A exciting day, our new batch of Isa Brown layers from Asiima Agri-Consult Limited makes 36 weeks and 2 days, finally hits 90% productivity. The productivity journey has been as follows:
- First egg – 19 weeks
- 85% to 87% for 10 weeks straight from week 27 to 36
Our secret so far is building on prior experience:
- Feed quality – this is outsourced to a supplier whose quality and reliability have been consistent over r the last 3 years
- Formula – we r using a basic formula to leave room for improvement as the birds grow older
- Biosecurity – use lime at the entrance, also adding a little to the litter, routine spraying outside the houses on a weekly basis. Nobody is allowed into the site – not guests
- Vigilant management – the operations manager spends an equivalent of 3 days at the site every week with random visits to support farm management
- Fanatical record keeping – diligent record keeping to track trends, and spot patterns in behavior
- Fortnightly assessment by a vet as an preventive management pattern
At the same time we are preparing for a new batch of chicks, so repairs to an existing house are underway by plastering the walls exposed to the birds, repairing the floor and replacement of chicken wire mesh.
Once the repairs are completed, a contractor has been hired to disinfect the house which will be the subject of another sharing session
This is an interesting scenario brought about by Dr. Samuel Sewagudde of Genesis East Africa Ltd in one of a poultry Whatsapp group that highlights the challenges poultry farmers face in their business choices. I will use this scenario to provide step-by-step analysis of how to build the data for decision making.
Speaking of Economics, Catherine usually buys layer feed from Matama Feeds Ltd at UGX 800 sh a kg and her birds lay averagely at 72%. At a recent Farmers Expo she met Augustine who works for Mulegi High Quality Feeds Ltd who convinced her that she would achieve 80% production if she uses Mulegi feeds. Mulegi layer feeds cost UGX 1000 sh per kg. Now if Catherine sells a tray of eggs at UGX 8000, Should Catherine switch and use Mulegi feeds?
In this computation the following assumptions have been made:
- Each bird eats 125g of feed per day
- The costs of the feeds include transportation so no additional costs are incurred with the feed
- There are no additional costs incurred in the sale of the eggs
Using the above information:
- Matama feeds cost UGX 100 per day while Mulegi Feeds cost UGX 125 per day
- At 72% production each bird generates UGX 192 per day (8000 * 0.72 divided by 30) while at 80% production the revenue per bird rises to 213/= (8000 * 0.8 divided by 30).
- The increase in cost of feed is UGX 25/= per bird per day while the increase in revenue is UGX 21/= per bird per day
Therefore changing feed providers means that Catherine will spend an additional UGX 4/= per bird per day, therefore the increase in production does not meet the increased costs of feed.
The moral of the story therefore is increased production does not always translate to increased profitability
Its now week 7, and time for us to separate the birds into two separate rooms to increase space available for each bird. This was part of the plan as running two brooders is a hassle with no specific benefits.
Now there are 1,215 birds in each house of giving about 1.13 sq feet per bird. In the new house we mixed the husks with lime, as well as sprayed a disinfectant over the husks & the room during the course of 2 weeks before the move.
Before Separation – Brooding House and New Home
Birds before separation
Feeder Layout – Top End
Feeder Layout – Bottom End
After Moving into New Home
Happy Spacious Birds Lower End
Happy Spacious Birds Upper End
Feeding Time in our new home
The chicks are now 5 weeks in the brooder, with a mortality rate of 0.4%, weights less than the management guide (which are based on environmentally controlled conditions) but within range and closing fast, weight uniformity distribution of over 70% and improving.
This post is about lessons learnt in this flock and what we have done differently:
- Hired brooding services from a poultry focused service provider who provided a worker for the brooder and a vet who visited regularly: 3x per week in the first two weeks, 2x a week later, currently at 1x per week
- The vet provided also supervised and carried out vaccinations as per the recommended schedule
- Focused on building immunity in the first 3 weeks, now growth and development of the pullets
- Weighed the birds to provide benchmarks for the growth, but only used the data for tracking so did not adjust diets to bring up the weights
- Adjusted the chick and duck mash formula, to provide the necessary energy levels and texture for easy feeding.
- Provided recommended levels of feeders and drinkers to reduce bullying and contention for deed
- Bio-security improvement: started leveraging powdered construction lime for initial disinfection and at entrance to the brooder, disinfectant spraying every week on the premises and proactively spraying inside the brooder with a high mist disinfectant (selected not to have any major side effects for the birds)
- Collecting data on feed and water consumption on a day-to-day to better understand the changing patterns – increase in feed consumption is at 4g per bird per week
As always a selection of shots from brooder:
We are excited to be starting a new chapter at the farm, where we have a new batch of chicks that have come in today, Isa Brown, with the learnings from the last 2.5 years of business.
