WINDHOEK – Shorter winter days depress egg production. Day length or lighting periods are therefore very crucial to laying birds as lighting affects the anterior pituitary gland, which stimulates or depresses egg production.
“It should be noted that under natural conditions egg production is highest during summer and lowest in winter. This is because the longer days in summer expose birds to lengthier periods of daylight, which stimulates egg production,” said Emilie Abraham, technical officer within Agribank’s Agri Advisory Services Division.
During winter, birds tend to consume more feed and drink less water, while the opposite is true in summer. Weather changes, particularly cold months, can affect the productivity of birds.
Poultry farmers are therefore advised to plan properly to safeguard their profits during this challenging time. The most common concern for many poultry farmers is determining how to maintain constant egg production during the winter season to sustain profits and take advantage of high egg prices in winter.
Abraham said research shows that sunlight directly influences egg production in laying birds. “Generally, laying birds require 16 hours of lighting to lay well. Farmers are therefore advised to add artificial lighting facilities to supplement natural light,” she highlighted.
As much as light is important to laying birds, Abraham cautioned farmers not to leave lights on all night. “The reason for this is laying hens need to sleep at night and rest for optimum production,” justified Abraham. She recommended the artificial light to be turned on as early as 02:00 to ensure a 16-hour lighting period and eight hours of darkness for resting.
Molting is another issue that needs to be monitored by farmers to make sure they produce good quality eggs. “Molting refers to the natural process of the shedding of feathers and re-growth. Once the amount of daylight reduces, it signals to the bird that it is time to rest and replenish,” pointed out Abraham. In general, the natural time for molting is April to May, to allow laying birds to regrow new feathers to insulate the body during the cold winter season.
“The molting process can last up to eight weeks; however, it can be prolonged to 12 weeks and beyond in poor layers. Thus, vitamin supplementation and proper feeding (high-quality feed and balanced diets) are recommended to accelerate the molting process,” stated Abraham.
Another contributing factor to the quality of eggs is low temperature. “Low temperatures can cause an overall lower laying rate and a decrease in the total number of eggs produced per hen,” Abraham said.
She mentioned that the weather demands more energy from birds. “Thus in winter, most of the feed goes to energy production to keep the bird’s body warm, rather than egg production,” accentuated Abraham.
Farmers are therefore advised to feed high-quality feed and increase feeding allowance per bird by at least five grams. Under normal conditions, the feeding allowance per bird is 110-120 grams. The allowance, therefore, can be increased to 125 grams per bird. Increasing feeding allowance can be seen as an additional cost; however, it is a worthy investment in order to maintain constant egg production.
There are other factors that can contribute to a decline in egg production which includes age, inconsistent water supply, poor diets, and sickness. “Naturally reduced egg production is a common challenge in winter irrespective of the good health of a bird,” said Abraham.
It is therefore vital for farmers to reduce cold stress by providing vitamin, ensuring proper feeding, maintaining 16 hours of lighting and supplying fresh water for their poultry birds consistently. This is key to maintain constant egg production throughout the entire laying period and ensure a consistent and reliable supply of eggs to customers.
2019-07-02 10:39:43 2 months ago