People: the hatchery’s greatest asset

Tags: Hatchery management | Whitepaper

Written by Gerd de Lange, 15 July 2015

People: the hatchery’s greatest asset

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.

Creating such a team is part of the hatchery manager’s role: as important as understanding the entire incubation process, from egg to day-old-chick and all the factors that can, either positively or negatively, influence hatch results.

An experienced hatchery manager can analyse causes of poor performance, take corrective actions and evaluate their impact. He or she has the authority to change Standard Operation Procedures (SOP’s) and is a good organizer and planner.

The hatchery manager is supported by team leaders, each with responsibility for specific rooms, for example the egg handling room, or SOP’s, such as vaccination, within the hatchery. Often, these individuals are also responsible for collecting relevant data, such as egg weight loss, break-out results and hygiene scores.\

The personnel responsible for relatively monotonous tasks, like egg setting, candling & transfer, chick handling, cleaning and disinfection, for example, are often referred to as unskilled, although this undermines the importance of their jobs.

A good technical team, for preventive maintenance and equipment repairs, is critical to optimising incubation conditions and ensuring operational continuity throughout the operation: never more so than when the hatchery is highly automated.

It is the hatchery manager’s task to find, train(= educate) and, last but not least, motivate employees assigned to specific tasks. Well-trained personnel will follow SOP’s accurately and have the skill to recognize potential mistakes and risks. For example:

  1. Well-trained personnel in the egg handling room recognize and understand the risk of setting eggs small ends up.
  2. A motivated setter operator sees the urgency of fixing a turning problem if it occurs during first week incubation.
  3. When trained to the same standards, all chick handling personnel will recognize the same indications of unsaleable chicks. In this way, failure to cull chicks that actually should have been culled is prevented, so reducing the potential for customer complaints.

Whether for new employees or as a routine for existing hatchery personnel, training motivates people to do a great job. Rotating people so that they can experience the hatchery’s different departments helps to prevent boredom and a loss of interest that can result in ‘sloppy’ work. It also enables individuals to find an area of particular interest – and therefore better performance - in the hatchery. In such an environment, people become more flexible as capable ‘multi taskers’, which is a great benefit when covering absence due to sickness or holidays.

Good hatchery managers too should welcome ongoing professional development, to grow into their job and build experience, while staying up-to-date by reading relevant articles and attending seminars. Hatchery management training is a great opportunity, even for experienced hatchery managers, to share ideas and experiences with specialists and managers from other hatcheries.

Advice

  • Invest in training to create a good hatchery team: they are a vital asset to the hatchery.
  • Avoid losing the experience of a hatchery manager who leaves to take another job, by encouraging inclusion and knowledge-sharing in day-to-day hatchery practice. Your next hatchery manager may already be a member of the existing team!
  • Make adequate training for new employees mandatory - and do not forget to provide regular, ongoing training for existing employees.
  • Ensure that employees not only follow SOP’s, but that they understand what they do - and why they do it.
  • Motivate personnel by providing good working conditions and acknowledging good practice and performance: “name & fame” is far more effective than “blame & shame”.
  • Listen to your team; they often have brilliant ideas.

Written by Gerd de Lange

Senior Poultry Specialist

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