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Making profit from poultry – Part 2:

The success of your broiler production will mostly depend on the quality of the management. Keeping records is an essential part of poultry farm management.

Capital investment is needed for any business. It can often be very expensive with larger types of livestock, but it does not have to cost a lot of money to start your broiler business.

Basic equipment can be bought or made from available material. Your ability to manage the broilers effectively will play the biggest role in the success of your business.

Equipment

There are two basic necessities when it comes to broiler production. They need to have adequate feeders and drinking apparatus. Ensuring that the chickens have enough clean water is essential to their survival. The quality and availability of feed has a significant impact on the growth rate, which translates to more money in your pocket in the long run. Feeders need to be closed at the top to ensure that no other foreign objects can be mixed with the feed.

Brooding

Brooding means taking good care of small, vulnerable chicks. Chick deaths are very common during their first ten days of life. During this time, you need to ensure that there is enough heat in the coup, especially at night. This is a term which means, keeping chicks warm and comfortable.

When your baby chicks arrive, they will need special care. This is the time when you can expect a few chicks to die. In tropical countries it may not be necessary to provide extra heat during the day but only at night and then only for the first 10 days. Dead chicks should be removed and buried in a hole in the ground. Sick and weak chicks should be kept separately and given special care.

Health and disease prevention

Chickens are fragile and can get sick very easily especially when they are young. There are two major sources of disease:

Diet if not correctly formulated can result in the bird getting a metabolic disease due to a nutrient deficiency (vitamins or minerals). Other diseases are caused by minute organisms called bacteria and viruses. It is often necessary to treat the chicks with a vaccine as soon as they hatch which allows them to resist the disease if it occurs. This is normally done at the hatchery. Newcastle disease is present in many countries and chickens need to be vaccinated more than once.

Commercial broiler meat production

Chicken meat is very popular throughout the world. It is seen as a healthy meat that is low in fat and rich in protein (lean meat).

Young chicks are very vulnerable to cold. You can expect mortalities
of up to 5 per 100 during the first three weeks.

To prepare for the chicks’ arrival, it is best that you have a time plan or schedule to ensure that:

• the house will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

• there are no shavings or litter on the floor.

• the brooder heater is checked and adjusted (if there is one).

• feeders and drinkers are in place; chicks usually look for water first.

• a small amount of starter feed is scattered on paper on the floor of the brooder so that the chicks can start to eat.

• For the first 7-10 days the chicks will be brooded. Broiler chickens can grow very fast but only when well looked after and given good feed.

• After 3 weeks of age when the house temperature is less than 28 – 30˚C, they grow best. In the tropics, the temperature is normally above 30˚C in the daytime so they will grow a bit slower than usual.

Some chickens will die in the first week, particularly those that are small and weak. You must remove and bury them immediately. You can expect to lose at least 4 – 5 chicks out of 100 in the first 3 weeks. Another two may die later. Mortality can be much higher especially if management and housing conditions are poor.

Some broilers, as they get older, may become lame and are unable to walk and get to the feeders. This is partly a breeding problem but may be reduced by slowing growth in the second week by limiting feed intake for a week. Ideally, chicks should be given a bought formulated diet. A commercial starter diet should be purchased and fed for at least the first 10 days because they need to get off to a good start. They will have eaten only about 250 g of feed during this time.

A grower diet will then be introduced by mixing what remains of the starter diet with an equal amount of the grower diet. This will mean that they can adjust easily to the new feed. When the mixture is finished, feed the chicks grower feed only. Check chicks several times a day to see that they are comfortable and have feed and water. Check your chickens frequently.

They do not like it too warm. It will be helpful if you have weighing scales so that you can weigh feed given to the chickens and get the live weight of a sample of 10 birds every two weeks caught with a simple leg catcher. This will tell you how well your chickens are performing.

Weight gain is weight of bird divided by age in days then divided by the total number of birds to obtain the average weight gain of one bird. Feed efficiency is feed consumed (kg) during a fixed number of days divided by the total weight of all birds (kg) consuming that amount of feed. As a guide, the average weight of your chickens at 6 weeks should be 1 600 g and at 7 weeks 1 750 g. Feed efficiency should be under 2.5 kg feed for 1 kg of weight gain at 7 weeks of age.

The mortality rate will decrease as the chickens get older.

Marketing

Selling your chickens profitably is essential. You can sell them:

• alive on a bird or on a weight basis

• through a middleman who will take some of your profit for himself

• dressed, plucked, eviscerated (guts) and organs (lungs, liver, heart) removed.

• to an abattoir for processing

• In some regions you will not have all of these choices.

Manure

Chicken litter will produce very valuable manure rich in nutrients. You can:

• use it on your garden

• make it into a compost

• sell it

Manure not only provides plant nutrients but importantly organic matter for the soil, this allows the soil to breathe.

Record keeping

It is essential that you keep good records of feed used, dead birds and the final weight of the chickens. These records will then be used to determine if you made a profit or a loss.

The information used in this article is credited to the training manuals provided by the South African Poultry Association. For more information visit their website www.sapoultry.co.za or phone them on +27(0)11-795-9920.

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