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Researchers assess tracking of laying hens in cage-free systems

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Study finds RFID based trackers can be deployed to track resource utilization by cage-free hens.

Cage-free hens are primarily reared in large numbers in housing environments that have complex designs. To thrive in a physically and socially complex production environment for over 75 weeks, a hen should be able to maintain physiological and social homeostasis. Despite best efforts, cage-free systems have several challenges of their own. To effectively evaluate and predict welfare and/or production issues, systems that can reliably track a hen’s movement in the cage-free environment should be developed. This week, USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation announced the completion of a funded research project at the University of Georgia in which researchers assessed automated tracking of laying hens in cage-free aviary environments. The research was made possible in part by proceeds from the International Poultry Expo, part of International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE). The research is part of the Association’s comprehensive research program encompassing all phases of poultry and egg production and processing. A summary of the completed project is below.

The first objective of the project was to evaluate and validate the reliability of the multi-point RFID system to track individual hen movement in a multi-tier aviary system. The second objective was to compare the space and time related patterns of housing system use by laying hens during peak-lay, mid-lay and end-lay in a multi-tier aviary system.

Principal investigator Dr. Prafulla Regmi, assistant professor within the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Georgia and colleagues, found that Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) based trackers can be deployed to track resource utilization by cage-free hens. Further, the consistency of the data obtained suggested that results from a subset of hens could be extrapolated to the entire flock.

The research summary can be found on the USPOULTRY website.

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