July 2016

Practice-led innovation supported by science and market-driven actors in the laying hen and other livestock sectors

HORIZON 2020 ISIB-02-2014 project, Grant no. 652638


July: Hennovation Innovation networks

The Hennovation project promotes practice-driven innovation through the establishment and encouragement of innovation networks of producers or those associated with the hen-processing industry to proactively search for, share and use new ideas to improve hen welfare and the efficiency and sustainability of laying-hen systems. Currently there are 12 innovation networks established by the project in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Sweden, Czech Republic and Spain. Eight network focus on topics related to injurious pecking on-farm and four focus on end-of-lay handling and transport.

The size of the on-farm networks varies from five to eight producers with a variety of support actors based on the specific topic addressed by the network e.g. feed company, scientist, and pullet rearer. The laying-hen production system varies between groups, e.g. organic, free range, aviary and furnished cage systems. One of the networks includes producers of several production systems. The networks are exploring a variety of topics based on their need and ideas such as:

  • •the effect of light on injurious pecking
  • •nutrition to prevent injurious pecking
  • •methods of feather scoring
  • •increased communication between pullet rearers and producers
  • •influence of predators on stress and injurious pecking and
  • •new ideas for marketing eggs of non-beak trimmed birds.

Several networks in different countries have identified a similar topic to work on, which provides opportunities for trans-national collaboration.

The  network of organic producers of laying hens in loose housing systems in Spain are worried about the high percentage of mortality caused by predation by birds of prey. The common buzzard is a widespread bird of prey and protected species in Spain. From 2002 to 2014 the population of the common buzzard in Spain has increased by 20%. Producers reported that their hens appear tense and agitated after an attack from a buzzard. Hens are reluctant to access the outdoor area during several days following the attack (see photo of laying hens in outdoor area in Spain). Furthermore, producers indicate a possible relationship between the incidence of injurious pecking and the frequency of attacks from birds. Sheds in areas that are more prone to attacks seem to suffer more cases of injurious pecking.

The producer network decided to gather data on mortality and injurious pecking on the farm of one of the network members to have a more accurate picture of the proportion of mortality caused by birds of prey and its possible relationship with outbreaks of injurious pecking. They also want to evaluate the economic impact of these attacks. Two identical sheds will be compared; one suffering frequently from attacks from birds of prey and cases of injurious pecking and the second shed where both problems are much less frequent. Strategies to prevent the attacks will also be discussed within the networks.