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Achieving high broiler meat yields: The 10 things you need to work on

By Dr Watson Messo
Dishon Kutai, 21, feeding broilers at Malanda Poultry Farm. (Nathan Ochunge, Standard)

Last year, it is estimated that broiler farmers produced 47 metric tonnes of chicken meat locally which translates to about 1kg of chicken meat consumed per person per year. With such numbers, you ought to get things right. Here are 10 tips to ensure you get the best of your broiler meat from farm to slaughter:

1.Quality chicks from a quality hatchery

Hatchery is an important and integral part of the final product that ends up in the slaughter plant or slab. Unhygienic hatching conditions and poor temperature and humidity controls can only lead to neonatal infections, dehydrated chicks, poor starters and mortality. Chicks must be pulled at the right time and held in a conducive environment and promptly delivered to the farmer.

2.  Rearing

Sound poultry management practices are critical in unleashing the genetic potential of any breed. We must provide the right housing conditions that includes perfect brooding to avoid wet litter that end up causing hock and breast burns. Provide adequate feeders and drinkers to avoid birds flipping over each other during feeding and scratching themselves. Work on a good stocking density of 30kg/m2. Keeping birds in a limited space may result into injuries, lameness and infections. Avoid activities that make birds pile over each other like running out of feed, dry water pans or abrupt visitation by unknown people or predators like cats and rats.

3.  Feed intake and growth

Broilers on a good balanced crumbled diet can achieve 180-200glive weight in the first 7 days and be ready for the market in 35 days with a live weight of 1.65-1.75kg. this sort of growth rate requires good ventilation. Environmental stress in this tropical climate is certainly a factor that plays a lot in low weights at slaughter. Use of soluble vitamin C as a supplement in areas around the coastal strips and in hot areas of Northern Kenya will come handy in alleviating this phenomenon. Some birds like the naked neck breed are comfortable in achieving good weights in hot climates with minimal stress and good feed intake.

4.   Catching

Withdraw feed 6-8 hours before slaughter but continuously provide drinking water. Handle birds humanely during the cool part of the day or night as you pick each bird, grabbing by the wings to avoid excessive flapping and breaking of bones and scratching and bruising of the skin cover. This will significantly reduce physical injuries. Blue or green lighting during catch will reduce bird activity and piling up.

5.  Transport and unloading

The most common problem here is keeping the birds cool during transport to the slaughter plant. Avoid overloading birds per crate and deliver these birds early in the morning or late at night and as quickly as possible. Do not load or transport sick or injured birds. In extreme weather, they should be cooled by spraying water or using ventilated trucks.

6. Proper stunning/killing

This is the most critical aspect of slaughter that if not done properly will result into massive carcass rejection in a slaughter plant. Poor stunning and inadequate bleeding will result into carcass with broken bones, shoulder bone damage, dislocation of wing joints, incomplete bleeding, blood spots on breast meat and wing discoloration.

Electrical stunning (110 volts) is most popular and ideal method recommended by industry regulators and must be followed with slaughter within two minutes of stunning. However, one can do cervical dislocation of the neck if you have no access to electricity. Place the birds on bleeding cones headfirst with wings folded to prevent flapping and causing injuries.

7.  Scalding

Excessive scald temperatures will result in both bird damage and yield loss. Optimum temperatures range from 51ºC (124ºF) to 55ºC (132ºF).

8. Evisceration and cleaning

The important step here is to make sure that the feed is withdrawn 6-8 hours before slaughter. If this is not done, there is risk of fecal spillage and condemnation of the carcass due to contamination.

9.   Chilling and Freezing

Immediately after cleaning, you need to quickly chill the chicken in tank with water and packs of ice to a temperature of 40 0F within 4 hours to arrest any microbiological growth and improve on the shelf life of your chicken and the yield.

10.   Flock Health

Only healthy flocks can guarantee you a good carcass yield, so ensure that the flocks are raised in high bio-secure status and sound management practices that reduces incidences of infections, septicemias, leg problems and air sacculitis.

[The writer is Head vet at Kenchic watsonmesso@yahoo.com]

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