Producing high quality male breeders and reducing injuries at feeding were two key topics at the recent DSM conference. Lucy Knowles reports

A sustainable growth profile is critical in order to produce good quality male breeders with high levels of fertility, according to Lindsay Broadbent UK customer account co-ordinator, Aviagen.

At a recent DSM conference in Coventry, Mr Broadbent said that early growth and development were extremely important for future fertility.

Best results for maintaining a growth profile of uniformity can be achieved by constantly increasing the body weight and feeding profile.

One of the key objectives of rearing good males is for them to ideally mate with females at 19-22 weeks, he said.

Mr Broadbent said that skeleton size and leg length were of a significant influence to fertility, especially in the latter half of laying.

He also said that males with smaller skeletons and short legs will have fertility problems, as a small frame would leave them unable to mate properly, due to the female’s constant growth pattern.

According to Mr Broadbent one solution to this problem is good uniformity which can be achieved by grading the males at 4-5 weeks of age.

A second grading can be carried out at 10 weeks if necessary but there is little point in grading after this time as effects on the skeleton size are minimal.

Males should weigh up to 1100-1200g at six weeks of age to promote the frame size, said Mr Broadbent.

At 10-11 weeks, birds will become refractory as hormonal activity begins with testis growth beginning at 10 weeks until 15 weeks, said Mr Broadbent.

Stocking density and feeder space have a significant influence on male quality. Ideally there should be 2-2.5 sq ft per male or 5-5.5 per sq m to avoid limiting quality.

Mr Broadbent advised that bodyweight and uniformity must be correct before male selection. Legs and feet should be straight with no deformities and posture should be upright, any deformed birds should be culled. Colouring up acts as an important indication of maturity.

The critical period often comes after transfer when good males can be damaged, as they find it hard to find feed.

Leaving the lights on for the first night to give the males more time to find feed

and also checking pre-transfer weight will help overcome this problem. Adjusting feed levels to prevent females stealing male feed and to ensure they achieve the correct weight gain is also important.

It’s significant to ensure the males move forward to maturity at 22 weeks and all weaker birds should be culled at this stage reaching sexual maturity at 24 weeks. Light stimulation should take place no later than 140 days, he said.

Ideally peak hatches should be 90%+ and peak persistency should be sustained as long as possible. A hatch at the end of laying should be 78%, said Mr Broadbent.

Increasing the target weight by 100g at 24 weeks will help fertility and feed should be increased by 5g a week from 20 weeks.

Mr Broadbent thought that too much emphasis has been focused on weight alone but that achieving a good frame and muscle tone was significant.

Signal light explained

Accidents and losses can occur at feeding time as birds often fight over feed coming out of the hopper. However, signal lighting feeding can reduce injuries at these key periods.

Pelayo Casanovas technical director of Cobb Europe, explained the technique at a recent DSM seminar in Coventry.

It aims to take the focus away from the producer, as the pullets normally associate his presence in the shed with feeding time. Leg problems related to the stress of feeding are one of the reasons for losses during the rearing period.

It teaches birds to associate feeding with a sign and the light becomes the signal rather than the producer, he said.

It changes the behaviour of the bird completely and they will never associate feeding with anything else other than the light being switched on. It starts on week three and it will take them a week to get used to it, said Mr Casonovas.

The pullets will be calmer as a result with fewer injuries and will benefit on longer feed consumption, as they will not eat so quickly.