What is common with Successful Poultry Farmers Part 3
5. Biosecurity Awareness
Successful growers understand that one breach in biosecurity could mean the difference between a healthy flock and a disaster like the 2014–15 U.S. avian influenza outbreak. They recognize the importance that biosecurity plays in keeping the nation’s poultry flocks safe. Successful growers have biosecurity protocols in place on their farms, and they enforce them. They know who comes and goes on their farms and why.
Transmitting disease could be as easy as going to the poultry supply store to purchase a feed line motor. Good growers know to never go to the feed store, poultry supply store, café, co-op, or any other location other poultry growers may frequent without changing clothes and boots before checking on their birds when they return home. The risk of carrying something back to the farm is too great to take chances.
Footbaths at poultry house entrance doors are a requirement for commercial growers these days. Successful growers change the disinfectant in these footbaths on a regular basis to keep the disinfectant fresh and effective.
Sign-in logs are another way that good growers keep track of traffic on their farms. It is impossible to be too careful with biosecurity in today’s production environment. Successful growers do not see biosecurity as a chore; they recognize it as a necessary precaution to protect their flock, their farm, and their way of life.
6. Ability to Manage Litter and Air Quality
Litter quality and air quality go hand in hand in the poultry house. High ammonia levels, often present with built-up litter, are a serious health threat to the flock, making birds susceptible to respiratory infections and eye damage, including blindness.
Unfortunately, growers often become desensitized to the smell of ammonia over time and may have higher levels in the house than they realize. This can be detrimental to the health of the flock. There are handheld ammonia sensors available for $400–$500 that many service techs and some growers now carry to accurately measure ammonia.
Humidity is another culprit in the poultry house. A humidity level somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent seems to work best. Humidity levels less than 50 percent for long periods can result in high dust levels in the house as the litter becomes too dry. Humidity levels higher than 70 percent for long periods cause wet floors and caked litter, as the litter acts as a sponge and becomes saturated by the high humidity in the air. Wet litter is an animal welfare issue and results in more ammonia, making a bad situation worse. In addition, the number of microbes and disease-causing organisms in the litter increases as humidity and wet litter increase, thereby increasing the threat of disease in the flock.
Successful growers understand that one of the best things you can give your birds is more air. It may cost a little more gas in the winter to ventilate, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
7. Strong Support Group
There will likely be times when you are not able to look after the farm. If you are called out of town or are sick for a day or two, whose responsibility is it to care for the birds? Successful growers have a network of family and/or friends that can be relied on to look after things in the event of an emergency or other unforeseen circumstance.
Again, poultry farming is not a solitary occupation. It’s important to have backup that you can call on when needed. You may not need these folks very often, but when you do need them, it’s critical to have them, and it’s comforting to know that they are willing and able to assist you if needed.
If you expect the unexpected, you will always have a game plan ready. Successful growers rarely get caught off guard. They have thought through most situations and have a plan and people in place to address those situations if necessary.
These are some of the characteristics we believe all successful poultry growers have in common. One additional characteristic that is beneficial to have is some common-sense repair skills. While you do not have to be mechanically inclined to be a successful grower, having some fix-it skills can come in handy and save money.
For example, if you can change out a feed line or fan motor, repair a leaky water line, swap out a cool cell pump motor, or reconnect a feed auger to the shaft on the feed line motor, you can save yourself downtime, lost performance, and the expense of hiring repair personnel. Unfortunately, if you need to call repair personnel, it may be several hours before they can get to you. Lost performance when your birds are without feed and/or water and you’re waiting on repair folks is performance you will never get back. Consider anything you can fix yourself as money in your pocket.
Contract poultry production is not for everyone. It’s hard work that lasts 24/7 for weeks or months at a time, depending on how long each flock is on the farm. However, it is also rewarding and fulfilling work for thousands of families across the country, and it has allowed many small farmers to make their living from the land and raise their families in the manner they have chosen.
Help is available to make every grower as successful as possible. Ask questions and take advantage of this help from service techs, broiler and breeder/hatchery managers, complex/division managers, integrator veterinarians, Extension personnel, and others. You have a lot invested in your farm, and everyone wants you to succeed.