On-farm hatching in Germany

5 stables switched to X-Treck in one go

Marco Steinz (42) and his wife Doreen keep more than 200,000 broilers in Skäßchen in the German federal state of Saxony. In 2017, Marco switched to on-farm hatching, using the X-Treck system of the Vencomatic Group. He made that switch in one go, which is why it was quite exciting.

Marco Steinz(Dutchman) has been working in Germany for nineteen years and you can tell by his slight German accent. Marco: “I started as a branch manager of two dairy farms in Germany but I always had a hunch that one day, I would keep chickens. Also, poultry prices are much stabler than dairy stock prices. And German poultry prices are stabler than those in the Netherlands, because the Dutch market responds much quicker to foreign imports.”

Initiative Tierwohl
Whereas in the Netherlands, poultry farmers can use various concepts such as Beter Leven Kip or Goed Nest Kip, Marco says that in Germany, Initiative Tierwohl (ITW) is particularly significant. Besides more Beschäftigungsmaterial, ITW mainly focuses on keeping fewer animals in the stables: 35 kilos per m2, while normally, it is 39 kilos (and 42 in the Netherlands). Marco: ”In total, we have divided 208,000 licensed stable units across our five stables; one stable measures 1,750 m2 and four stables measure 1,800 m2.  Participating in ITW means we have to keep 21,000 fewer animals in our stables. ITW broilers do pay a bit better.”

The big gain
Initiative Tierwohl aims at a higher level of animal welfare, which is why Marco thinks it fits in nicely with on-farm hatching. “You're no longer transporting recently hatched chicks, and that's the biggest gain forTierwohl. A stress-free start for the chicks is better for the animals and for me, it means that ultimately, these chicks are stronger and hardly suffer from enterococcus. I hope the entire poultry sector will switch to on-farm hatching. As a sector, we can only survive if we take animal welfare into account and make sure the animals are healthy. But it also means the prices we get for our products have to be right.”

At working height
In 2017, Marco started to seriously research on-farm hatching systems and he soon discovered the system of the Vencomatic Group. “For a business with more than 200,000 animals, the X-Treck is ideal because it sits at working height. So no racks on the floor and no looking for unhatched eggs on the stable floor.” Marco consulted a lot of poultry farmers in the Netherlands who already used X-Treck. “I saw photos and information about X-Treck on Twitter, which is how I got in contact with farmers who were already using the system. I asked them about their experiences. How does it work? How easy is it to switch to X-Treck? They all told me it was an easy switch to make.”

Honest approach
Marco was then visited by someone from the Vencomatic Group. “I was struck by their honest approach. Switching from hatcher chicks to on-farm hatching is a big step to take; you will be doing some of the things the hatcher does, such as selecting the chicks. They were honest about what to expect and they also invited me to Dutch businesses that were already using X-Treck.” Someone from Vencomatic then paid an extensive visit to our stables. He looked at the position of the beams in the ceiling and he took detailed measurements and processed all of that in his drawings. “They really make every effort to make the switch a success.”     

Celebrating Christmas at home
In December 2017, everything was installed for the switch to on-farm hatching. Marco: “That was quite exciting because we had decided to do all five stables in one go. Thanks to Vencomatic's thorough preparations, we could and also, we did help out as much as we could. All X-Treck components were delivered simultaneously, no need for subsequent orders. All five stables were finished within three weeks. And after they had cleared everything away, we were all able to celebrate Christmas at home.” Once everything had been disinfected, the first eggs arrived in January 2018.

The most wonderful thing
The first time the eggs in Marco's stables hatched was witnessed by an employee of the Vencomatic Group. “Before the eggs hatched, he was paying close attention to the ventilation. He measured everything to make sure there wasn't too much wind blowing over the eggs and he made adjustments where needed.” As Marco's German colleagues showed a lot of interest, he decided to hold an open day. “They wanted to find out for themselves about on-farm hatching and X-Treck. Our open day attracted a lot of poultry farmers from all over Germany and I think Vencomatic will sell more X-Treck in Germany.” An average 98% of eggs now hatch, which is a good result and Marco also attributes this to the Schotman farm in the Netherlands. “An excellent result is nice but the most wonderful thing is on-farm hatching; a miracle that will stun you.”