With modular loading, birds are loaded and transported in modules consisting of up to 15 plastic drawers or trays. Low profile, specialized forklifts are used to move the module which can weigh up to 2500 to 3000 pounds fully loaded. Empty modules are placed in the barn in close proximity to the birds, thereby minimizing the distance that the birds must be carried prior to loading. Two key factors associated with wing and leg injuries during catching and loading are the distance the birds are carried and the hand-off of birds. Modular loading minimizes carrying distances and eliminates the need to hand-off birds to another farm worker. The larger opening of the module drawers, relative to crates, minimizes the potential for injury to the birds during the loading process. It is estimated that modular loading can reduce bruising by as much as 8%.
Significant enhancements in animal welfare have been reported by those that have converted to the use of modular loading systems. Because loading takes place inside the barn, bird health and well-being are enhanced through reduced exposure of the birds to external weather conditions. Loading of birds inside the barn also improves worker comfort and safety. In addition to the obvious benefits associated with loading inside the barn, modular loading systems reduce walking, carrying and lifting activities for farm workers who are catching and loading the birds. More importantly, a forklift is used to load the modules on the trailer, thus eliminating the risk of farm workers falling from heights when loading the trailers.
Traceability can also be enhanced by the adoption of modular loading. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems based on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging technology can be integrated into modular loading systems allowing for real-time data collection and transfer to networked systems. Further, industry traceability systems can be refined due to the ability to uniquely identify and trace individual modules as opposed to the current process of tracking trailer loads.
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