Jacob Perez has 12 years of experience working in the poultry industry. The 25-year-old decided to put his experience to work in 2017 by starting his own poultry farm set-up and cleaning business. And yes, those numbers are all correct, so the result of doing the math does point to a very early start in the working world. “I’ve done work on poultry farms since I was 13,” Perez said. “It’s the only kind of job I’ve ever had.”
He struck out on his own after a former boss and mentor that he often set up and cleaned chicken houses with, suggested that he could help more than the five to ten farmers in the Cullman, Ala., area that they worked for together.
“He said I could help farmers everywhere, not just here,” Perez said. “I did what he told me and trusted in myself and quit to pursue the business.” Thus was born Perez Set-Up Crew, which soon became Poultry Farm Company. “I changed the name and kept it simple,” he said. “It took off after about a year.”
Poultry Farm Company offers house set-up, bird placement and cleaning services for clients large and small, whether the farms concentrate on egg production or growing broilers.
For basic set-up, clients who hire the company can expect:
Leveling of all water and feed lines.
Rolling out paper as necessary.
Building box lids.
Placing box lids and feed pans.
Installing migration boards, fencing and tubes.
Readying all equipment for chickens to be placed in the houses.
Placing chickens in the houses.
Cleaning is a dry process which involves blowing and brushing dust and litter off of the ceilings, walls, brooders, and tube heaters. A full-service visit combines many of those set-up and cleaning services. After a flock of chickens grows out of the houses and is shipped, Perez and his crew of five can move in and clean the house before releveling food and water lines, rolling more paper and adjusting or replacing migration fences and hoppers.
“We’ll do anything the farmer needs,” Perez said. “We’ll do pretty much anything but run feed.”
Perez’s crew does carry a pressure washer, to clean fan blades and other components inside and outside the building, but most of the cleaning work hinges on brushes and “backpack blowers” that remove dust and litter either dry or caked in place on the ceilings, walls and floors. Perez said avoiding the use of water for most of the cleaning process gives a lot of positives. “If you use water, you can leave a mess, and you want the litter to be dry,” he said. “If you get water in the feed, you have to pour it out. It can cause electrical problems – if you get water in the motors, they won’t function properly.”
According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, some moisture is expected in chicken houses, but should be minimized to facilitate removal and inhibit disease.
“If litter moisture is not kept at an acceptable level, very high bacterial loads and unsanitary growing conditions may result, producing odors (including ammonia), insect problems (particularly flies), soiled feathers, footpad lesions and breast bruises or blisters,” professor Gary D. Butcher of the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine and avian disease expert for the university’s extension service.
“Expect carcass downgrading at the processing plant when birds are reared under such poor conditions. In a well-managed broiler house, litter moisture normally averages between 25 to 35 percent. Litter that is managed correctly with the moisture content kept within the acceptable range can be reused if no disease or other production problems occur. On the other hand, caked litter must be removed between flocks and replaced with new litter.”
So, keeping the amount of water in cleaning to a minimum prevents the addition of moisture to the environment, adding another positive point to the practice.
Keeping the dust and litter drier also makes for a faster cleaning.
“It allows us to make a quicker turnaround,” Perez said. “We can do any size buildings on any size farm in one day.”
Servicing farms in one day is a goal Perez holds for his company, not just as a boost to business and revenue, but to health and safety. “If we do one farm a day, we can assure there’s no cross-contamination,” he said. “It allows us time to clean and disinfect everything after the day is done.”
Perez said most farmers like to clean and sweep out their chicken houses once a year, though some farmers opt for cleanings twice a year, often at the beginning of the year and mid-year.
Cleanings are usually targeted to times right after a flock of chickens grows out and is shipped, and five to seven days before new chickens are placed, he added.
The farmers who engage Poultry Farm Company, meanwhile, are not expected to do anything connected to the cleaning. “We want to allow the farmers to just sit back and let us do everything,” Perez said. “They can take the break they deserve, at least for a day. There are usually quick turnarounds between shipping chickens out and putting new chicks in, and they just never catch a break.”
Still based in Cullman, Ala., Poultry Farm Company has developed a decent reach with its services, adding on clients not just all over Alabama, but westward to Mississippi and Arkansas, northward into Tennessee, and eastward to farms in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
“Whoever needs help, we’ll try to figure out how to go,” Perez said. “No matter the distance. I guess the furthest we could go is California.” Going into the future, Perez said he wants to be the obvious go-to guy to call for cleaning services. “I want to be that one call, where you don’t need anybody else,” he said. “For cleaning out litter, for fan washing, whatever. It’s all about who needs help. I grew chickens, and I know what it’s like to need help and not be able to find it. So I want to work quickly and bring value to the farmers.”
Article above from American Poultry Farmer magazine, c/o AmericanPoultryCompany,Inc
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