Poultry production systems and facilities in laying hens
Poultry farming in the world has developed different Poultry production systems according to the conditions of each region. Here we will review the general aspects of the three most common housing systems in laying hens.
Poultry farming in the world has developed different poultry production systems according to the conditions of each region. Here we will review the general aspects of the three most common housing systems in laying hens.
Poultry production systems
The productive systems where birds are housed can be of three types. First type is called intensive production, where birds stay in cages and are covered all the time.
The second type is called semi-intensive production, where the animals have an outdoor area and another with cover. In this article, we will call it floor system.
The third type is called extensive production which in this article we will call grazing system. This system refers to the outdoor environment where birds spend part of their time.
The following figure compares the indoor system against the grazing system, taking into account the population. It highlights the large area that the birds in grazing need due to their conditions, compared to the indoor production. Also, the area necessary for the management of excreta should be considered.
The most important details of each system will be mentioned below so that they can be understood and compared in their different factors.
Intensive (or cage) system
The investment that needs to be made in this type of infrastructure is high. This is one of the constraints for low-scale production. The cost of the installations is high and mostly large-scale production use this system due to their required economic injection.
Advantages and production
Intensive or cage systems also have considerable advantages. The most outstanding feature is its high production rates, with a production of up to 300 eggs/bird/year. This production easily exceeds other systems. Another notable advantage is that birds grow faster and have better feed conversion rates. In addition to the above, another advantage is the drastic decrease in losses due to theft or predators in the area, which is a prevalent problem in other systems.
It should also be mentioned that the intensive system facilitates the control and prevention of parasitic diseases. Thanks to the type of facility where the birds are housed, constant cleaning and disinfection is done, which interrupts the cycles of the parasites. This should be taken into account for example in the case of avian coccidiosis. Avian coccidiosis has a greater presence in humid areas and its transmission is facilitated when it is perpetuated in the environment. Avian coccidiosis is perhaps the most important parasitic disease in the world today.
Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties of the intensive system is the cost of maintaining the facilities. On the other hand, it requires manpower in large numbers and qualified staff to carry out different operations.
Semi-intensive (or flooring) production system
The semi-intensive or floor system is an intermediate type of production compared to the others. For example, the cost of infrastructure is moderate. Birds will have both available grazing space and facilities to provide cover, perches, feeders, and troughs. This translates into a moderate labor demand, as it requires people to maintain facilities and bird management.
Diet and management
On the other hand, the cost of feed is higher compared to grazing. However, it also allows the use of forage plants as a supplement in their diet. Added to this, losses from theft or predation are low.
Concerning production, it is also considered to be intermediate between the intensive and the extensive system. It presents a production of 150 eggs/bird/year.
Extensive (or grazing) production system
Facilities and advantages
The investment to be made in their infrastructure is low because they remain outdoors. They just need a clean grazing area, free of dirt or foreign materials. This type of system guarantees the freedoms and animal welfare of birds, allowing their natural behavior. Consumers have better perception for the products produced in this type of systems.
On the other hand, it requires little manpower due to the low infrastructure required in this system. Added to this, the cost of food is also considered better as birds ingest food from the environment. However, this should be carefully analyzed because this type of food can predispose to the appearance of diseases such as Coccidiosis or helminths.
Diet and management
One of the advantages of the extensive or grazing system is that it allows the use of forage plants. This allows to reduce feed costs while favoring the use of natives plants.
The extensive or grazing system allows the use of creole or crossbreeds. These breeds are less specialized in production but can give advantages over the environment where they are thanks to their adaptation.
However, the extensive or grazing system also presents challenges and difficulties. One of them is losses due to theft or predators of hens. Besides, the production is lower, being calculated between 60-70 eggs/bird/year, which is significant lower compared to other systems. For meat production also applies this decrease in the yield, due to a lower growth rate.
The latter can be explained by three main reasons: 1) the non-specialized breeds used in this system 2) the nutrition based on the consumption of fodder and elements of the environment 3) the stress produced by the environmental factors (rain, predators, winds, heat)
Important elements in all systems
Beyond the differences that systems may present, there are elements that all have in common and must always be considered.
Perches are horizontal elements where birds can climb to rest and sleep. They have been found to promote animal welfare by decreasing the itching and aggressiveness among birds. The population density must be taken into account to adjust the acceptable number of perches in each production system.
Nests are elements where hens can lay their eggs. It is important to have them in the extensive and semi-intensive systems because they reduce the loss of eggs, preventing them from being laid while sleeping. These nests must be individual, dark, and covered.
Feeders and troughs
Feeders and troughs are elements that must always be in any poultry production system. It is important to provide water for birds and sufficient food for each. For this, it is essential to respect the maximum population density of each system.
In the extensive system, the floor is usually the natural environment where the birds stay: from land to a grassy area. In the semi-intensive system different materials such as rice husk, wood chips, sawdust, among others are used. The intensive system uses the cage. In any case, the comfort of the bird and the optimal hygiene conditions must be guaranteed to prevent diseases.
Poultry farming is one of the most important production systems in the world. In poultry farming, there are mainly three types of production systems based on their facilities and management. There are intensive, semi-intensive and extensive systems. Each one has some characteristics and, therefore, advantages and disadvantages that must be evaluated to be properly implemented. According to the region where a poultry farm is installed, economic capacity, and market analysis, one system or another will be chosen.
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