Hatchery management

In-ovo vaccination is gaining popularity and is being used in an increasing number of hatcheries. A driving force behind this is the increasing number of vaccines that are suitable for this method, including vector vaccines, which offer early protection against more than just one disease, and immune-complex vaccines, which can be given in the presence of maternal antibodies.

We expect incubators to function 24/7 without disruption - and with the highest levels of accuracy from the sensors in particular, on whose outputs the hatchery manager relies for many years.

In a contemporary hatchery all the parameters influencing incubation – such as temperature, humidity, ventilation and the turning of eggs – are based on using electricity. Stopping of the energy supply means that the pumps and fans do not work, heating and cooling does not function and the air in the incubators cannot be refreshed.

The importance of water in the hatchery is well understood. Without water, washing/cleaning is practically impossible and many HVAC systems use water to provide optimal conditions for eggs, embryos, chicks and personnel. Sub-optimal water quality and insufficient water supply can cause losses, by undermining hatching results, contributing to mechanical breakdowns and presenting hygiene risks.

Uninterrupted electrical energy is critical to optimising incubation and other hatchery processes.

Even the best managed hatchery can experience difficulties sometimes, with incubation results that are below expectations or even disappointing. However, it is only possible to make the observation ‘results are below expectation’ if there is a history of hatchery data available for reference.

Due to its central position between breeder farms and poultry production houses for meat and eggs, optimised hatchery hygiene plays a crucial role in preventing the spread of pathogens in the poultry value chain.

In large-scale hatchery operations today, a single hatchery manager is rarely responsible for managing every aspect of chick production or for the maintenance of incubators. He or she no longer relies solely on their own experience and intuitive observations to achieve good quality chicks. In some cases, an incubationist has taken over more routine tasks, including fine-tuning incubation programs and performing egg analyses to solve incubation problems.

The importance of a dedicated, motivated team in a hatchery should never be underestimated. Even in a highly automated environment, the hatchery cannot exist without them.

In principle, setters and hatchers can function well in a hatchery with open construction, when air pressure in all the rooms is equal to the air pressure outside. In practice, however, the majority of modern hatcheries are “closed” and equipped with air handling systems to control temperature and relative humidity within optimal ranges, as recommended by the incubator manufacturer. The aim, of course, is to create uniform incubation conditions with minimal energy costs.

The hatchery’s main goal is to produce the maximum percentage of good quality day-old-chicks from all the hatching eggs received.

In multi stage incubation, heat is transferred from old eggs to the younger eggs, which demands less additional heating and cooling capacity by the incubator. This may seem like a good way to save energy, but in fact, the incubator is having to run full fan speeds 24/7 365 days a year, to deliver a constant airflow even when machines are not fully loaded.

Having made the decision to build a hatchery, finding the right location is a critical first step. Not every piece of land is suitable as a hatchery site - and finding a good location that is fit for the purpose deserves some time and proper investigation, in order to give the hatchery a good start.

Having chosen a green field site for the new hatchery, it is important first to consider the lay-out of the facility carefully, followed by producing an engineering plan of drains, piping, ducting and cabling.

When building a new hatchery, we have the freedom to plan exactly what we need, where we need it, right down to laying the groundwork for future expansion. Modernizing or expanding an existing hatchery poses more of a challenge.

The hygiene status of the environment into which chicks are hatched has a direct impact on day-old-chick quality and first week mortality.

The quality and construction of hatchery flooring can contribute significantly to operational productivity and cost-efficiency.

In most hatcheries, the routine monitoring of incubation is based on data collected at each stage in the process. This is an important element of specific protocols for quality control and the optimization of hatchery results. For each step in the incubation process, quantifiable criteria have been defined. The hatchability of eggs set is one such quantifiable criterion, defined as the number of saleable chicks hatched from the total number of eggs from a certain batch/flock loaded in one or more incubators.

Disinfecting hatching eggs is a critical control point (CCP) in the poultry production chain, aimed at reducing the introduction of pathogens into the hatchery for the production of healthy day-old-chicks.

Modern hatcheries are capital intensive, production orientated businesses that depend on minimal downtime to realise optimised profitability. A well-organized preventive maintenance program is therefore a critical focus for these businesses which, by anticipating and preparing for potential machinery or equipment failures, are far more efficient, smooth-running and ultimately better placed to realise maximum returns on investment.

The hatchery is generally regarded as a safe place to work, reporting very few incidents  when compared with other industries. In practice, that does not mean that working in the hatchery is entirely without risk. A proper regard for Health and Safety in the hatchery requires great care in managing factors such as dust, noise, climate and the use of chemicals, for example.

Sustainability is an important feature of contemporary building design, often reflected in building regulations – and very achievable, given the many, varied material, design, energy and equipment solutions that are currently available.

A common rationale for investing in hatchery automation has traditionally been to reduce labour costs or to overcome the challenge of recruiting for monotonous, relatively strenuous work and long working days.

While optimising climate inside the ­incubator best supports the needs of growing embryos, accurate climate control elsewhere in the hatchery also makes an important contribution to overall efficiency.

Hatching egg quality and incubation conditions influence broiler performance. It is therefore important to continually optimize every stage of incubation management, based on specific protocols for quality control and best performance.

Pas Reform
Pas Reform
P.O. Box 2
7038 ZG Zeddam
The Netherlands
Phone +31 314 659 111
Fax +31 314 652 575
© Pas Reform Hatchery Technologies

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