"Hygiene is the be-all and end-all in our industry: from the beginning to the last egg. Actually, it should be arranged in every company so that it runs well automatically and requires as little human intervention as possible." This is laying hen farmer Koos van Ginkel speaking. Together with his wife Ryanne, they run a farm in Kootwijkerbroek with 60,000 hens with 1 star Beter Leven (Better Life).
"In 2010, we built this farm from scratch. My parents already had a poultry farm with a dairy branch, so we could use their experience. We made a very conscious decision to put the welfare of the chickens first. In concrete terms, this means that the housing, climate, feed, and water must be optimal during the entire round."
Nevertheless, the couple saw room for improvement. Koos says: "We felt that the start-up could be better and therefore we started to think about where improvements could be made. We are on an intensive site and noticed that hygiene has a big impact on our business, especially in terms of disease pressure, mortality, and ultimately production."
All kinds of issues were therefore systematically ruled out. However, the water remained a sore point, explains the Gelderland farmer: "Like almost every farmer, we initially turned to chemicals to clean the pipes. That was a step in the right direction, but not the best solution by a long shot. The workability, in particular, is a drawback: the juggling of jerry cans is very intensive and you have to think about it constantly." This even led to a point where the jerry cans were deliberately placed in places where Koos almost had to trip over them, to remind himself that they needed to be replaced.
Therefore, the layer farmer was open to starting with the Watter system in spring 2018. This device produces a disinfectant from salt and water at the farm itself, which is then automatically dosed on the water. The ease of use is a big advantage of the Watter system, but the real benefit lies in its effectiveness, says Koos: "We decided to test the system first to see if the investment was worth it. The results were soon convincing: the water samples were better than before, which continued in the stable. The set-up of chickens was better and the use of medicines was significantly reduced. In general, we see better intestinal resistance and there are fewer fungal infections. For Beter Leven, we take water samples from the nipple every quarter and they have been simply perfect for years: zero point zero germs."
Watter offers a lot of conveniences and is financially interesting according to the young farmer, but there is also an eye for the bigger picture. "An investment should first and foremost pay for itself, that's all there is to it. However, now that we have been working with Watter for several years, it is clear to us how much packaging material - and therefore chemicals - we have saved. After all, we are borrowing the world from our children. I am happy to say that Watter fits in that picture: better welfare for the chickens and a reduction in medicine and chemicals used on the farm.