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Wot-a-Pullet team travel to Holland

26 October 2016

Wot-a-Pullet team in Holland

On the 19th of September, six members of the Wot-a-Pullet team travelled to Holland, hosted by Hendrix genetics, and gained valuable experience and knowledge about the depths of research and development that goes into producing commercial laying hens.

Hans van Sleeuwen was our host, the European sales director for the company. On behalf of Joice & Hill Poultry (The UK distributor of Hendrix breeds) were Peter Rogerson (North of England technical sales) and Peter Cumbers (UK Sales director). The three of them were fantastic in the way they filled the trip with insightful farm visits, along with a very interesting lecture from Frans Van Sambeek where we learnt in detail about genetics and what exactly is behind the whole process.

On the first day we visited a range of rearing farms, where we saw both a jump start system and their aviary system. We can draw a lot of parallels to the jump start as we have our own version, and in some respects to the Aviary as we have one of our own at Bucks, in Hertfordshire. However, Freedom Foods prevent us going to 3 tiers in this country – so it was interesting to see how effective the three tier was.

Where we see the biggest difference on the continent actually begins with the consumer. In the UK the vast majority of shell egg is brown, whereas in Europe it is white (in Holland it is now approximately 70% white egg production). The only difference being purely aesthetic. The breeds of bird that lay white eggs are vastly more efficient, Hendrix offer the Dekalb White - they lay more eggs, eat less feed, liveability is better and their temperament seems to be much calmer (less stress), which you would think would help with management so long as floor eggs aren’t an issue. This raises the question as to whether we will see our own market go down the white egg route in this country, especially with the price pressure from supermarkets constantly niggling at the UK farmers margin.

We gained some invaluable knowledge. Amazingly, one pure line hen is responsible for 100,000 commercial layers of the UK flock, which trickles down through GPS and PS and into commercial production. The depths of R&D is also incredible. Selection is extremely thorough with over 90 traits to actively select for. Heritability is scored on a scale of 0-100%, for example, feather is cover is 100%, liveability is 0.05% and production is 50%.

The team came back inspired after such an educational and informative trip. A special thanks to Joice and Hill poultry and Hendrix Genetics for being fantastic hosts. It was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone involved and the experience gained will surely benefit our company going forward.