North­ern Views

The Poultry Bulletin - - CONTENTS - By Gineke Mons

The peck­ing or­der en­joy it while it lasts...

One man’s loss is another man’s gain. Since April, the United States has been bat­tling highly path­o­genic Avian In­fluenza. Al­ready 40 mil­lion lay­ing hens have been culled. That’s 10 to 15 per­cent of the mar­ket, in a mar­ket where ev­ery per­cent counts. Just now, as health-con­scious Amer­i­cans are crav­ing for pro­teins, su­per­mar­kets feel forced to limit the num­ber of boxes of eggs per cus­tomer. There are even some restau­rants that have lim­ited break­fast hours to curb the de­mand for omelettes.

The Dutch, mer­chants as we are, have lob­bied for decades to sell eggs and egg prod­ucts to the US, but were re­fused en­trance to the Land of the Free. For food se­cu­rity rea­sons, Un­cle Sam said. But ne­ces­sity is the mother of in­ven­tion. So, for the first time ever, we have been granted per­mis­sion to ex­port 420,000 tons of egg pow­der to the US - roughly the equiv­a­lent of 100 mil­lion Dutch eggs. That’s 1 per­cent of our to­tal pro­duc­tion of 10 bil­lion eggs – in a mar­ket where ev­ery per­cent counts.

The tim­ing of the green light for this deal couldn’t have been bet­ter, in the midst of our sum­mer, when prices are sea­son­ally low. Dutch egg prices are on the rise again now, although not nearly as high as in the US, where prices have dou­bled since the be­gin­ning of this year. So hur­ray!

The egg busi­ness wel­comes this news, in the midst of all the doom and gloom that has been cast over the in­dus­try re­cently. And they might as well try to hold on to this pos­i­tive feel­ing as long as pos­si­ble, in the light of re­cent de­vel­op­ments in neigh­bour­ing Ger­many. The Ger­mans have al­ways used quite a lot of Dutch eggs. We ex­port twothird of all our eggs, of which 50 per­cent end up in a Ger­man egg-cup.

But re­cently, the Ger­mans - al­ways in favour of home­grown prod­ucts - have been work­ing on their self-suf­fi­ciency. Egg ex­ports are com­ing un­der pres­sure. And their lat­est trick? Well, the Ger­man govern­ment and the Ger­man egg pro­duc­ers have col­lec­tively agreed that as from Au­gust 1, 2016, beak trim­ming is no longer al­lowed. In some re­gions, like Nieder­sach­sen, egg pro­duc­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the vol­un­tary an­i­mal wel­fare pro­gramme Tiehrwol, al­ready man­age to get an al­lowance of € 1,70 per hen if they use untrimmed hens.

In The Nether­lands, beak trim­ming will only be banned from Septem­ber 1, 2018. So the Ger­mans beat us by two years. And with a still sig­nif­i­cantly large amount of eggs that are ex­ported across our east­ern bor­der, you can bet that this will have an im­pact. Dutch layer farms will feel pres­surised to switch to non-treated hens sooner than planned. Of course, the in­dus­try is pre­par­ing it­self. Sev­eral stud­ies and work­ing groups are ex­plor­ing ways to keep hens with whole beaks. And pre­lim­i­nary re­sults show that it isn’t im­pos­si­ble. But it will def­i­nitely in­crease the costs of egg pro­duc­tion. Fig­ures show that the av­er­age death toll will dou­ble from 3 to 6 per­cent in reg­u­lar free-range hous­ing. But when things get out of hand and se­vere peck­ing prob­lems arise, those num­bers may rise to 15 per­cent, caus­ing se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial losses: up to 85,000 euros for an estab­lish­ment with 100,000 hens. So, we should en­joy the good feel­ing while it lasts...

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