Warren Caves explores the world of chickens
The quest for productivity gains in its chicken-transport operation has led the Sydney based Multi Quip group of companies to cutting-edge European design in the form of two Hatch Traveller trailers, by Hatch Tech.
Headquartered in Veenendaal in the Netherlands, Hatch Tech has developed the Hatch Traveller trailer system by drawing on the company’s extensive experience in poultry incubation and hatchery operations to provide whole of operations care for chicks to include the transport phase.
The Hatch Traveller is manufactured by the company in the Ukraine and shipped to customers around the world. Existing units are already operating in North America, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Poland.
Multi Quip operates a chick hatchery at Maldon, south west of Sydney. The facility transports fertilised eggs from several major poultry growers in and around Griffith NSW to its Maldon hatchery. Once the eggs are hatched, they are transported back to the farms as day-old chicks.
This is where the state-of-the-art Hatch Traveller comes into play. The first of its kind in Australia, the Hatch Traveller offers an increase in overall chick transport numbers per load, while improving the overall transport conditions for the chicks. It also reduces running costs by way of the trailer’s hybrid operating systems.
The trailers ride on airbag suspension and are fitted with SAF axles running on 385/65/22.5 Continental tyres. A tailgate loader is used to transfer the chicks from hatchery to trailer in crates.
Essentially a temperature-controlled trailer, the Hatch Traveller allows operators to maintain an optimal uniform climate in which to transport the day-old chicks.
Heating and cooling power is supplied by two 1500 amp/hr lithium batteries, operating at 48 Volts. These batteries are backed up by two Kubota diesel generators located where a traditional fridge motor would reside. The batteries are charged via mains AC power during loading and unloading periods and while out on the road they are topped-up by the generators as required.
At the point of loading the Hatch Traveller is placed into pre-heat mode to ready the space temperature for the loading of the chicks. Once this is done the trailer reverts to process mode prior to departure.
The system offers natural ventilation delivering fresh air from outside to the chicks during the journey. This concept, when used in conjunction with the hybrid power system, reduces the reliance on mechanical cooling, resulting in a claimed fuel cost saving of between 50 and 80 percent over a traditional trailer design running diesel power units all the time. Additionally, the hybrid system results in a quieter environment in which to transport the chicks.
The Hatch Traveller has a claimed run time on the batteries of six-hours before needing a top-up from the generators. Craig Ponder, hatchery manager for Multi Quip says, “At the moment we are not running the batteries to that extreme low level. We have the system set to bring the generators on once the batteries drop to 65 percent, which provides us a generous safety margin.”
Once the generators kick in, they run the cooling and ventilation systems and charge the batteries simultaneously until they return to 95 percent capacity.
All of the critical data – including temperature, humidity, CO2 levels and battery power – are monitored on the in-cab display screen which communicates with the trailer via a Bluetooth connection. There is also wi-fi connectivity to remotely monitor conditions within the trailer when it is within range at the hatchery.
Transportation of day-old chicks requires close monitoring of temperatures, to which good airflow is critical. Previously, Multi Quip used a standard trailer set up that in order to facilitate airflow could not be loaded as densely as the Hatch Traveller. Although these could accommodate a maximum of 144,000 chicks per load, they were usually run at a maximum level of 110,000 chicks. By incorporating the fully-balanced airflow system of the Hatch Traveller, which provides a laminar airflow evenly to all chicks and eliminates any hot-spots, the Hatch Traveller trailer has boosted that payload up to 165,000 chicks per load, an increase of between 15–33 percent.
The optimal transport temperature within the trailer for the chicks is said to be between 32.77-33.88 degrees Celsius (91-93F). This temperature setting aims to achieve a chick body temperature of 40C at unloading.
To achieve these temperatures without hot spots, the chicks are loaded in stacked crates and wheeled into the trailer on a dolly, before being sectioned off with dividing, corral-type doors.
It’s these dividing doors that form the core framework of the airflow system. Within the doors are fluted channels which are supplied with fresh outside air or air from the rooftop ThermoKing units to evenly disperse ventilation and additionally eliminate any hot spots which can be created by the chicks’ own body heat. A valve at the top shuts off air to any open doors not being used.
It’s this incredibly uniform temperature control that allows extra chicks to be transported while improving welfare conditions at the same time.
“The chicks are more settled and comfortable because their temperature is just right and the journey is a lot quieter than before. This ensures a more stress-free trip for the chicks giving them a good start. Once they arrive back on-farm, they start to drink and feed more quickly,” explained Craig.
He said the loading and unloading is also simplified with the roll-on/roll-off of the dolly chicks being locked into position with the doors between each row of crates.
The one-way trip to Griffith from the hatchery at Maldon is around 500 km or about six-hours driving time. Early runs have seen the batteries drop to the 65 percent level at around the four-hour mark, prompting the generators to kick in.
Multi Quip will be running the two trailers coupled to two new R650 Scania trucks, four nights per week transporting 1.32 million-day-old chicks during that period.
These increased payloads will yield substantial cost savings to the company in fuel, maintenance and wages, with the added environmental benefit of reduced emissions and ultimately a more settled bird on delivery to the grower.