There are a number of requirements by which animals should be managed so that the best performance is achieved in a way acceptable to those responsible for the care of the animals and to the community generally. These requirements are the keys to good management and may be used to test the management of a poultry enterprise in relation to the standard of its management. These requirements are also called Principles.
The importance of each Principle changes with the situation and thus the emphasis placed on each may alter from place to place and from time to time. This means that, while the Principles do not change, the degree of emphasis and method of application may change. Every facet of the poultry operation should be tested against the relevant principle(s). The Principles of Poultry Husbandry are:
If the enterprise is to be successful it is necessary to use stock known to be of good quality and of the appropriate genotype for the commodity to be produced in the management situation to be used. The obvious first decision is to choose meat type for meat production and an egg type for egg production. However, having made that decision, it is then necessary to analyse the management situation and market to select a genotype that suits the management situation and/or produces a commodity suitable for that market. A good example is that of brown eggshells. If the market requires eggs to have brown shells, the genotype selected must be a brown shell layer. Another example would be to choose a genotype best suited for use in a tropical environment. The manager must know in detail the requirements of the situation and then select a genotype best suited to that situation.
The following are of major importance when considering the health, welfare and husbandry requirements for a flock:
Confining the birds provides a number of advantages:
Importantly, the confinement of the birds at higher stocking densities has a number of disadvantages also including:
A harsh environment is defined as the one that is outside of the comfort range of the birds. In this context high and low temperature, high humidity in some circumstances, excessively strong wind, inadequate ventilation and/or air movement and high levels of harmful air pollutants such as ammonia are examples of a harsh environment. Much effort is made in designing and building poultry houses that will permit the regulation of the environment to a significant degree.
It is the responsibility of those in charge, and responsible for, the day-to-day management of the birds that the environment control systems are operated as efficiently as possible. To this end, those responsible require a good knowledge of the different factors that constitute the environment and how they interact with each other to produce the actual conditions in the house and, more importantly, what can be done to improve the house environment.
A successful poultry house has to satisfy the welfare needs of the birds which vary with the class, age and housing system. Failure to satisfy these needs will, in many cases, result in lower performance from the birds. These needs include:
The presence of disease in the poultry flock is reflected by inferior performance. It is essential that the flock is in good health to achieve their performance potential. There are three elements of good health management of a poultry flock. These are:
Preventing the birds from disease is a much more economical way of health management than waiting for the flock to become diseased before taking appropriate action. There are a number of factors that are significant in disease prevention. These are:
1. Application of a stringent farm quarantine program:
2. The use of good hygiene practices:
Early recognition of disease is one of the first skills that should be learned by the poultry flock manager. Frequent inspection of the flock to monitor for signs of sickness are required. It is expected that inspection of all the birds is the first task performed each day, to monitor for signs of ill health, injury and harassment. At the same time feeders, drinkers and other equipment can be checked for serviceability. If a problem has developed since the last inspection, appropriate action can be taken in a timely manner.
If a disease should infect a flock, early treatment may mean the difference between a mild outbreak and a more serious one. It is important that the correct treatment be used as soon as possible. This can only be achieved when the correct diagnosis has been made at an early stage. While there are times when appropriate treatment can be recommended as a result of a field diagnosis i.e. a farm autopsy, it is best if all such diagnoses be supported by a laboratory examination to confirm the field diagnosis as well as to ensure that other conditions are not also involved. When treating stock, it is important that the treatment be administered correctly and at the recommended concentration or dose rate. Always read the instructions carefully and follow them. Most treatments should be administered under the guidance of the regular flock veterinarian.
Diets may be formulated for each class of stock under various conditions of management, environment and production level. The diet specification to be used to obtain economic performance in any given situation will depend on the factors such as:
Maximising production is not necessarily the most profitable strategy to use as the additional cost required to provide the diet that will give maximum production may be greater than the value of the increase in production gained. A lower quality diet, while resulting in lower production may bring in greatest profit in the long term because of the significantly lower feed costs. Also the food given to a flock must be appropriate for that class of stock – good quality feed for one class of bird will quite likely be unsuitable for another.
The following are key aspects in relation to the provision of a quality diet:
The term “stockpersonship” is difficult to define because it often means different things to different people. However, “stockpersonship” may be defined as ‘the harmonious interaction between the stock and the person responsible for their daily care’. There is no doubt that some stock people are able to obtain much better performance than others, under identical conditions. The basis of good stockpersonship is having a positive attitude and knowledge of the needs and behaviour of the stock under different circumstances, of management techniques and a willingness to spend time with the stock to be able to react to any adverse situations as they develop to keep stress to a minimum. Having the right attitude is also a very important element. The stockperson who spends as much time as possible with the stock from day old onwards by moving among them, handling them and talking to them, will grow a much quieter bird that reacts less to harassment, is more resistant to disease and performs better.
There are a number of different management techniques available for use by stockpersons that, while not essential for the welfare of the stock, do result in better performance. Examples of these are the regulation of day length, the management of live weight for age and of flock uniformity. The good manager will utilise these techniques whenever possible to maximise production efficiency and hence profitability of the flock.
There are two types of records that need be kept on a poultry enterprise:
For records to be of use in the management of the enterprise, they must be complete, current and accurate, be analysed and then used in the decision making process. Failure to use them means that all of the effort to gather the information will have been wasted and performance not monitored. As a result, many problems that could have been fixed before they cause irreparable harm may not be identified until too late.
There are three important elements to good marketing practice: