I once read with interest a letter by Ambrose Alii in the Harvest Money pullout, who was facing challenges feeding and managing her layer birds, and had opted to replace them with the local breeds.
I would like to advise Alii and any other farmer who might be facing a similar challenge. Poultry farming, just like any other business, needs a plan. One must be able to ask themselves some questions concerning the business they want to go into, and then plan for solutions. Some of the questions include:
How does this business work?
One can seek information from fellow farmers who have done the business with success, local agricultural or veterinary extension officers, or any other person who is knowledgeable about poultry farming.
During such interactions, one can ask all the questions regarding purchase of inputs (one-day old chicks, drugs, feeding, equipment, fuel, litter, and vaccines), management, space requirements, and maintenance costs, history of success, likely risks, profitability and, possibly, where to find market for the products.
Who is going to buy the produce?
Products produced in any business must have a buyer. When one sees some potential buyers in their area of operation, it does not hurt to talk to them.
It is important to know who will buy your eggs or broiler meat; where they are located, the quality or quantity of products they buy; and what kind of buying terms they work with.
This way, one gets to know the buying price, the transport costs likely to be involved, and the frequency of buying, plus all the necessary details about the market, so that they can plan accordingly.
Producing for an unknown buyer or market may be unpredictable and de-motivating, as one stands a high chance of being cheated, incurring excessive costs of transportation or total loss of products due to wastage.
What kind of resources do I have?
Resources are the things that one will need to establish and run the business. For poultry, things like land size, buildings, capital for investing in the business and maintaining it, labour, time and your capacity to see the venture through have to be considered. The kind of resources you have determine the size of poultry venture you are likely to take up.
The land and the money available can be the key limiting factors in running a chicken business. When land is not enough, one can only be able to build a house that can hold a limited number of birds.
The size and type of buildings or chicken houses are limited by money and the number of birds to be kept per unit area. Farmers should desist from over-stocking their birds, since this leads to under production and, sometimes, losses through death of birds.
Broilers, for example, should be kept at a stocking rate of 10 adult birds per square metre of house, while adult layers can be kept at four birds per square metre.
Money is the driver of the business and it must be planned for well, so that it can be used to finance the daily or weekly operations of the chicken business like buying feed, and meeting health costs for the birds.
It is common to find a farmer with good infrastructure, but with starving chickens. You should ask yourself if the amount of money you have put aside for the business will see you through it.
If it is layers, the money planned must cover the running costs for the first five to six months, where you do not have eggs to sell.
In this case one must start at the planning phase, forecast on the expenditure of five months and establish whether the amount of money available is insufficient
If one realises they do not have enough money, then they can choose to find more, borrow more or even size down on the number of birds they plan to have.
For broilers, on the other hand, the objective is to have them attain the market weight in the shortest time possible. Money for feeds and other inputs must be available to ensure that they attain the desired weight in time. Failure to provide feed due, especially in the first four weeks may cost one the desired market weights.
Also, in the last two to three weeks of their lives, broilers tend to convert less feed into meat, thereby allowing most feed to go to waste.
Planning must, therefore, be done in poultry farming in order to get better results, more profit and to also avoid regrets.
Samuel Sewagudde, the writer, is a livestock development consultant