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‘Technical’ Chickens Talk of SWCA Annual Conference

04 June 2013

UK - 'The modern chicken needs modern management'. This was the key message presented by Alan Thomson, Aviagen Regional Commercial and Technical Manager, at the 25th South West Chicken Association annual conference.

Alan Thomson, Aviagen Regional Commercial and Technical Manager, giving his Technical Chickens presentation

During his presentation, titled Technical Chickens, Mr Thomson put the point across that chickens are both biological and technical animals. As a result, management and husbandry of these animals represents both a challenge and an opportunity for poultry producers. To successfully manage the modern chicken takes a very different approach from even ten years previously.

Mr Thomson said: "Whilst the general public may imagine we are just ‘chicken farmers’, the modern bird, developed through years of focused selection, requires significant management input if it is to realise its potential.

"Even from a decade previously, we take around 17 per cent less time to reach a similar slaughter weight. This means that the management period is condensed and while the birds’ performance is improved in terms of health, liveability, welfare and growth, they are more sensitive to management inputs."

The summarising thought from the speech was that chicken farming is a very technical process and key technical inputs at critical times are vitally important to gain optimum performance. Of key focus has been the early life especially the crucial first 24 hours and seven days of life.

Mr Thomson explained: "The first seven days are around 20 per cent of a bird’s life and delayed birds don’t tend to catch up. The gut is the ‘engine room’ of the chicken and birds’ ability to digest feed is easily influenced, particularly in the early stages.

"This is why we talk about the importance of getting chicks started, gut development, development of appetite, stress management. Aviagen understands that gut health is vital, which is why we have invested substantial R & D effort into this subject."

The South West Chicken Association event attracted a wider variety of guests from poultry experts to MPs keen to hear more about one of the UK’s biggest agricultural sectors.

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