
During the lifetime of the flock, the bird were given an intensive vaccination scheduled against IB and ND. Additional vitamin C supplements were given and a mite treatment was also performed.
Starter feed was fed for ten weeks and feed was only then changed again when laying performance fell below 90%. Towards the end of the cycle, the demand for calcium was adjusted to ensure better shell quality.
Breed – Dekalb White Bio
Number – 6,000 Dekalb White
Hatchery – ab ovo organic
Parent animals – Dekalb White, ab ovo organic
Rearing – ab ovo organic
Born - 12 October 2016
Housing on Lux farm – 12 February 2017
Exhibition at Lux – 16 September 2018 with 100 weeks of life
Eggs per hen – 501.1 eggs per hen
Leg lace – 97.7%
Eggs under 53g – 15 eggs per starting hen
Losses – 6.1%
Egg weight – 62.21g over 100 weeks
Failure of eggs over 100 weeks of life – 9%
Farmer Michael Lux, who used to specialise in dairy and pigs, only moved into egg production in September 2013 because of concerns about the dairy sector.
Mr Lux said he chose white birds because white hens lived 20 weeks longer and could therefore lay more eggs.
He said the resource utilisation is more effective: “They need around 10g less food per chicken per day, are more robust and are less susceptible to disease.”
Dekalb Whites. Photo: Teun vd Braak
Sales consultant Gunnar Leferink, who works for pullet firm Ab ovo bio, said he had evaluated the Lux’s farm in North Rhine Westphalia. “This organic flock has achieved exceptional performance and has achieved our genetic breeding goal from the conventional point of view.
“The farm has managed to let an organic flock 100 weeks old produce 501 eggs from organic production without moult.”
While Mr Leferink said this had been achieved in a German free-range flock last year, it had been an exceptional achievement to do this with organic birds.
“It is also interesting that the farmer kept the organic hens in a converted cowshed. There is no artificial ventilation in this barn. The ventilation works with natural thermals (warm air rises through the ridge, creates a natural negative pressure and fresh air flows in).
“During the summer it can keep the temperature cool, but in winter however, it is unfortunately very cold for the birds. It can only get up to 3°C (36F) from time to time.”
The converted cowshed where the birds were housed. Photo: Teun vd Braak
Teun van de Braak, Hendrix Genetics product manager (layers), said the results were amazing.
“Their flock was able to reach 501.1 eggs per hens housed at the age of 100 weeks. The birds were kept in a free range system, fed an organic diet and were not break treated.
“We would like to congratulate the Lux family for their remarkable achievement. These results show the family’s dedication to excellent management as well as the strong performance of the Dekalb White.”