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by Dean Llewellyn of The Poultry Hut and Hydor Limited

When you consider the volume of broiler birds per crop and the narrow margins per kg/bird, the ‘living assets’ (birds) need a healthy and conducive environment in order to thrive and fulfill the best possible margin. And so, the quality of the poultry house is business critical.

Indeed, micro-management of all factors affecting stock is important. It is vital to ensure low stress levels, maintain good stock health, harness the productive use of food energy and employ good maintenance programmes. All of these factors and more are necessary to achieve high feed conversion rates.

With narrowing margins throughout the whole of our industry and other market issues, important lessons must be learnt to maximise stock health, productivity and most importantly the bottom line.

Some factors to consider:

Modern fixed housing is mainly constructed from steel and/or timber frames. Single or Clear Span leaves the floor space free for stock. With the increase in solar panels subsidies, the weight bearing capacity of buildings should also be considered at the planning stage where possible.

Outside cladding varies, from metal sheet, timber and composites with many planning conditions insisting on exterior colour. Inside, the building should be lined; aiding uniformity in airflow and assisting cleaning and biosecurity. The lining should be reflective to reduce lighting costs. Insulation, usually consisting of fabric rolls or boards, will also bring important energy savings.

What’s best in and out of the house?

In - Good ventilation is essential to deliver oxygen-laden fresh air to the birds.
Out - Excess heat produced through respiration activity and solar gain needs to be removed.
Out - Moisture released during respiration or from droppings needs to be removed as does harmful gases, such as carbon dioxide released during breathing or ammonia evaporating from the droppings.
Out – Airborne dust particles and disease-causing organisms in the air need diluting and removal from the building

Types of poultry house ventilation systems

When determining the ventilation requirements in livestock houses, consideration should be given to; what the building is being used for, stocking rates, temperature and humidity.

Free range houses have traditionally relied on natural ventilation systems which use ridge vent(s) complemented by side wall inlets and pop holes. Many other agricultural buildings work this same way. However, if there is no wind outside this greatly reduces the air exchange inside and forced air ventilation is required.

Conventional Ventilation uses fans in the roof/ridge to draw air from side wall air inlets
Reverse-Flow Ventilation uses fans in the side wall to draw air from roof/ridge air inlets.

Tunnel Ventilation is when gable end fans introduce, carry and expel air from end to end of the shed. In broiler houses this type of system is used in conjunction with a conventional or reverse-flow set up.

A heating system is required to produce constant temperatures, which in turn allow for a good air exchange rates inside the building. Biomass, gas, electric, air exchange pumps, heat exchangers and radiant or hot water/fan systems are the main provisions.

Control of the lighting is important to health and productivity. By controlling the intensity, time and duration of light we can influence growth rates, feed conversion rates and yields. LED lighting coupled with dawn and dusk control units can determine day length, ideal for stock affected by the shorter winter days.

A constant water supply, treatment and dosing system are also vital to stock health. Feeding systems need to be efficient, reliable and accountable.

For complete control a climate control computer, incorporated into a panel working with alarm systems for temperature, power failure, CO2 levels, feeder and drinker management, is required. A computer managed system allows for detailed crop analysis; aiding poultry farmers to address issues and learn them, thus improving profitability.

Every hour that a bird is ill or off food it is not performing well and impacts on end of crop profits. Ensuring a good environment and good healthy stock can significantly reduce lost time, growth, productivity and profitability. Hydor and The Poultry Hut have extensive experience and knowledge along with 24hour service and proven products to help poultry farmers choose the best ventilation systems and keep their stock healthy.

I strongly advise poultry farmers to think carefully about their ventilation systems and health of their birds to avoid stock losses, increased vets bills and to maximise profit.