Cage-Free Panelist: Aaron Willey

Posted on January 17, 2018

The 2017 Iowa Egg Symposium proved to be an excellent opportunity for egg producers and allied-industry members to gather information and guide their future decisions.

The one-day meeting in Ames, Iowa highlighted topics touching on regulatory and flock health issues as well as an afternoon session focused on presentations discussing a variety of implications impacting the industry’s movement toward cage-free production. Panel experts reported from various fields including animal welfare, economics, production, health and disease, equipment and biosecurity.

Vencomatic Central U.S. Sales Rep Aaron Willey presented on the different generations of cage-free housing design, assuring the attendees the concept of cage-free doesn’t have to be a big scary monster. “There are a lot of systems available on the market today that are very capable and acceptable.”

Willey explained equipment companies are all attempting to improve by listening to their customers and industry researchers, using two examples to illustrate this improvement. One example is the move to a terraced aviary system instead of a vertical front; the terraced design is aimed at encouraging more natural bird movement, as it allows for jumping versus flying. This change in bird movement results in less stress and fewer injuries.

The newest Vencomatic model combining the best of the last two generations of the company’s equipment was put forward as an important second example. The new design is sturdy enough for hen handlers to walk on, allowing them to move over the entire system while conducting their inspections. Additionally, the system encourages hens to migrate back into the system to get water and lay their eggs.

Willey encouraged producers to ‘future-proof their investment’ by suggesting cage-free can go very wrong if the focus is only to skirt the cage-free minimums.

“Be more forward-thinking in your investments,” he encouraged.

Reprinted with permission, Egg Industry Centre, 2017