Health

Background 5 comments

One age, one site

Strict biosecurity protocols are essential to keep disease pressure on the farm under control. That said, with too many movements of livestock and personnel all gains on that front can succumb. With the implementation of an ‘all in, all out’ system real progress can be made. No matter whether this concerns a broiler operation of a layer or breeder facility.

Managing disease pressure is all about clear management protocols. On multi age farms the risk of different protocols conflicting with each other or at least interfering in day to day work, can put the livestock at unnecessary risk. That is why a single age system, or an ‘all in, all out’ system is preferred. By design such a system is far more foolproof than a multi age system.

The definition of the ‘all in, all out’ system is that the number of birds you can bring to market within a week is the limiting factor of your designated production facility. Depending on the market access or region this can vary from several hundreds to many thousands. A single age group on the farm at any one time will generally give the best results with lower mortality, better body weights and a much lower feed conversion ratio, resulting in maximum profit potential and enabling a much reduced disease risk.

The definition of the ‘All in, all out’ system is that the number of birds you can bring to market within a week is the limiting factor of your designated production facility. This minimises movement on the farm. Photo: Henk Riswick
The definition of the ‘All in, all out’ system is that the number of birds you can bring to market within a week is the limiting factor of your designated production facility. This minimises movement on the farm. Photo: Henk Riswick

It should be clear that this ‘one age group on one site’ system must be under a strict biosecurity procedure in order to allow this to become a reality. There are no shortcuts in any system. This can only happen if the following procedures are in place and implemented with the utmost stringent controls. For starters one has to include a good and practical biosecurity programme in order to keep unwanted visitors away from poultry houses, as well as to ensure that all people entering are not carrying any poultry disease organisms. This programme should always be planned with future developments in mind.

My advice to anyone starting a new poultry operation is clear. The ‘all in, all out’ system is the only method that stands any chance of survival in this industry. Also, when one already has an existing operation with a multi age system, please sit down and look at what is being done and see where changes can be made in production to introduce the single age system. It can make the difference between success or failure, unless the farming area is large enough to carry multiple ‘all in, all out sites’ at several kilometres distance from each other.

Clarity and control

When farming using this method, one is using the only system that can give the best possible chance of keeping disease under control. The single age system gives clarity and control for management as well as for farm workers. In the system all the houses can be filled during the same week and all birds are removed during one week at the end of the production cycle, whether it be 35 days in the case of broilers or one year plus in the case of layers. This then facilitates the site to be emptied of all stock by the end of the sales week, allowing for efficient manure removal immediately and then the washing and cleaning process can commence, finalised with disinfectant spraying on all surfaces and on the concrete aprons around each building before a final fumigation process.

For essential farm deliveries vehicle washing is also important. All delivery vehicles need to be thoroughly disinfected before entering the production sites. Photo: Henk Riswick
For essential farm deliveries vehicle washing is also important. All delivery vehicles need to be thoroughly disinfected before entering the production sites. Photo: Henk Riswick

The cleaning and washing of the facility should be carried out within the allocated seven days and a further period may be necessary, depending on the disease status in the surrounding area. All required maintenance will have to be attended to as well, as updating of back up stocks of parts and essential consumables such as vaccines, diluents, vitamins and disinfectants. It is also important to remember to ensure that the feed tanks have been emptied and cleaned both internally and externally. This combination of measures allows the farm to start with a ‘clean bill of health’, with the new birds arriving.

Immune status

If housing at day old, take some blood samples to check the immune status. Ask for a copy of the vaccination programme of the breeder flock as well as the 2 most recent titre levels for Newcastle Disease and Infectious Bronchitis as well as any other disease deemed necessary. Keep in regular contact with the chick supplier and carry on their good work. After having vaccinated the new stock correctly as per programme given by the hatchery, match the vaccinations given to their parent females and males and give chicks the best possible protection. With the ‘all in, all out’ system one look forward to best chicken farming with minimal chances of disease problems. There are no guarantees, but systematic monitoring and – if necessary – booster vaccinations, this can be accomplished.

The single age system gives clarity and control for management as well as for farm workers. In the system all the houses can be filled during the same week and all birds are removed during one week at the end of the production cycle. Photo: Studio Kastermans
The single age system gives clarity and control for management as well as for farm workers. In the system all the houses can be filled during the same week and all birds are removed during one week at the end of the production cycle. Photo: Studio Kastermans

There is an old saying that ‘prevention is better than the cure’, in this case prevention is much cheaper than a cure. By using the ‘all in, all out’ system and ensuring it is vigorously implemented, profit levels can certainly increase. With a lower mortality rate, better FCR, this will bring more birds for sale at better weights and the ability to sell several days earlier. The value in saving two days feed at 33-35 days of age is immense, amounting to some 8 to 10% of the total feed intake per bird. Considering that feed cost can be in the region of 65% of total production cost, this can result in a decrease of 5-6% in production cost.

Biosecurity needs constant attention

Even the best system cannot go without strict biosecurity, the ‘all in, all out’ system is no exception. It is imperative that everyone entering the site take a shower using anti-bacterial soap, with no exceptions. This include workers and owners. The labour requirement will dictate the number of showering facilities and ablution’s needed. Housing accommodations should be made available nearby for at least 2 stockmen close by in an area not inhabited by others, thus eliminating any cross flow of contact with people who may have a few chickens at home. No fresh slaughtered poultry for staff consumption should be brought onto the site at any time.

For essential farm deliveries, vehicle washing is also important. All delivery vehicles need to be thoroughly disinfected before entering the production sites and vehicle crew must enter the shower facilities and put on clean overalls, head gear and footwear supplied by the farm. A designated member of the farm staff, with a backup member if necessary, needs to supervise that everything is adhered to. Each person entering needs to be issued with a number and their personal details recorded as well as company name and details of earlier visits that day. This should include ID number, cell phone number and company details. Poultry farming revolves around attention to detail, especially when it comes to biosecurity.

To be able to ‘enforce’ good biosecurity practices, security must be in order too. When there is no clear boundary between on- and off farm, the protocols are easily bypassed. Perimeter fencing needs to be high, at least three metres, with good lighting facing outward. Electrification might be an option as well, because it helps one keep control of who is entering the farm at any moment.

By Ken Marshall

5 comments

  • S A Elaghbash

    This is really very good article . It could do more if it contain some comparison data for production index or parameters between the two systems. What should be the minimum distance between two age groups. In the middle east we have multi age farm having clusters of two or three houses each. We maintain a distance ranging between 300 to 500 meters. Within the cluster we mostly house the birds with 3 days interval.

  • Vicente Lao

    Thank you for your article. It is very timely because we are starting a farm and we will be following your suggestions. We would like to know what is the recommended distance between houses in the one-age, one site system.

    viclao

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