“Establishing Pullet Welfare Measurements and Guidelines for Growers and Managers on Commercial Poultry Farms” is geared toward pullet managers and producers in the North-Central region. This region contains a large proportion of egg production in the United States. Welfare measurements will first be trialed on commercial farms in Indiana and then expanded into the entire North-Central region. Information gained will be shared through a peer-reviewed, numbered extension article and accompanying videos. These videos will demonstrate skills described in the article. If our project is successful, pullet managers and producers will acquire and implement welfare measurements and skills to evaluate and adjust their management styles on a flock-by-flock basis. As a result, the pullets will have improved immune function, increased growth and production efficiencies, and decreased stress. We are currently trialing and validating measurements of stress and welfare in pullets on a research farm. This project will test these same measurements on commercial farms. This will identify any correlation or practicality issues between experimental and in-the-field testing and results. Our measurements will include physiological, immunological, and behavioral parameters. Together, these measurements will create a comprehensive image of a pullet’s adaptability to her environment. This project’s success will depend on feedback from the managers and growers using the information. A survey will be sent to all companies receiving the extension bulletin and videos to gain insight into their influence on management behavior. This information will help the principal investigator revise the document for future disseminations.
Project objectives from proposal:
If our extension publication and training videos are successful, we expect to see pullet managers and growers acquire knowledge about possible welfare measurements and the skills required to implement them. After managers and growers become more comfortable with understanding welfare assessments and how to complete them, they can use these assessments as a means of evaluating their pullet management (optimal management styles will produce higher welfare scores on each of the parameters measured and are preferred over styles that produce lower scores). If more managers and growers adopt these welfare assessments, they will see improved and honed-in management strategies that they can adjust on a flock-by-flock basis. This will lead to improved immune function, increased growth and production efficiencies, and decreased stress to the birds. We will evaluate successful welfare assessment implementation through a follow-up survey for producers and managers. In the long term, researchers and farm staff will have collaborated with each other in order to generate practical on-farm guidelines for the welfare and management of pullets. This may drive formal welfare certifications for pullets which are important for egg label marketing. They may be adopted by UEP and Certified Humane© labels which have standards for adult hens but not pullets.