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Are you making money or just selling chicks?

By Dr Watson Messo
If you want to be serious in broiler farming, buy your own weighing scale.

In different forums, I have been privileged to attend and lend my insights, the most common question and concern is why is it expensive to grow chicken in this part of the world. The same challenge was put to me by the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, livestock directorate in Nairobi while launching the protocol on hatcheries inspection and breeder farms monitoring. Nearly everybody responded by saying it’s due to the high cost of feed.

It is true that 70 per cent of the entire cost of rearing a broiler chick to market weight is due to feed cost. It is therefore imperative that farmers make sure they use feed efficiently by ensuring they have the most appropriate feeding equipment and discipline that will ensure no feed spillage.

Here are a few useful tips to achieve that goal:

The best feed troughs are the round plastic 3-5 kg hoppers with inverted lips to prevent spillage of feed. Ensure that the birds have access to clean portable water with pH of 5-7 to stimulate feed intake. Please note birds will drink twice as much as what they eat.

To understand the broiler economics, there are three farm performance indicators that must be recorded and monitored from day 0 of placement to the last day of cropping.

1.       Live weight.

If you want to be serious in broiler farming, buy your own weighing scale. It could be electronic or spring scale(salter) that can weigh up to 15 kg. The moment you receive your chicks, weigh 5 per cent of the chicks at same time of the day every week until slaughter day religiously.

Do not weigh your birds after feeding as this may distort your figures. Randomly pick your birds from the 4 corners of the house and the centre without discrimination.

Growth graph

Ensure you are provided with a standard growth graph from your chick supplier to compare your weights and performance. At the day of cropping, weigh all your birds and get the average weight of these live birds, this is called Live weight. A good weight is between 1.7-1.8 kg/bird. This is most popular weight with Kenyan consumers and the moment you achieve these weights, commence cropping. Good producers start killing their birds at 25 days and finish at 33 days.

2.       Feed conversion ratio (FCR)

From day one of placement, make a habit of weighing every feed you give to your birds and record. So why weigh the feed? This is your biggest contributor to cost of production and you must know how many grams of feed you are giving your chickens per day.

Your chick supplier must give you a profile of feeding regime of the birds supplied to you.

As birds grow, they eat more each day. You must know the recommended standard feed in grams per bird per day and you should feed generally within the standards.

If your feed is of low energy (less maize/corn), the birds will tend to eat more to compensate for the low energy. If you lose a bird today, the next days feed calculation must be done and adjusted accordingly.

At the end of cropping, you must calculate how many kilograms of feed used and the total live weight of birds ready for the market.

Then divide the weight of feed by the total weight of live chicken, the result is the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR). A good FCR is between 1.6- 1.8, this is the amount of feed consumed to produce 1kg live weight, the lower this figure the better.

3.       Feed consumed.

Calculate the total feed consumed at the end of the cropping and divide by the number of the birds cropped, this will give the kilograms consumed per bird. The target is between 3.5-3.8 kg per bird, the lower this figure the better.

How to avoid feed waste

Target to grow your birds with a higher live weight, lower FCR and less feed consumption. This means to make better margins, provide conducive environment to grow bigger birds by following good husbandry practices.

To get low FCR, you must avoid feed waste, buy good quality feed rich in essential and non-essential amino acids and of high energy level, cheap and low-quality feed result in poor conversion. Select good broiler genetics with potential to convert efficiently.

Manage your mortality below 5 per cent. Dead birds are like wasted feed and hence poor FCR. Avoid feed and chicken theft as these impacts negatively on your key performance indicators.

[The writer is the Head Vet at Kenchic. Email: watsonmesso@yahoo.com, vet@kenchic.com]

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