Externally funded project

Free range access for organically reared pullets

Project Details
Project duration: 11/200907/2010

The effect of access to the free-range for organic pullets on animal health was investigated using data from Switzerland, Austria and Denmark, in order to elaborate recommendations for the rearing of organic pullets in Germany according to the EU regulation on organic production. Data from in total 226 rearing batches from 58 rearing units with free-range access were recorded and analysed. Data from 17 organic rearing units in Germany were available as reference values. Concerning husbandry conditions there was large variation between and partly within countries. In particular this applied to housing systems, size of the covered outdoor yard, size and design of the free-range and time of first access to the different outdoor areas, as well as kind and intensity of hygiene measures. Mortality per rearing batch was on average between 2.5 % and 3.1 %. This was similar to the mortality rate on German units without free-range access (3.4 %). About 80 % of losses took place before birds had free-range access, mostly within the first three weeks of life. Predators were a problem for many farms. Losses due to infection were rare and happened early during rearing. Incidences of antibiotic or antiparasitic treatments were low (0.02 to 0.05 per rearing batch). Pullet weights reached similar levels between all countries, only uniformity showed larger variation. No indications for specific health problems due to free-range access for pullets could be detected. However, the large variation in results hints at a possibly larger challenge regarding proper management under free-range conditions. Based on the practical experiences in the surveyed countries recommendations concerning free-range management and design are provided.

Last updated on 2020-24-09 at 11:37