• Scott Gillingham


Updated: Jul 5, 2019

“If you do not measure it then you cannot manage it.” 

“If you cannot manage it then you cannot improve it.”

Not having a process and tools in place to measure performance is like an athlete not having a stop watch to gauge success in their timed event.  How can an athlete address their weakness and improve if they cannot measure their performance?

As an athlete, today’s chicken is growing at a logarithmic pace.  It is not uncommon to have broilers achieving growth rates of over 5 grams per hour, laying fowl encroaching on an incredible egg a day and breeder performance improving even with the consequence of success of their progeny.  With such improvements, we are left in a world of accountability each and every minute.  Accountability means we must write down what we do, do what we write down and prove it.  Record keeping starts with data collection, which in turn stimulates discussion, which will lead to direction and if need be discipline! As mentioned, field performance is at an incredible pace, high expectations established in live production and in processing returns.  Much can be attributed to genetic potential.  Depending on which trait we are considering, genetic traits do have a limit! The factors that have an effect on genetic potential are in the hands of the operation.  Figure 1 considers the importance of nutrition, health, environment and management.  With optimization of these critical components, genetic potential can reach a level of excellence needed for profitability and efficiency to meet today’s standards in sustainability and welfare.

Considering the four components in today’s field performance requires accountability.  Requirements in health programs, feed formulation, management details, and environmental inputs all have to be maximized for positive returns.  To manage these details requires data and therefore measurements in the production chain.  Once we have a process and are able to measure the output then we can start applying quality improvement methodologies.  It is our goal to have a continuous circle of planning, doing, checking and acting upon.

The question now is “What to Measure”. No doubt we want to measure activities, critical control points and results that are important to achieve our company’s goals. Key Performance Indicators or KPIs help to define and measure those critical points making the progress towards the companies defined goals.  

Brooding parameters of young stock stands out as the most important process to follow. Critical to success in providing healthy viable chicks is to measure all details that are impactful for the chicks finding that comfort zone.  Chick vent temps, crop fill, uniformity and 7 day weights are critical criteria for performance and understanding the challenges that impede success.  When people follow the process and measure it then management will be able to act upon it to ensure continuous improvement and above all health.  Gut integrity, a competent immune system, growth rate and musculoskeletal development will be enhanced.  

The hatchery is another critical component of overall chick health and production return.  Hatch profiles differ between breeds, hatch windows need to be predictable and age of breeder considered.  The way to optimize these variables for hatch efficiency is data collection.  Evaporation rates, egg temperatures, chick yields, turning frequency and angle with concluding chick vent temps are some of the critical data points to consider.  Lack of attention to detail for each and every hatch will have detrimental effect on disease prevention, hatch and cull percentage, body weight and even bursal health. From maximizing egg pack standards, to egg set, to hatch process, to chick pull and service, data is our tool in making the management and maintenance changes to maximize chick output and above all chick health.

Production is no different.  On a bigger scale and using advanced automated tools and sensors, management can now measure and manage feed, lighting, air, water, space and security (figure 2).  These new management tools are becoming more user friendly with remote capabilities.  Advanced technology married with efficient software capabilities allow management to optimizing environmental parameters for growth and prosperity in the poultry production chain.  Like “having a brain in the barn” figure 3, the manager can now manage bird behavior and bird potential each and every minute.

In conclusion, measuring only is not a replacement for management.  Measuring, a valuable action tool, is complementary to management.  Measure what you can and take it seriously, adjusting the equipment and the environment for health and production return.  There is no room for error in our production systems.  Birds perceive change, tolerate little hence vitally important to measure and manage each and every minute.  Remote auditing and review with active managerial input is the key for success. Remember to measure what’s important, review the metrics and benchmarks, reward people for exceeding goals and keep fine tuning for success.

About the Author

Scott Gillingham Certified with the American College of Poultry Veterinarians, Dr. Scott Gillingham has been in the poultry industry for over 30 years. He has a commitment to Poultry Health and management through preventive medicine, disease control, genetic contribution, education and service. Author of Raising Amazing Chicks – The First Seven Days, Dr. Gillingham created iChicken to bring his vast experience of both commercial and personal farming to backyard farmers everywhere. He focuses on strategies that optimize production parameters and develop programs and concepts towards food safety.

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Maximum Ag Technologies Corporate Office

6726 Roger Drive, Suite A

Jenison, MI  49428

Phone:  (616) 350-9000

​Fax:  (616) 209-7319

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