Aaron Willey of Vencomatic North America presented on the different generations of cage-free housing design. Willey started his presentation saying that cage-free doesn’t have to be a big scary monster. “There are a lot of systems available today on the market that are very capable and acceptable,” he said.
Willey explained that equipment companies are all listening to their customers and industry researcher and trying to improve. Willey used two examples to illustrate this improvement. One example is a terraced aviary system instead of a vertical front system. The terraced design is aimed at encouraging better bird movement because it allows for more jumping versus flying. As a result of this change in bird movement, the hope is that it results in less injury and stress for the birds.
The second example Willey discussed dealt with the newest Vencomatic model that combines the best features of the last two generations of the company's equipment. This new design is sturdy enough for hen handlers to walk on. This allows handlers to move up and over the entire system when inspecting hens. Also, this system is built so the hens migrate back into the system to get water and lay their eggs.
Willey encouraged producers to “future-proof their investment” by warning producers that cage-free can go very wrong if the focus of the investment is to skirt the cage-free minimums. "Be more forward thinking in your investments," he encouraged.