Real-time data drives progress in the broiler industry

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Broiler farmer Robert Lanning was eager to install the technology at a new site in Wiltshire which was having problems.

Expansion plans are on the horizon for UK-based Poultry Sense, which collects real-time data to inform smart on-farm decisions and improve supply chain visibility. The company, acquired by MSD Animal Health last year, is going to market with pilot projects on farms in the United States and Brazil. And it will bring its wireless system that provides accurate, live data on a wide range of bird welfare metrics via IoT (Internet of Things) hardware to the Far East Thai market later this year. .

The hardware includes the Sense Node: a wireless battery sensor capable of providing temperature and humidity data; the Sense node+ which includes a next generation rechargeable wireless sensor that monitors environmental parameters, such as atmospheric pressure, humidity, temperature, lux and CO2 levels; Water sense+: an ultrasonic recording system and Weigh sense+: a portable weighing platform that is cellular and LoRa compatible to provide accurate information in real time.

Analytics Gateway

The gateway gathers all the information collected by the sensors which is then shared via a cloud application and fed into the software platform for further analysis. Environmental sensors tend to be attached at bird height to provide the most accurate data analysis, while water sensors are attached to water pipes, weighing platforms are installed on the ground of the shed to allow birds to naturally walk on it to allow continuous data flow.

Alan Beynon, Poultry Sense MD, said it was important to get the number of sensing nodes correct. In a typical hangar housing 30,000 birds, he recommended 1 knot per 1,000 birds covering temperature and humidity and 1 knot per 10,000 birds covering atmospheric pressure, CO2 levels, lux, temperature, humidity and weighing platform.

Micromanagement

Variations in environmental conditions within a poultry house can be significant, so sensors should be equidistant so that sheds can be zoned to micromanage specific areas. Any problem areas can be quickly identified and appropriate action taken to correct problems before they become a big problem. Accurate performance records throughout the shed can also help show trends, with farmers able to log in through their own system at any time. This can help to really improve bird performance and farm sustainability.

Beynon is keen to target integrators, so companies can monitor and compare the situation of farms across a number of locations, as well as individual farmers. But there is also potential for hatcheries and broiler farmers. And with retailers becoming increasingly interested in bird welfare, there is considerable potential for expansion. Barry Thorp, veterinary consultant at Poultry Sense, said the technology was a real game-changer for bird health and welfare. Real-time data could identify minor differences that might otherwise go unnoticed. Access to real-time data also helps maximize opportunities for genetic potential and market demands, Dr. Thorp added.

Prior to installing the technology, data collection was a manual process with staff members recording data on a sheet of paper.  Photo: Tim Pestridge
Prior to installing the technology, data collection was a manual process with staff members recording data on a sheet of paper. Photo: Tim Pestridge

Installation on the farm

Broiler farmer Robert Lanning was eager to install the technology at a new site in Wiltshire which was having problems. Lanning recently purchased a 220,000 broiler farm in Wiltshire. The farm was previously experiencing poor EPEF (European Broiler Index) results and inconsistencies in bird weight gain and feed conversion efficiency, resulting in an unprofitable margin per meter per week. He identified a number of areas that needed improvement, including ventilation, access to water and water quality, which affected the gut health of the birds. Poor gut health in turn led to reduced water and feed intake and hampered the birds’ overall performance.

He improved the heating supply inside the poultry houses to increase the number of kilowatts in order to achieve a constant temperature in the poultry house. Then he installed 25,000 cups on the water pipe to catch drips to create higher water pressure to encourage better water intake – but the problem was, in fact, poor water quality. water due to contamination in the main tank. A new water sanitation system has been installed, but no real improvement has yet been seen. Lanning then decided to install a new ventilation system when, following smoke tests, he discovered that the air circulation was irregular throughout the hangar. So he decided to install Poultry Sense to remotely monitor a wide range of environmental and performance parameters.

Environmental sensors tend to be mounted at bird's eye height to provide the most accurate data analysis.  Photo: Tim Pestridge
Environmental sensors tend to be mounted at bird’s eye height to provide the most accurate data analysis. Photo: Tim Pestridge

Quantify improvements

This helped quantify the results of the changes and improved a number of key performance indicators, as well as EPEF, daily live weight gain and water to feed ratio, all started to meet the criteria for industry benchmark. In terms of stats – averaged over 4 herds – his EPEF went from 338 to 387.38, daily weight gain went from 56.43 grams to 62.29 grams and his herds water to feed ratio went up. from 1:88 to 1:71. The most recent herd achieved an EPEF of 420, showing a significant improvement in efficiency. The feed conversion rate increased and the water-feed ratio decreased, indicating improved feed efficiency.

Robert said having the reassurance and support of technology helped justify the decision to purchase an underperforming farm. Along with improved KPIs, the average margin per meter per week increased by 36p ($0.47), which equates to £6,000 ($7,839) across the crop for a 50 shed 000 broilers – it could be the difference between making a profit or a loss.

Prior to installing the technology, data collection was a manual process with staff recording data on a piece of paper in the hangar and no analysis taking place. “This made it very difficult to identify issues and track the impact of changes.”

The breeder continues: “While Poultry Sense can help you identify problems, it can also help you determine if the changes have had a positive impact. However, he stresses that nothing can replace good breeding: “Breeding will always be key – you will always need the breeder – but increasingly the role will also include reading, analyzing and adjustment to data and information which now becomes available”.

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