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Prolonged rearing narrows profit margins in broilers

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Broilers refer to hybrid, heavy fleshed meat birds that reach slaughter weight at 35 – 42 days. It is shocking to note that some consumers particularly in the northern regions dislike purchasing live broilers due to their white plumage colour and opt to buy “braai packs” at retail stores. However, it is important to note that braai packs and broilers are the same thing. In essence, braai packs are dressed and packaged broilers. It should be noted that the broiler enterprise is a quick money-making enterprise amongst all farming enterprises. A serious farmer could achieve six (6) production cycles in a year including downtime. However, the prolonged rearing of broilers has the opposite effect. It reduces profit margins, profitability and results in extra expenditure on feeding, biosecurity measures, treatment and vaccination to reduce disease exposure in the broiler birds. Thus, the lower the market age, the better for a farmer. The cost of production and net profit per bird determines the fate of a broiler enterprise. Other factors that affect the profitability of a broiler enterprise include mortality, morbidity, flock size and the hygienic conditions of the farm. However, older market age has the potential to reduce profit margins significantly and increase the production cost per bird. In Namibia, there are two market options for broilers; small birds market (35-36 days) and larger birds market (42 days). However, irrespective of the market options, farmers are advised to market broilers before the harvesting time and sell them before or at 6 weeks to secure their profits.

Large birds market

The large bird market is the most common in Namibia. Poultry farmers raise their broilers from day old to 42 weeks and sell to consumers after this period. This is particularly common among small-scale farmers targeting informal markets such as the open market, households, events etc. The price per head of large birds ranges between N$ 100.00 – N$150.00. In areas where the price per broiler is N$ 150 per head, farmers are likely to achieve higher profits by selling at a mature age as opposed to selling at 35-36 days old. However, in areas where the price per broiler is below N$ 100, prolonged rearing can result in lower profits to none. To this end, farmers are advised to strictly sell their birds at 6 weeks and alternatively slaughter and sell them dressed. Farmers should also plan appropriately and raise a suitable number of birds that can be consumed by the market within the particular season. However, bird numbers can be increased when approaching higher demand months where a hike in sales is expected e.g. during Christmas, trade fairs and popular wedding months depending on your location and the size or weight of your birds. During these peak times, consumers are guaranteed to purchase your products as they reach the desired slaughter age.

 Small birds market

The small bird’s market option refers to the practice of slaughtering, packaging and selling birds mostly at the age of 35-36 as opposed to 42 days. Mostly, medium and large-scale poultry farmers prefer this market option and prefer to weigh, package and sell per kilogram (e.g. N$ 46-60 per kg) depending on the value of the portions. For instance, giblets and chicken backs are cheaper than thighs and drumsticks etc. It should be noted that adding value to your broilers could pay off, as dressed chicken fetch a premium price on the market as opposed to undressed chicken. Farmers are advised to analyse the market beforehand and produce as per customer demand. For instance, some consumers may feel uncomfortable slaughtering live birds, others do not have the time to dress chickens due to their busy schedules, while others may simply find whole chicken unaffordable and prefer portions. Thus, if your market comprises of such customers, consider adding value and selling dressed cuts. Various dressing equipment (Plucker) is available in stores that can be used to assist with dressing/Defeathering chicken in a reasonably shorter period. Casual labour can also be used for this purpose to create job opportunities. On the other hand, large and medium poultry producers who intend to consider opening a mini abattoir require experience, appropriate biosecurity measures and may require government approval. This may also prove to be quite a costly venture that requires financing. To this end, the Agricultural Bank of Namibia offers Agribusiness related loans at affordable interest rates to fund such ventures. In the final analysis, farmers should take note that feed efficiency deteriorates with each day as the bird’s age. This is mostly because older birds have a greater body mass to maintain each day as well as additional demands for energy and amino acids. Therefore, the prolonged rearing of broilers minimizes feed efficiency, thus increasing production costs and reducing the profitability of the enterprise considering that feed constitutes the largest expenditure in terms of poultry production costs. It is therefore imperative for farmers to establish a market before the targeted slaughter age to achieve efficiency in the broiler enterprise.

This article is compiled by Emilie Abraham, Technical Officer Agribank’s Agri Advisory Services Division.