Challenge

The Problem

Every year, millions of day-old male chicks are culled all over the world since the latter, the so-called ‘brothers’ of laying hens, neither lay eggs nor they do have enough meat as broilers do. For many years now, the EW GROUP and its subsidiaries have been involved in exploring multiple approaches that could help overcome this big challenge.

Requirements

Ambitious goals

The possible methods for sex determination in the egg must meet numerous requirements*:

  • Early: The sex of the embryo must be determined as early as possible, i.e. before the embryo develops its sensitivity to pain.
  • Safe: The procedure must be able to determine the sex with a very high level of accuracy in order for very few female embryos to be sorted out and/or males are hatched..
  • Fast: The determination of the sex in the machine must not only be reliable, but also done very quickly in order to meet the needs of hatcheries in everyday practice.
  • No negative effects: The entire technical method should not have any negative effects on the development of the embryos and the hatching rate related to the same, nor to the productivity of the adult hen.
  • Utilisation of the sorted eggs: The (male) eggs sorted out in the process should be usable, for example as feed or in the cosmetic industry.
  • cost-effective: The machine should be operated efficiently so that the additional costs of sex determination remain as low as possible.
  • Acceptance: The process must be accepted by the general public and the consumer as a trend-setting approach that helps to solve the problem of culling day-old male chicks, thereby supporting animal welfare.

(* according to Kaleta und Redmann, 2008)

Solution 

Sex Determination in the Egg

Agri Advanced Technology has developed a technical solution based on the results of basic research in spectroscopic sex detection. In extensive preliminary investigations, the functionality and the advantages of this approach were clearly demonstrated regarding accuracy of the determination and hatch results.

Early Identification

Precise Procedure

The determination of  sex takes place with the support of an optical measuring procedure on the fourth day of incubation. First, the air cell within the egg is detected, the shell is then perforated with a CO2 laser and the lid of the shell is lifted. After the sex of the embryo has been determined, the shell is re-sealed. The eggs classified as females are then returned to the incubator and the male eggs are used for further processing in the industry.

(The photo shows the development stage on day four of incubation)

Animal Welfare

As early as possible

From an animal welfare point of view, the timing of sex determination in the egg is of central importance. The sooner, the better. According to current knowledge, no embryo has ever developed a sense of pain until the seventh day of incubation. On the other hand, this cannot be safely ruled out for all subsequent procedures.

(click the image to enlarge)

Time Schedule

Intensive test trial

The prototype for a fully-automated spectroscopic sex determination in the egg that was developed by Agri Advanced Technologies, is currently in the test phase under practical conditions. It has been shown that the development of such a completely new technology also presents problems and challenges that were not foreseeable before. Since AAT has to make sure that the system is absolutely reliable and stable before being made ready for the market, comprehensive stress testing of the system and its components are currently being carried out. The necessary technical adjustments will take some time. Therefore, no specific implementation date can be mentioned at this time.

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