Learning in Switzerland

Three years ago I joined the Vencomatic Group to start a PhD study on nesting behaviour in broiler breeders. I focus on researching this one topic and get supervised by researchers from Wageningen University to ensure the quality of the research. During an average working week I spend three days at the Venco Campus and two days at the university. However, this summer is not average, since I am spending three months in Switzerland!

Here I am working on a study where we test different nest boxes for broiler breeders to learn about the preferences of the hens. The experiment is taking place at the Zentrum für Tiergerechte Haltung Zollikofen (ZTHZ), which consists of 13 researchers and technicians. ZTHZ is a part of both Bern University and the Swiss government, aiming to find the best housing systems for poultry and rabbits. The team has 5 large poultry houses for research on-site, which are specifically designed for research with all kinds of monitoring equipment such as high resolution cameras.

Life in Switzerland is slightly different from the Netherlands. Of course a different language, which can sometimes be challenging. I can understand German quite well, but Swiss-German seems like another language. Switzerland is not part of the European Union, has its own currency and therefore a separate economy. Everything is relatively expensive compared to the Netherlands, especially the price of animal products like meat, eggs and dairy. This is due to the high standards for keeping animals in Switzerland, which usually includes more (outdoor) space and high quality feed. To compensate for the extra expenses of the farmer, the price of the product is increased. Swiss people do not seem to mind these high prices, as animal welfare is regarded as an important value.

By spending some time abroad I will learn from the research experts at ZTHZ as well as getting informed on how poultry husbandry is done in another country. By combining these two sources of information, we can improve broiler breeder housing even further!

Anne van den Oever - Researcher