Animal welfare is increasingly high on the list of consumer criteria in choosing food . Mainly because there is a proven link between the food safety o and the welfare of the animal.
In poultry farming, access to an outdoor run is, in the consumer’s view, a key component of bird welfare and poultry product quality. Access to an outdoor run is part of a number of specifications, including organic farming.
As shown in recent studies, far from just being a legal requirement, providing access to a run is an attractive option for the farmer. Provided that the rules governing the design of a properly functional outdoor run are strictlyincorporating optimum parasitism and predation managementthe farmer can benefit of added value from the poultry outdoor run (improved production, environmental, economic and ecological performance) along with greater autonomy.
So what does designing an outdoor run involve? What are the benefits and drawbacks for the farm?
In free-range poultry farming a piece of land is attached to the hen house to which the birds have access. The run enables them to express their natural behaviour of searching for food. For this plot to be explored, accomadations should be provided (tree plantings, attractive sward seedings). In order to derive maximum benefit from the run, some conditions have to be fullfil in the design of it. One of the rules is to ensure a tree cover not exceeding 50% of the run area. Distance between trees should not exceed10 m. Vertical landmarks (as directing guids) can also help birds to find their way in the run. If the chicken ake advantages from the run, the opposite is also true.
Hens help to manage parasites and weeds that are detrimental to a tree’s productivity and they supply growth-promoting manure.
If range management appears as an essential condition for optimizing free range poultry performance, , Wallonia has only few experience of this area (unlike neighbouring countries). So, in response to demand from poultry farmers of a network set up by CRA-W, a training session was held in February 2015 at “La Chambre d’Agriculture du Mans”. This involved around fifteen attendees from farming, support, poultry industry and research backgrounds. Following this training course CRA-W has collaborated with AWE and the‘Coq des Prés farmer’s cooperative in the setting up of dossiers of two regional research and experimental centres. These centres could serve as a showcase for other poultry farmers keen to optimise the use of their runs.