Poultry plays very important role for mankind through food supply, income and employment generation, providing raw materials to some industries, facilitating research works etc. Poultry provide humans with companionship, food and fiber in the form of eggs, meat and feathers. Many people love to raise and show chickens and other poultry species at fairs and other poultry shows. Others just love to raise them for backyard pets and for fresh eggs every day. There is a large commercial chicken industry that provides us with eggs and meat.
Worldwide, more chickens are kept than any other type of poultry, with over 50 billion birds being raised each year as a source of meat and eggs. Traditionally, such birds would have been kept extensively in small flocks, foraging during the day and housed at night. This is still the case in developing countries, where the women often make important contributions to family livelihoods through keeping poultry. However, rising world populations and urbanization have led to the bulk of production being in larger, more intensive specialist units. These are often situated close to where the feed is grown or near to where the meat is needed, and result in cheap, safe food being made available for urban communities. Profitability of production depends very much on the price of feed, which has been rising. High feed costs could limit further development of poultry farming production.
In free-range husbandry, the birds can roam freely outdoors for at least part of the day. Often, this is in large enclosures, but the birds have access to natural conditions and can exhibit their normal behaviours. A more intensive system is yarding, in which the birds have access to a fenced yard and poultry house at a higher stocking rate. Poultry can also be kept in a barn system, with no access to the open air, but with the ability to move around freely inside the building. The most intensive system for egg-laying chickens is poultry layer cages, often set in multiple tiers. In these, several birds share a small cage which restricts their ability to move around and behave in a normal manner. The eggs are laid on the floor of the layer cage and roll into troughs outside for ease of collection.
Chickens raised intensively for their meat are known as “broilers”. Breeds have been developed that can grow to an acceptable carcass size (2 kg (4.4 lb)) in six weeks or less. Broilers grow so fast, their legs cannot always support their weight and their hearts and respiratory systems may not be able to supply enough oxygen to their developing muscles. Mortality rates at 1% are much higher than for less-intensively reared laying birds which take 18 weeks to reach similar weights. The amount of time required for broilers to reach a given target weight has been considerably reduced due to improvements in genetics, nutrition and management. At the same time, processing body weight requirements have become more precise in response to market demand.
Both intensive and free-range farming have animal welfare concerns. In intensive systems, cannibalism, feather pecking and vent pecking can be common, with some farmers using beak trimming as a preventative measure. Diseases can also be common and spread rapidly through the flock. In extensive systems, the birds are exposed to adverse weather conditions and are vulnerable to predators and disease-carrying wild birds. Barn systems have been found to have the worst bird welfare. In Southeast Asia, a lack of disease control in free-range farming has been associated with outbreaks of avian influenza.
Therefore, the chickens reared in the poultry cages are much better than other rearing methods. What’s more, the poultry cages occupy smaller space and can ensure the high stocking density, which greatly increases the meat production and egg production. A recent study shows the poultry industry is a big contributor to Virginia’s economy. The study by the economic research firm John Dunham & Associates found that the industry contributed $13.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2014.The study says more than 52,000 jobs are linked to poultry, including more than 15,000 jobs in the industry and more than 24,000 supplier jobs. Wages connected to the industry totaled $2.8 billion in 2014. Virginia Poultry Federation President Hobey Bauhan said the poultry industry’s economic impact extends to livelihoods in various service and product industries. John Dunham & Associates conducted the study for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.
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