By utilizing this NIR technology, the company maintains that producers and nutritionists will gain immediate access to real-time body composition assessments of their hens, empowering them to make on-the-spot decisions regarding dietary adjustments for long-term flock performance.
We caught up with Cargill team behind Reveal Layers at IPPE 2024 in Atlanta. They have been working on the hand-held tool for the past five to six years.
“It has long been an industry practice to evaluate the body condition of broiler breeders, but such assessment has typically not been conducted in relation to laying hens," explained Ines Carvalhido, technology lead. But, being innovation minded, Cargill is looking to do so in laying hen production, with the idea of improving liver function, along with laying persistency, that is laying hens with the capacity to produce quality eggs for longer, she told us.
The technology is being introduced at a critical time, she continued, given the challenges producers face with egg prices and rising input costs, particularly feed expenses.
The significance of assessing body fat condition in laying hens was highlighted by Lieske van Eck, senior scientist at Cargill, who explained the crucial relationship between body fat and liver functionality. As the liver plays a pivotal role in egg production by producing the egg yolk, overdeveloped fat pads in birds can pose challenges for long-term egg production and optimal liver function.
Cargill's NIR technology is compact in scale and offers a non-invasive method to measure the bird's fat pads, providing producers and nutritionists with actionable datal, she said.
This data enables them to adapt the diet to achieve the desired layer body composition, thereby sustaining egg production over an extended period.
According to van Eck, the age and breed of the hens dictate the ideal fat pad weight target, and adjustments to diet composition, such as incorporating specific oils or amino acids, can positively impact liver function.
In the absence of this technology, assessing body fat condition would typically involve sacrificing a hen. Cargill's non-invasive hand-held tool, however, revolutionizes this process, allowing layer operators to rapidly measure fat pad weight in hundreds of live birds within 10-30 seconds per scan, reported van Eck.
Carvalhido added that as a way to validate the effectiveness of the technology, Cargill conducted a two-year pilot in selected customer operations across multiple global regions, including farms in Costa Rica, China, South Korea, Brazil, North America, and Europe. The successful pilot paved the way for the formal launch of the Reveal Layers tool at IPPE.