The changes that we have put in place:
- Increased bio-security with a dry lime bath on entry into the brooder
- Testing a new “sigiri” in addition to the pots
- Using newspapers as a bio-layer over the coffee husks, that will disintegrate and mix with the litter
- Contracting with an experienced poultry brooding services company to provide a dedicated person to raise the birds from day-old to about 6 weeks, depending on the progress and learnings that we have had.
Brooder – Day old chicks – View 1
Brooder – Day old chicks – View 2
Brooder – Day old chicks – View 3
The major factor affecting poultry egg production and therefore revenue & profitability is the feed. Its not enough to just provide feed, but rather a consistent product, with little variability in composition, quality and texture.
Birds are usually kept in high concentrations, so any change in the feed will quickly have a ripple effect on the productivity measured in days, with return to regular production taking longer usually weeks. The cause is that egg laying, a.k.a reproduction is not critical to a bird’s well being, so is reduced in any shocks to nutrition.
Given how critical this is, should I mix my own feed so that I have full control of the process, and outputs. That is a loaded question, my answer and advice being that it varies depending on your (the farmer) strengths and your business model.
Considerations for mixing your own feed:
- Cash flow – as most of the ingredients are to be paid for in cash
- Supply chain – you need to develop relationships with the providers of the ingredients to cater for times of shortages as most of them are agricultural based
- Storage – you need to maintain your own stores and manage moisture contents along with other contamination sources. This will also include bio-security controls for the traffic within the farm related to ingredients
- Mixing Space- you will have to mix feed regularly which period reduces with the size of operation you are running. In Uganda, you also need to manage electricity supply, repairs and operations of the motors, human resources (the mixers) along with pillage (some ingredients like premix are prone to this due to their high unit cost)
- Dust from mixing operations – if you have a large area then this will not affect you much as this areas can be separated from the rest of the farm and living quarters
- Consistency – can you keep doing this regularly, consistently for ever?
- Cost – does the capex & opex for mixing your own feed add up to savings?
- Feed formulation – do you have the necessary expertise to formulate, adjust formulae for the birds as conditions change?
Considerations for outsourcing your feed mixing:
- Operational Capability – what capacity does your supplier have to stock up on key ingredients, ensure a consistent supply from the market even when they are shortages, and to maintain a consistent predictable feed mix. Do they have the right machinery and personnel in place, as well as capability to formulate, refine and advise on feed formulations.
- Consistency – how consistent is the output of the feed mixing
- Checks and balances – how is the quality of the feed maintained, and controlled, do you have to be there when the feed is being mixed all the time. Do you trust the quality of the product that you are receiving?
- Turn around time – what is the turn around time from ordering to receiving your feed
- Scale – will your supplier be able to scale with you as the numbers grow?
- Feed formulation – does your supplier have the necessary expertise to formulate, and adjust formulae for the birds as conditions change?
Essentially the two camps are evenly matched with the choice depending on your particular conditions, with the ability to mix and match options as your farm grows and scales.
What choice did you take? I took the choice of outsourcing feed mixing, with the major drivers being:
- We do not have experience with agricultural ingredient selection and quality management
- The space we are working with is too small to allow mixing
- The supplier we have is currently is working out for us, and we have been able to develop an efficient operation to ensure un-fettered just-in-time feed supply to the farm
- The largest customer that our supplier services has 30,000 birds there is scaling capability there
- There are no major cost savings given the local cost of capital & operations, so we are focusing our energies on ensuring higher revenue for our products.
- The feed supplier is well versed with feed formulation, as well as other aspects of poultry layer management which provides additional value
Why did you make the choice you did, how is that working out for you, if you had to do it again what would you do?
Question: I have been using the “cold” Newcastle vaccine for my birds, however I am thinking of moving to the thermal stable version. Being paranoid knowing that it is important to stay consistent for a flock – does it make sense for me to move at this time to the thermal stable version
Answer by Dr. David Omoding of Quality Chemicals (U) Ltd
Your fears and apprehension are understandable. However, be assured that moving to the thermal stable version would be the right move for the reasons below:
- Vaccine failure is a major issue for any “cold” (thermolabile) vaccine from point of manufacture, thru transit, to storage at the pharmacy premises, transportation to your premises etc. Wipe that uncertainty away by using a thermostable vaccine.
- The Thermostable strain is called I2 and it offers quicker, stronger, longer lasting immunity to poultry as compared to the cold La Sota, Clone, R2 strains. It might be bit more expensive but surely worth every penny. More can be found from http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/ac802e/ac802e04.htm.
In extensive systems (free range), one application is sufficient for the life of the bird including local birds while In intensive systems we advise one application every 3 months.