Cobb500: A Balanced Product that Satisfies Everyone21 September 2012
With the Cobb500 enjoying its highest ever sales in Spain, Cobb Española is investing €5 million (US$6.3 million) this year in expanding hatchery and farm output.
In the last six years, the franchise
distributor has doubled sales to four
million parents a year through gaining a
bigger share of the market in Spain and
Portugal and developing new markets in
The Spanish are consuming an average
of 22kg (48.5lb) of chicken a year,
with Cobb representing 44 per cent of
the market. Across North Africa, Cobb
Española is selling more than one
million parents per year to Morocco and
Algeria where it has exclusive
distribution rights and developing new
business in Tunisia.
The increasing popularity of Cobb in Spain is because it suits all sectors of the production chain, says general manager, Rafael Gil junior, who said: "It's a balanced product that satisfies everyone from the breeder farmer to the processing plant."
The first opportunity for expanding production came in 2006
with the purchase of the former Hybro grandparent facilities 250km (156 miles) north of the Cobb Española's headquarters at
Alcalá de Henares – months before the Hybro breed was acquired
by Cobb-Vantress, Inc.
The acquisition by Cobb Española brought the Hybro hatchery at Dueñas and associated rearing and breeding farms. As Steve Chapple explains in the main article inside, this ultimately brought a dilemma – whether to expand the two hatcheries or go for a new one.
The recently opened hatchery at Dueñas has a capacity of more than five million chicks per year and has been designed to allow for expansion to double this number.
The other significant development is the stake in the company now held by Cobb Germany which replaced one of the Spanish shareholders in 2009. Cobb-Vantress owns 50 percent of the business with Rafael Gil senior retaining his family's share.
"This has been a positive move for the company with Cobb Germany very supportive of our investment and expansion plans," says Rafael Gil junior.
The investment takes place against a background of economic difficulties for Spain. "The supermarkets are putting a lot of pressure on producers," he continued. "There are a few big players at retail level and lots of players at industry level, and uncertainty too about rising feed prices."
The economic difficulties have increased consumer preference for whole birds rather than portions or processed products, with whole chickens selling at €2 per kg. Most of the chicken is eaten at home – 17.5kg out of the 22kg per person per year, with fresh chicken accounting for 95 per cent of sales.
New Hatchery Opens with Sights on Further Expansion
The author met Rafael Gil, Cobb Española's general manager, at a nearby
breeder farm. His family has had a relationship with Cobb that
goes back 42 years when the business was an independent
They drove the few miles back to the hatchery under cloudless blue skies through vast arable countryside famed for its nearby Ribera del Duero vineyards.
The hatchery is very impressive from the outside, with a huge Cobb logo beaming out from the attractive cream and brick red walls rising imperiously above immaculately landscaped gardens.
I asked Rafael about the decision to build a brand new hatchery.
The origins of Cobb Spain are at Alcalá de Henares, just north east of Madrid. That is where our first hatchery was located and near to our grandparent farms, he explained. "In 2006 we thought it would be a good idea to expand our facilities to a different area. We did need more product but we also thought that having two grandparent production centers would be beneficial. So, we bought the hatchery here in Dueñas and three farms from Hybro who had recently finished their operations here."
He continued: "Since then, we have invested in this
area with more farms and other
investments until we got to the point
where we needed more hatchery space.
The board of directors at Cobb Spain
considered two main options: one was
to expand one of the two existing
hatcheries and the other was to build a
brand new hatchery and close the
other two, and that was what we did."
He explained that although the investment was a little higher, they now had a great asset that could be utilized for the greatest benefit to the company.
This hatchery has double the production capacity of their two old hatcheries.
"We have also designed this hatchery for 100 percent future expansion," Rafael explained. "The production rooms are already sized for future expansion and we can easily double the capacity of the setter and hatcher rooms when the time comes."
The author asked if he had visited any hatcheries prior to making the decision to go with Chick Master, "I went to the Cobb-Vantress Lafayette parent stock hatchery in Tennessee after the 2011 Atlanta Show with your sales manager Gregory Vanputte. It was impressive."
Their new hatchery boasts 24 Avida A8-82 two-zone setters and 8 Zephyr C-272-82 hatchers with stainless steel interior panels. The machines incorporate all of the latest Chick Master safety and energy saving features such as variable frequency drives, hot water heating for a fast warm-up to temperature after setting using the copper coils in the setters, and the Break Glass in the hatchers providing extra security and time in the unlikely event of a critical situation.
The first eggs were set just six weeks prior
to our meeting, so Rafael was asked how the
start-up process had gone.
He said: "It went well, like all new hatcheries we have the typical issues because all of the machinery is new so we have to continually make adjustments until we are happy. We are impressed with the quality and results we are getting now but probably the quality we will have in two months’ time will be better still as we find the settings that work best."
On how the team had found the
experience of working with the Avida
setters, he said: "It really is an easy machine to use and manage, this is one of the good
things about your equipment. They
are easy to clean and the ventilation
flow is very nice – the air easily
reaches all of the eggs."
Cobb is using the 82-egg tray that places two trays per frame. "It is a good smaller tray, very manageable on the farm and excellent for transportation. They also work very well especially with our automation equipment," he added.
As we toured this facility, the author was introduced to Vidal Hernandez, the hatchery manager, who was in his office carefully studying his Maestro control system screen. This is Chick Master's new hatchery management and control system which brings all the information generated by the incubators and all other connected equipment in the hatchery to a single point for analysis that allows for highly proactive and informed management.
Cobb Española is the first European hatchery to use this system.
"I can see the status of each incubation system as well as the ventilation equipment, water chiller and much more," said Vidal. "It is easy to use, very informative and a great tool to help me do my job even better."
This hatchery also has
a Chick Master designed
and supplied energy
management system. A
large part of the system is
roof mounted so we
climbed up to the attic to
have a look. The impressive
central duct connects the
main air intake via ultra
violet light treatment and a
heat recovery coil to their
three air handling units. Explaining his decision to go
with this heat recovery and
energy management system
in this seemingly very hot
country, Rafael said: "Let me tell
you that of all the different
areas of Spain, this one is
the coldest. It is 600 metres
above sea level and can get
down to 15°C below zero in
winter. Most people have the image of Spain that is the
Mediterranean in the South where the climate is always very mild
but the center of Spain is very different." It is projected that with
these conditions, Cobb Española will save enough to pay for the
heat recovery system in less than two years.