For every cracked egg that comes off your collection system, you are losing potential income. Did you know that it is not uncommon to see 4-6% breakage during the process of egg gathering alone? Broken and cracked eggs can result in significant losses – but there is a lot you can do!
While egg shell quality is dependent on many factors, this article will focus on the journey eggs take from the time they are laid, until they reach the cooler. If you take a close look at the equipment and processes eggs are exposed to during this timeframe, you can significantly decrease your undergrades and increase your profits.
Every barn and every egg collection system is different – so you need to be the detective and use a critical eye to evaluate your systems. Observe the eggs as they move through the system and follow through this list of items to assess.
- At each transition, or area where eggs are changing direction or moving to a new belt, watch and listen to the eggs move in this area.
- Is the transition as flat as possible? If no, adjust the transition so it is as flat and smooth as possible.
- Are any eggs bumping into each other or hitting equipment too hard? If so, consider making an adjustment to reduce these collisions. Possible solutions include:
- Adding dividers so eggs don’t run into each other
- Adjust the speed of your system – slow it down! You may want to consider installing a frequency drive system, that automatically slows the system down when a high number of eggs are sensed.
- If the equipment the eggs are bumping into are hard (for example, made of metal), it may be beneficial to cover these areas with plastic. One farmer has reported that sliding a ¼” plastic pipe onto each metal round bar on their conveyor made a big difference to their undergrades.
- Closely assess all of your egg gathering equipment.
- Are there any:
- pieces of wire that could cause eggs to get caught or poked?
- protruding wires or clips?
- improperly aligned collection belts?
- Are there any:
If you find any of these issues, take steps to repair or adjust your equipment to reduce the impact.
- Is your egg gathering equipment clean and well maintained? Cleaning and oiling gathering equipment has been shown to reduce cracks – in some cases by 1%. If you haven’t already, consider adding this as a regular part of your maintenance schedule.
- Are there any areas where eggs are crowding?
- If you have a system that advances your egg belt, you may need to adjust it so the belt is moved more often.
- It may be helpful to gather eggs more frequently. It has been proven that the more often eggs are gathered the fewer egg collisions.
- Who is gathering eggs? Have they been trained to use gentle hands?
- Did you know that temperature can affect egg breakage? Higher environmental temperatures are associated with a decrease in shell quality. Allowing eggs to cool before handling or transporting from the lay house can reduce damage because shell strength increases as the shell temperature decreases. Maintaining hen house temperatures on the lower end of the spectrum may be beneficial.
As you gather eggs, take note of the number of cracks and breakages and take steps to investigate when your numbers increase. Below is a list of some of the common issues and some possible solutions.
- Do you see a lot of toe picks in your eggs?
- Are your eggs piling up somewhere in the hen housing area? Take a close look at where eggs are resting before you run your egg belts and make necessary adjustments to ensure eggs are rolling out of the hen housing area.
- Is the hen housing area calm and quiet during periods of lay? Be sure to leave your barn walk-throughs, cleaning and maintenance to times outside of peak lay hours so as not to disrupt the birds.
- If you have a furnished or loose housing system with perches, are you finding broken eggs under the perch or a large number of significant cracks? If so, your hens could be laying eggs from the perch. You may need to encourage hens to get off the perch and go to the nest to lay – you can try turning your lights on earlier so that birds have time to go to the nest before they lay.
If you are building or renovating your barn it pays to think about how your purchase decisions could impact breakages. Consider how you could decrease the distance eggs need to travel on the egg belt and how to reduce the number of transitions in your gathering system.
Let us know if you’ve found this information helpful and if you have other suggestions to help reduce undergrades by e-mailing [email protected].