What’s important for broiler breeders?
- Animal welfare: The care and health of broiler breeders is important because breeders are the starting point of the chicken-meat food chain. Starting with proper welfare and care at the top of the chain increases the likelihood that the next generation of birds will be strong and healthy from day one. The proper animal welfare techniques can be implemented, in many ways, by focusing on supporting the birds’ health and comfort at each stage of growth.
- Reproduction rate: The rate at which hens produce a fertilized egg. This rate varies depending on the age, breed and nutrition of the birds.
- Chick quality: This is measured by checking the overall health and weight of a day-old chick. Breed and genetics are strong components of chick quality.
- Mycotoxin prevention: Mycotoxins are toxins produced by molds. Preventing molds and mycotoxins is important because they can hinder performance and create stress.
- Pathogen, parasite and protozoa prevention: External organisms invade and prevent the development and growth of a bird and can sometimes even lead to bird death, so it is important to create an unwelcoming environment for these types of threats.
- Diseases: Broiler breeders are more susceptible to diseases because they live longer than other poultry species. Some common diseases to look out for in broiler-breeders are necrotic enteritis, enterococcal spondylitis, Staphylococcus, impaired mobility ("calcium tetany"), cloacitis, feather picking, avian proliferative pulmonary disease, avian hepatitis E virus infection, and sporadic lymphoid leukosis. In a broiler breeder flock, disease can affect the quality of the broiler chicks produced, so it is vital to implement the proper management and biosecurity plans.
- Low reproduction rate: Maintaining a good reproductive rate can be a challenge if the birds are stressed, are living in poor environmental conditions, are under poor management and/or if they are receiving improper nutrition. The reproductive rate is important because the breeders are the birds reproducing the broilers that go into the food system. A low reproductive rate means that fewer chicks are entering the food chain.
- High FCR: A high feed conversion ratio means that birds are consuming more feed than they are gaining weight, which also means that more resources are going into the birds than are coming out. This can lead to a loss in profits and often signifies that the birds are stressed or are not utilizing their feed as well as they could be.
- Stress: Stress is a common challenge in all species of poultry because their digestive systems are so sensitive. Stress is usually triggered by changes in the diet, climate, management or transportation, among other factors. Signs of stress in broiler breeders typically include weight loss, decreased water intake, lethargy, droopy wings, ruffled feathers, low reproductive rates, panting and more.
- Mycotoxins: Mycotoxins are toxins produced by molds and are usually found in animal feeds. These toxins can lead to a drop in performance stemming from stress on the birds’ immune system.
- Coccidiosis: This is a common disease in poultry and is caused by an invasion of protozoa (Eimeria or Iospora) in the intestine. Coccidiosis is usually identified by inflammation of the intestine, lesions, diarrhea, weight loss and/or sometimes even death.
Tips for maximizing health and performance
- Enhance quality of life by adding enrichment materials.
- Provide antioxidants and minerals that are better absorbed in order to increase the birds’ mineral reserves.
- Incorporate a program that helps prevent and reduce the incidence of disease.
- Regularly test feed for mycotoxins.