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Lessons from Canadian hen housing’s major overhaul

“Change is the only constant in life,” said Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher.
 
For millennia, this adage has held true in agriculture. Farmers regularly adjust to weather, trends, technology, trade agreements, global production and consumers’ evolving preferences.
 
But sometimes, a change comes into play that makes us rethink everything – and this is what egg farmers across Canada are managing right now.
 
Early in 2016, Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) announced that, on behalf of more than 1,000 Canadian egg farms, they would begin a co-ordinated, market-oriented transition away from the conventional egg production housing systems. EFC opted to instead use enriched, free run and aviary systems to house laying hens.
 
The move was based on the demands of customers (grocers, restaurant chains and consumers). Eggs produced in higher-welfare housing systems allow hens greater freedom of movement and enrichments like nesting areas, perches and foraging opportunities. The transition will occur gradually over 20 years, reaching completion in 2036.
 
Egg farmers have already started building new barns and retrofitting old ones. They’ve had to adjust and embrace the change to succeed.  And whether they are using the term or simply living it – this is “change management.”
 
One of the world’s foremost authorities on change management is Dr. John P. Kotter, Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School. The advice in his book Leading Change, including this eight-step change process, is accepted across industries and helps achieve successful transformations for businesses.
  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create a guiding coalition or working team
  3. Develop a vision and strategy
  4. Communicate the change vision
  5. Empower employees for broad-based action
  6. Generate short-term wins
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
  8. Anchor new approaches in the culture
Executing these steps well, in the context of a farming operation facing major change, could mean the difference between mediocre performance (or failure) and a stellar performance. Whether it’s a matter of moving from one housing or milking system to another, or adding new land, crops or species, following these eight steps can elevate the outcome. So how is it done, and how have egg farmers been doing this?
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