Re-discovering the basics for powering progress
Farmers, breeders, butchers and feed professionals together under one roof – that was the unique collaboration that the Turkey Academy in Poland provided. It was the first collaboration of its kind, enabling participating parties to share insights about business opportunities and challenges. Now, with new regulations under way, turkey farmers are under more pressure than ever. To help them, De Heus is exploring how to bring insights from the Academy into the spotlight.
At the Turkey Academy, they made it their mission to know everything there is to know about the proper conditions for turkey farming and share this with turkey farmers. Breeding turkeys requires a lot of attention from the farmers and up-to-date management facilities, with great attention to hygiene and ventilation. However, there is still a group of farmers in Poland that is struggling to keep up. “We need to help them create a better farm – from the very start of a business idea. And not just with feeding products, but with holistic support,” says Joanna Rybak, Product Manager for De Heus.
Many farms have been using the same production methods in the same way for years. Now, with new regulations being introduced in 2022, there is a strong incentive to change. That’s when a new Act will take effect to reduce the use of antibiotics to accelerate the transition towards antibiotic-free turkey breeding and fattening. “We don’t want farmers to be forced to stop what they’re doing. We want to help them make the necessary transition, before the law comes into effect,” says Katarzyna Dryjer, marketing specialist for the Turkey Academy project. “But often, they lack the awareness and knowledge to do so. We do not want breeders to suffer financial losses or have to reduce production. We want to help them prepare for the changes ahead. Breeders are concerned about welfare, but sometimes they need support to change,” adds Rybak.
A holistic approach to farming
Encouraged by the insights from the Turkey Academy and the enthusiasm of participating farmers, De Heus developed a test farm close to its Polish headquarters. Here, Rybak works to develop viable antibiotic-free breeding concepts. By gathering information about every detail, from micro-climate to ventilation, from using prophylactics to feed, she can advise customers to help them professionalise their business, depending on their specific situation. Which is for good reason.
“Turkeys are quite sensitive to their surroundings,” Rybak points out. “And no two turkey farmers are the same. Especially when the animals reach reproductive age, their immune systems are easily weakened.” De Heus reaches out to the group that is still struggling to meet the standards and show them that the transition towards antibiotic-free starts with re-discovering the basics of breeding.
With antibiotic-free fattening, animal health is important in every step of the way, starting with selecting chicks from the right hatcheries, setting up vaccination programmes, efficient lighting and feeding programmes. Rybak: “The test farm is important because we can show our clients that we know what we’re talking about.” Besides the test farm, De Heus also works with referral farms – independent businesses that adopt and experiment with the concepts developed on the test farm.
Thought for food
The project is taken one step further. “There is a real need to provide our customers with adequate solutions to their situation,” says Dryjer. “The key to making the transition is knowledge
and confidence. So, we filmed each part of the turkey fattening process on the test farm.” From the breeding process to the chick’s introduction to the coop, and the workings of proper herd management, Dryjer and her team spent July to December of last year documenting all aspects of the breeding process.
The next challenge is reaching the right ‘audience’ and getting more farmers on board. “Our customers already know how we can help them,” explains Dryjer. “Our goal is to reach farmers who don’t.” The test farm and referral farms play a crucial role, because these are Dryjer’s testing ground. By sharing the results in short informative videos, she wants to reassure farmers who are still struggling that they’re going in the right direction and give them that last boost of confidence.
With this online video series, Dryjer is carrying on where the participants left off and continuing to support and empower turkey farmers in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Breeders are very busy people,” she points out. “By providing them with short, accessible online materials, I hope to show farmers how to make the necessary changes to secure their future. It’s about finding sustainable solutions. From then on, it’s one step at a time.”