Understanding the Transition to Modular Loading in Poultry Barns

The Ontario poultry industry has begun to transition to modular loading and within the next few years the majority of Ontario’s production volume will be marketed using this improved loading method. Modular loading offers improved poultry welfare, quality and productivity benefits and enhances farm workplace health and safety.

The Ontario poultry industry is seeing a change to modular loading for the handling of birds from farm-to-transport-to-processing. Modular loading is being initiated to provide significant advantages over the current crate-based loading methods used by the industry for catching, transporting and processing birds. It offers significant improvements in poultry welfare, quality and productivity benefits over crate-based loading systems. These benefits include the reduced handling of birds, shorter loading time, reduced exposure to weather conditions and lower incidence of bruising.

All new facilities being constructed should incorporate the required specifications to accommodate the modular loading system into their design in anticipation of the migration to the modular loading method. However; existing facilities can also be retrofitted to accommodate the new modular units, loading practices and transportation methods.

For new poultry facilities, single-storey barns are recommended to provide the greatest poultry welfare benefits including shorter loading times, less handling of birds resulting in lower stress, and reduced exposure of birds to weather conditions during loading.

When retrofitting existing facilities, whether single-storey or two-storey operations, it is always important to discuss with your processor their future plans for modular loading and confirm the types of modifications that may be required for your particular barn. Keep in mind that on two-storey barns, renovations will be required to accommodate side door loading.

In order to proceed with retrofitting an existing facility, you will require an engineering firm or Architectural Technologist to determine what changes are required to accommodate modular loading. If structural modifications are necessary, then stamped drawings should be provided by the Engineer or Architectural Technologist showing the locations and types of changes necessary to support the expected loads. In most cases, a building permit will have to be obtained to complete the barn modifications. The drawings can also be used to secure the building permit.

Since many older single-storey barns were built with less than 9 foot (2.7 m) ceilings on the first floor, the minimum clearance heights may be less for new barns. Forklift mast height and cab height will need to be verified as different makes and models will vary in height. Other factors including the provision of an adequate hard surface loading area, and removal of obstructions to ensure clearance of loading vehicles and smooth transitions for suitable access for forklifts also are to be considered. With two-storey facilities, additional considerations include spacing of load-out doors, ensuring adequate support in immediate load-out areas capable of supporting the increased loads from the modular units and installation of an all-season driving lane adjacent to the building to accommodate the transport trucks loading the modular units.

Though this transition is anticipated to be administered over the next few years, addressing your new or existing chicken barn now will ensure that your operation is ready for this new method of transport.

Photos courtecy of OMAFRA - for more information visit www.omafra.gov.on.ca

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