Our national and regional teams at LEAF Education spent a fascinating day learning about the poultry industry. Thanks to PD Hook, they visited Affcott Hatchery where they saw the highly efficient process bringing in eggs from local company-owned farms which house between 14,000 and 36,000 breeding birds.
The LEAF Education team toured the entire plant with expert guidance and instruction from Daniel Ashley. The tour began in the Egg Store which has a thorough and complex régime of marking and coding every egg.
Next we viewed the incubators where the eggs remain for 17-18 days. The eggs are then transferred, using automated suction, to baskets where the chicks hatch. Via conveyor belts, the chicks move on through the process which includes vaccination against bronchitis and salmonella.
The many jobs in the industry were highlighted during the tour including the crucial role of the engineer who must be able to fabricate everything that is on site and any repairs need to be immediate. This necessitates regular servicing, and a very through inventory and storage of every part required to keep the hatchery working, as well as the knowledge and ability to analyse any problems and solve them.
The next stage of our day’s learning took us to David Mills’ farm at Lower Dinchope.
Fifty-five years ago, David’s Mum and Dad put their first shed up, despite everyone being nervous that there wouldn’t be the demand for the birds. However, there was, and the market continues to grow, at approximately 1% a year.
Biosecurity is vital. The aim is to restrict the likelihood of bringing disease onto the farm, so poultry farmers do not visit each other’s farms, as they could take disease to another farm or bring a disease home with them.
Following strict biosecurity procedures, we toured some of the sheds where there is evidence of a lot of technology which controls the sheds, and of much data collection.
We learnt so much from our day’s two visits and we are very grateful to PD Hook and to David Mills for taking the time to provide us with such a valuable insight into the industry so that work we carry out with young people is well informed and accurate. Of course, the best way forward is always to call on industry experts and we value the time spent by such people who attend careers fairs and other events to help young people better understand how the chicken they eat is reared and cared for before it reaches their plates.