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In commercial poultry production, in many parts of the world, there are two types of bird, an egg type and a meat type, with a number of breeds within each type. The egg type (or layers) and the meat type (or broilers) both produce eggs and meat, the difference is in how efficiently they produce these commodities. These types are derived from the more traditional breeds that have been combined in different ways and selected for particular characteristics over a number of generations to end up with the commercial layer or broiler. A useful analogy may be seen in cattle, where specialist dairy and meat breeds have been developed over centuries through selective breeding. As is the case with cattle, selection for the improvement of the economically important characteristics is an ongoing activity in poultry breeding programs.
As the commercial poultry industry relies on only a few poultry breeds to produce their hybrid broilers and layers, there is a significant risk that many pure breeds may disappear. Had it not been for the dedication of the stud breeders, this would certainly have happened. The formation of clubs, poultry exhibitions and shows; the rigorous maintenance of standards and their enthusiasm, have all contributed to an expanding group of poultry fanciers. There are about 300 poultry clubs in Australia representing thousands of poultry keepers.
In the past many Australian families owned their own flock of hens to supply them with meat and eggs. Today, in Australia, most chicken meat production is carried out as an intensive livestock enterprise by commercial producers. The Australian chicken meat and egg industries are separate industries that use different chicken breeds, housing and production systems.
The chicken meat industry produces meat and uses a different type or breed of chicken than that used for egg production. Some meat type breeds can produce over 1 kg of liveweight from less that 2 kg of feed. Strains of chickens bred for meat production are called meat chickens. The word broiler is an American term for meat producing birds which is not commonly used in Australia outside of the poultry industry because it can be confused with boiler, which in Australia means an old or spent hen that has finished its productive life as a layer. A dressed fowl is one that has been killed, plucked, and had its feet, neck and internal organs removed. The term is derived from the bird being ‘dressed up’ to go to market.
The chicken layer industry produces intact eggs for humans to eat, called table eggs, and other egg products, such as egg pulp or liquid eggs, for use in cake mixes and other food products. Layer strains of chickens may produce over 350 eggs each year. As chickens lay eggs ranging from a very pale cream to brown, layer strains have been selected to suit the preferences of consumers in particular countries. Australians tend to favour brown eggs, which accounts for the use of mostly brown egg laying hens in the Australian layer industry. Source
Egg producers are committed to ensuring their businesses are efficient and their production systems do not affect the land and waterways that surround them and the catchment system they are part of.
All human activities including agriculture affect the environment in some way.
Commercial egg production is known as an intensive industry. Intensive production means large numbers of animals are kept in a small area. Poultry intensive systems can either be housed or free range. Today some farms have up to 500,000 hens in multiple level sheds.
Traditionally many egg farms in Australia have been located closely to densely populated area to allow egg producers easy access to major urban markets, labour and service industries such as water and feed suppliers, power and transport.
Many agricultural industries like egg production are now finding themselves competing with urban development. Urban development is spreading further inland.
Land use conflict occurs when urban and rural development compete for agricultural land., Poultry systems produce waste products including litter waste, manure and dead birds. Conflict has developed between egg producers and their urban neighbours over Issues like noise, dust, odour, farm chemicals, night-time activities, appearance, natural environmental damage and weed infestation.
Egg producers minimise the effects of egg production on neighbours by planting trees as screens, locating noisy activities as far away from neighbours as possible, restricting loud activities to daylight hours, keeping manure dry, reducing the potential for odour and fly breeding.
Waste management is an important part of any egg production system.
Egg producers manage waste to reduce the effects of odour, disease and contamination of neighbouring land or water resources.
Manure and litter waste from egg farms can be used by nurseries, home gardeners, landscape gardeners and other farmers as fertiliser.
To avoid excessive odour and flies egg producers need to dry fresh manure to a moisture content of 25% or less (fresh excrete manure has a moisture content of about 70%).
Best practice guidelines can be found here.
Biosecurity includes the practical measures egg producers can take to limit the spread of infectious diseases and pests, both within the farm and from one farm to another.
Diseases and pests can be introduced to an egg farm by movement of eggs, hens, people, vehicles and equipment between farms, and by water, feed, litter, wild birds, biting insects and rodents.
On farm biosecurity programs reduce the risk of disease spread and can improve overall flock health, cut the costs of disease treatment, reduce deaths and improve farm profitability.
Staff are trained to recognise and report signs of disease and any unexplained deaths. Death and disease records must be kept. If anything, unusual occurs and infectious diseases are expected poultry producers seek the advice of a poultry veterinarian.
Each farm or enterprise should conduct an individual hazard analysis to identify all the management practices required to protect their farm.
Examples of good management practices (GMPs) that apply to most farms are listed below:
Poultry housing has huge roof space, making it the perfect location for solar panels. As energy is a large cost for egg and poultry producers, renewable energy offers many advantages.
According to the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, a typical new shed is 150 meters long and 15 meters wide. There are often three to ten sheds or “chicken houses” on the one farm. Hundreds of kilowatts capacity of solar panels could potentially fit onto each shed of that size.
Assuming a suitable installation scenario, a poultry farm fully decked out with commercial solar power systems could reap significant financial benefits in the form of a huge reduction in electricity bills. There’s also the prospect of commercial energy storage to consider, which is rapidly reducing in price.
Commercial solar installer Energy Matters says businesses with a rooftop of 200m2 or more and paying more than 15c/kWh for daytime electricity usage could see a payback time of between 5 and 7 years on a system sized to daytime load – after which time, the electricity generated is essentially free.
Poultry litter —a mix of excreted manure, water, spilled feed, feathers and bedding material—can be converted into biogas (a renewable energy source consisting mostly of methane and carbon dioxide). Biogas can be burnt to generate electricity and heat, upgraded into a transport fuel (biomethane) and can yield other useful products.
Benefits of using poultry litter for bioenergy.
Poultry litter has traditionally been disposed of by spreading it on the land as fertiliser or by sending it to landfill.
With more stringent legislation controlling the spreading of litter on land, and the rising cost of energy, more attention is being paid to extracting more value from litter (and other by-products from the chicken meat industry, such as hatchery waste and processing waste) in the form of energy.
Methane can be captured from the decomposing manure and converted to electricity or heat, or the waste can be used to produce liquid fuel.
Using poultry litter to create bioenergy has many benefits, such as: