Precision Broiler Breeder Feeding System
Dr. Martin Zuidhof and his research team at the University of Alberta have been developing a Precision Broiler Breeder Feeding System toward providing an innovative integrated feeding management solution that will dramatically improve flock uniformity, increase chick production from each hen by close to 10 per cent, and improve bird welfare by providing feed more frequently than commercial management systems currently allow. The aim of the feeding system design is to control individual bird feed intake by precisely matching individual real-time body weight measurements to body weight targets.
The initial prototype was built and tested in 2013. With it, the researchers completed a 20-week pilot study with a small group of free run broiler breeder pullets, identifying design issues along the way and improving the design. A beta prototype has been manufactured, and a full 60-week broiler breeder precision feeding trial is underway.
In free run birds, the Precision Feeding Station controlled individual bird feed intake by accurately matching real-time body weight measurements of individual birds to body weight targets. All birds were able to individually enter the feeding station and eat in a protected enclosure. Birds were weighed in the station and offered feed if they were below the target body weight or gently removed from the station if they were heavier. Meal size and the amount of time they could spend eating were controlled by software settings. Output from the bird and feeder scales (2 readings per second) illustrate the form of the data the researchers were able to collect with the system. The meal size was less than the daily feed required to grow at the target rate so that birds received multiple meals each day. This allowed individual birds to “graze” throughout the day, which stabilized their metabolism. It is likely that more frequent feeding is beneficial for gut health over skipping meals (Wilson et al. 2013)
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More About the Poultry Research Center
The Poultry Research Centre (PRC) is an internationally recognized collaborative R&D and learning hub formed in 1986. The PRC is located on the University of Alberta Farms, South Campus in Edmonton. It is also a unique partnership between the University of Alberta, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, and the poultry industry. The PRC consists of an interdisciplinary team of scientists who conduct research aimed at benefiting egg and poultry producers, food processors and manufacturers, functional food and nutraceutical industries. The PRC’s state of the art research facilities and equipment are one of the best in North America.
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