A new pecking order in the henhouse
With a slogan of “Picken statt zicken” (“pecking without picking a fight”) and an animated advertisement, AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG and its subsidiary Crystalyx Products GmbH have caused something of a flutter. There is of course a serious side to this story, something the company has been working on for many years. It’s a subject that will be right at the top of the agenda for many commercial egg producers in the coming year.
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“From 2017 it will no longer be allowed to keep layer hens with trimmed beaks,” explains Heinrich Icking, Product Manager for Poultry Feed at AGRAVIS. Up to now, debeaking has been common practice to reduce cannibalism, injuries and food waste. The debate about beak trimming is not new, says our expert, and so the story of the peck block at AGRAVIS also goes back some time: “We knew something had to be done and straight away put our minds to the task of getting those vicious beaks under control by some other means.”
Pick blocks to relieve boredom
The result, after many trials and tests, is a specially pressed block made from a variety of grains, minerals and mussel shells – the pick block. One of the main ingredients is calcium carbonate, which is present in several forms. “The birds need it for bone development and for producing healthy egg shells,” says Icking. The peck block is first and foremost a distraction to relieve boredom, however. It is produced like a feed but with a different purpose in mind.
Calmer and better natured flocks
The birds supplement their feed with 1 to 2 grams of material pecked from the block each day, and as the block is hard in places this causes natural wear to the hens’ beaks. The special composition and various textures of the block mean that it retains its interest, reducing behavioural problems such as feather-pecking and cannibalism. “The flock is generally calmer and better natured,” says the AGRAVIS product manager. He adds that it is important that the birds become familiar with the peck blocks right from the start. “When the chicks are one or two weeks old they are already using their beaks to explore everything that’s edible. They should therefore be given access to a stimulus they can manipulate and affect the shape of as soon as possible.” Ideally, pick blocks should be put in with the young birds being raised from chicks and then later with the layer hens.
Ideal addition to the Crystalyx product range
The peck blocks are manufactured at the plant in Oldenburg, where Crystalyx Products GmbH also has its production operation. ”The peck block is the ideal addition to our product range and underlines our aim of being Europe’s number one company for feed blocks for all animals,” claims Reinhard Pröbsting, Managing Director of Crystalyx. The blocks are manufactured in accordance with the strict regulations governing all feed production. The finished peck block is GMP+ and QS certified. The latest product to be added to the range, the Pickblock Natural, which has been on the market since May 2015, is also certified as an organic product, allowing it to be used in organic layer hen production.
Information is available from Heinrich Icking, Product Manager for Poultry, tel. +0049 251 682-2284, email@example.com or go to www.pickblock.info.