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Animal Health

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Livestock Production
Friday, August 24, 2007 6:26:15 PM
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Managing "out of season" broiler breeder hatches in open-sided housing 
Dr Patricio Liberona and Alastair Lewin



This presentation is intended to cover a particular situation in broiler breeder management encountered frequently in areas of the world at high latitude (latitude 30 degrees and beyond - North and South from the Equator), and for breeder flocks placed in the narrow "out of season" period of the year (March / April in the northern hemisphere and September / October in the southern hemisphere).


Many flocks in these areas and placed during this period fail to perform properly in egg production due to the challenging conditions of synchronising body condition, light stimulation and feeding for peak performance.


It is important to note that these management tips are not intended to apply to flocks placed in other parts of the world and on different periods of the year.  


Many farms still use open-side housing and their flocks are subjected to some difficult-to-control conditions during important key periods of pullet development.


These difficult "out of season" flocks are affected by:  

    • A long period of increasing natural day length and strong light intensity followed by stable day length and decreasing light intensity during their pre-puberal period, prior to stimulation

    • Extreme heat and often poor water and feed quality, when growing pullets should be gaining body weight and improving uniformity for fleshing

    • High fly populations leading to increased worm infestation

    • Aggressive males leading to bird stress

    • Insufficient evaluation of weekly weight gain and fleshing uniformity 

Producers should choose the appropriate bodyweight growth curve, and manage the flock to ensure weekly bodyweight gain and uniformity for fleshing. At this latitude, labour is generally abundant, so this should not be difficult. Manage the above factors that will affect bodyweight gain and uniformity.


Next, determine the best way to ensure that the flock perceives a difference between the actual light duration and intensity and what is available for stimulation.


The way that the bird is grown up to 10 weeks does not need to be different for any season or type of house. However, what happens between 10-16; 16-20; 20-24 and 24-28 weeks is important and uniformity of fleshing is critical.


When production does not increase quickly, it is not good to push the flock with feed. Generally, when the uniformity for bodyweight and fleshing is correct and the flock is correctly light stimulated, production should increase adequately, but slower than what would normally be observed with "in season" flocks.


Some key housing adaptations can help these difficult "off season" flocks tremendously when devising a plan that helps the pullets to better perceive light stimulation: 

    • Design of the house

    • Light layout

    • Lights 

In the difficult "off season", meat breeder flocks will have difficulty in peaking until they have a uniform bodyweight of about 3,700 grams including feed and water. Mini breeds will also have a higher weight relative to their standard.


Cumulative individual bird energy consumption especially from 16 to 24 weeks is important. If the flock is in a deficit position at 24 weeks, it will use feed energy to finish preparing the body, which can be another reason for delayed maturity. Hence, eating behaviour is very important.


For more of the article, please click here


Article made possible through the contribution of Hubbard.   

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