Poultry farms come in different sizes, small and large. A laying hen farm of 230,000 birds is no longer your average “mom and dad” farm, nor the biggest of the lot, even by European standards. However, when Mansson’s director of agricultural operations, Claus Rasmussen, describes how he had organized the production of 72 million eggs a year, he quickly points to an enlarged map hanging on the wall of his office.

At first glance, the map of the rural area outside the Danish town of Brande mainly represents the 2,000 hectares of organic vegetable production. But, a closer look reveals 8 chicken coops scattered within a 10 km radius around the central farm and office.

Organic layers need space, the two houses under one roof accommodate 30,000 layers. Photo: Manson

“There are several reasons why our production is spread over a larger area than other laying hen farms,” Rasmussen explains. “The main reason is that we need 100ha of outdoor range for all our birds – that’s a lot of space. And by dividing houses, we also create physical separation and protection from disease.

According to the director of operations, each hangar houses 30,000 birds under one roof. Internally the house is divided along the center line creating 2 separate houses with each side subdivided into 5 compartments to comply with organic regulations of having a maximum of 3,000 birds per enclosure. The same separation continues in the winter Garden and the outdoor range.

“Each of our 8 locations is run as a self-contained farm with designated worker and equipment per location, dedicated feed delivery and egg pick-up direct to the supermarket pack station. The whole farm is a multi-age operation, but with only one age per house,” Rasmussen explains.

Organic fertilizer

A laying house has always been part of the Mansson farm. Market gardening was the main branch for a long time, but the 21,000 free-range laying hens provided a good secondary source of income. When owner Axel Mansson expanded his business, he saw opportunities to switch to organic vegetable production. However, he soon realized that organic fertilizers were hard to come by. It was then that he decided to fill this void himself by also transforming his chicken operation into organic.

“I started with organic egg production in 1999. We’ve had free-range egg production since 1981, so it wasn’t such a big step to switch to organic production,” says Axel. “I’ve always liked to see my animals outside, so organic production appeals to me in that regard as well.”

Operations manager Claus Rasmussen (l), Poultry Plan expert Pieter Brons and data analyst Helena Hjortshøj dive into farm data.  Photo: Fabian Brockötter
Operations manager Claus Rasmussen (l), Poultry Plan expert Pieter Brons and data analyst Helena Hjortshøj dive into farm data. Photo: Fabian Brockötter

Today, Mansson A/S has around 230,000 organic chickens and is therefore one of the largest organic egg producers in Denmark with 1 in 5 organic eggs in the country supplied by them.

“The growth of agriculture is also a matter of developing knowledge. This also applies to organic farming. We have become wiser and more experienced in that what we could not do a few years ago, we can do today. This is what makes being a farmer so exciting: using your own experience to change and shape the future. My vision is to become 100% organic in the near future. I would like all of Denmark to be organic. It would be great if we were to be recognized as an organic country around the world. »

Axel believes that eventually organic production will form the basis of our existence.

Data integration

The real growth on the poultry side of Mansson’s started about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t long before they realized that the Excel datasheets they were using had reached their limits.

“The sheer volume of data from 16 houses (under 8 roofs) made it difficult to get to the bottom of what we were doing. instead of being proactive,” says Rasmussen.

With a staff of 15, mostly foreign, staff in the houses, structured and integrated data flows were needed to stay on top of performance metrics.

“I need to be able to rely on the data that comes from the houses because I can’t control all the birds myself. If I’m lucky, I go around the whole farm once a week,” Rasmussen notes.

For the first six months of 2022, a housing order was in place in Denmark, which meant the birds could only access the covered winter garden.  Photo: Fabian Brockötter
For the first six months of 2022, a housing order was in place in Denmark, which meant the birds could only access the covered winter garden. Photo: Fabian Brockötter

This prompted Mansson to invest in new Poultry Plan software. This cloud-based ERP platform aggregates all relevant production parameters and displays them in a convenient dashboard.

“More importantly, the system will give us an alert when something is wrong. To give an example, we are now alerted and able to act immediately if feed intake and bird weight are out of range. In the past, we only looked for problems if we saw a drop in egg production: too little, too late. With Poultry Plan, we definitely play closer to the ball,” says Rasmussen.

Next level

Mansson’s COO wants to stay in control and that’s exactly where the software helps.

“Given our scale of production, information is essential. We want to perform at our very best and that is why we have taken control of our pullets with a newly built brood house where we can raise all the pullets for our entire operation. Expanding your area of ​​control is the name of the game, with breeding and software implementation,” says Rasmussen.

One of the advantages of Poultry Plan is the ability to compare and evaluate parameters with a simple mouse click. “As a farm, we want to constantly improve our performance. Therefore, we generally house multi-coated breeds, currently Lohmann Lite and Classic and Dekalb White, and test different feed compositions. With the software, we can constantly compare herds to compare them to each other and to the herd standard, and to make smart, informed choices in the future.

With trials, testing and running a tight ship, Mansson is currently operating to its own standards. “We are no longer just comparing breed-specific standards, but also comparing one herd to another. Constantly improving our own progress really takes us to the next level.