Meaning Of Beak Trimming
This means the removal of part of the lower and upper beak of the birds. It is commonly applied to poultry but it also applies to turkey and quails. Sometimes it’s inaccurately referred to as Debeaking, this seems wrong since it’s only part of the beak that’s removed.
In poultry, beak trimming can be done at day-old, 6 weeks or advisable at not later than 12 weeks. Reason being, at this stage the reaction to stress is too low, blood loss is minimal and birds can easily regain normal oral activities. The later the trimming the more stressful the operation.
Beak trimming is done to reduce the impact of cannibalism, reduce egg eating and feather pecking. When trimming, extra care must be taken to avoid more or less of it both of which have strong effects on the overall performance of the flock.
If done incorrectly, it might reduce birds ability to eat/drink, short and/or long term stress, retarded growth all of which can cause a reduction in production.
NB: Please consult your vet/technical person for a better operation.
For the bird’s welfare, the operation sounds cruel but this cruelty is outweighed by vices that birds exhibit if not trimmed. It’s therefore recommended that trimming should be done by experienced personnel to avoid compromising birds welfare, maintain the health of the birds and avoid effects on production.
Materials Needed For Beak Trimming
HOT BLADE TRIMMING:
Here beaks are cut with electrically heated blades (cherry-red colour) and pieces removed immediately. The blade cuts and cauterize the trimmed surface immediately thus avoiding blood losses. This method is more affordable and accessible especially on contract basis in most farms although it needs experienced personnel to perform. The system is relatively faster, efficient and adjustable.
Handheld Electric Debeaker for Poultry
In this system, beak tissues are subjected to non-contact, high-intensity infrared sources. The beak surfaces remain intact for the first few days but slowly erodes later. This method is more efficient and fast although not affordable especially to medium-size farmers. Also in the case of re-trimming, you will still need the hot blade method. Its is the most recommended method in modern-day farming but sophisticated and quite expensive to install.
COLD BLADE TRIMMING (scissors and knives):
Here beaks are physically cut with sharp knives and/or scissors. It is the cheapest method of trimming. This system is so rudimentary, time-consuming and jeopardises birds welfare. There are risks of uncontrolled fatal blood losses. It’s disregarded except where unavoidable.
Alternatively, genetics is being modified to come up with species that are less aggressive with low cannibalistic tendencies as an alternative to beak trimming.
Guideline During Beak Trimming:
Beak Trimming Machine
● Reduce the amount of light in the poultry house (dim white light is recommended) such that birds do not see one another clearly. It can help to reduce aggressiveness. Talk to your vet for appropriate light regulations as excessively low light has effects on eyes.
● Give electrolysed vitamin supplements (like VITAMINOTRACE ORAL/POWERVIT/AMINOTOL) to birds before and after trimming to combat the effects of stress. Vitamin k is a must.
● Ensure a balanced diet. Provide adequate calcium, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt (these are found in premixes so watch out for the type you are using), amino acids (more so methionine) phosphorus. Talk to your nutritionist for advice.
● Trim beaks only when birds are in normal conditions. Don’t trim sick birds
● Trim ⅔ of the upper beak and at least ⅓ of the lower beak. Poor trimming will cause long and short term effects on the birds.
● Early trimming help birds regain their normal oral behaviours earlier.
● Please increase the feeds in the feeders for at least the first 10 hours post-trimming for birds to get used to it.
● Avail fresh clean drinking water in the house when trimming. It helps birds to lower temperatures in the body facilitating coagulation.
● Please ensure correct stocking density to avoid overcrowded flocks. This will also help in reducing the effects of cannibalism and pecking.
● Avoid beak trimming during the hottest part of the day.
Written by Dr. James Baba Wageti