Student testimonial

Madeleine de Groot - MSc Animal Sciences (internship Animal Nutrition at De Heus)

Madeleine de Groot is doing an internship for the Animal Nutrition (ANU) group at De Heus. She assists in a practical trail including broiler breeders, performs a literature study about amino acids (AA) requirements in broiler breeder hens and develops new practical skills, like to determine feathering conditions or to identify the sex of chicks at a young age.

For the practical trail I have to get up around 4:45 AM. Basically a night shift! We start this early in that we can weigh the breeders before feeding. Totally worth it though as I learn a lot about the set up of the trails.

After discussing several topics with my supervisor from ANU, I chose to do my internship at De Heus Animal Nutrition at the Global Poultry R&D Department (De Heus is an international animal compound feed manufacturer). My internship consists of two parts. The first part is assisting in a practical trial including broiler breeders. In this trial, the productive performance of broiler breeders hens is examined using different diets. Every Tuesday, I have to be present at 7:00 AM. As I live in Wageningen, I have to get up around 4:45 AM. Basically a night shift! We start this early in that we can weigh the breeders before feeding, otherwise you are measurering ingested feed as well. Totally worth it though as I learn a lot about the set up of the trails. Although I have chickens at home, my experience with commercial poultry is quite limited. Therefore, it is really interesting to see how broiler breeders go from the rearing phase (0 to 20 weeks of age) into the egg-laying phase (from 20 weeks onwards). Besides, I am learning new practical skills as well, for instance how to identify cockerels at a young age. Quite difficult, I can tell you that. Furthermore, I assisted in the determination of feathering conditions by scoring feather coverage and, the examination of behaviour and footpad lesion score for the flock. Being able to assist during this PhD project is a very interesting experience for me. It has even got me excited to do a PhD in the future, even though I never anticipated doing a PhD myself.

The second part consists of a literature study about AA requirements in broiler breeder hens. De Heus formulated this question to gather as much information as possible and to create an overview of the available information on broiler breeder AA requirements. Eventhough there is quite some information available on broiler AA requirements, the information about optimal nutrition for broiler breeders is limited. A possible reason for this is that trials with broiler breeders take much longer than broiler experiments, respectively thirty days versus forty to sixty weeks. Broiler breeders have a much longer life cycle, as you have to measure egg performance parameters and, if possible, the effect on hatching and offspring performance. All in all quite a challenge, but important research and I have the opportunity to make a contribution.

The headquarters of de Heus is in Ede. Unfortunately, I am not able to work there due to the current lockdown. At the moment everyone is still working from home. Contact with my colleagues is therefore a bit more difficult, but luckily, the R&D Poultry team at De Heus consists of very nice people, and I can always ask my questions to them via email or MS Teams. Despite the situation, I am really happy with the practical work I am able to do, so I am not solely working on my laptop. I really appreciate the combination of theory and practice in my internship. I hope this is something I can pursue in my future career, because working at a desk from 9 till 5 does not suit me.

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