Ruth Kemboi feeds her broilers at her home in Moiben, Uasin Gishu County. [Kevin Tonui, Standard]

In the dynamic landscape of broiler meat farming, where farmers navigate the delicate balance between improving living conditions, optimizing stocking densities, and implementing preventive healthcare practices, a paramount challenge arises — achieving these enhancements at the lowest cost while maintaining market relevance.

With seventy percent of the total cost of rearing a broiler chick to market weight anchored in feed quality and efficiencies, the pursuit of cost-effective improvements becomes critical for the sustainability of broiler farming operations amid shrinking profit margins.

Understanding the Economic Landscape

Surviving and thriving in the broiler farming sector demands a multifaceted approach that extends beyond routine practices. While broilers have a shorter lifespan than layer flocks, they necessitate strategic considerations, particularly concerning flock house construction, chick procurement, feeding, and overall operational costs.

Flock House Construction Costs

Unlike layer flocks requiring more space for growth and egg production, broilers, with their shorter lifespan, only need half the space to reach target weights until slaughter. A space of 1 square foot per bird or 12-14 birds per square metre in an open-sided, seven-foot-high housing unit is adequate. Construction of a suitable unit for 1000 broilers, at the current market rate for building materials, is estimated at Sh125,000.

Cost of Chicks and Brooding Expenses

Day-old broiler chicks are currently priced at KS 100/bird at placement, with additional brooding expenses covering heating, water, wood shavings, early chick medications, and lighting amounting to Sh16-18 per bird under normal circumstances.

Cost of Feeders and Drinkers

Effective feeding equipment is crucial to avoid feed spillage. Round plastic 3-5kg hoppers with inverted lips for feed and 5-litre capacity manual plastic drinkers are recommended.

Applying one piece per 50 birds, a total of 22 pieces would cost Sh50,000 for all equipment. Access to clean potable water with a pH of 5-7 is vital, as birds typically drink twice as much as they eat.

Cost of Feeding Broilers

Feed constitutes the most significant portion of production costs, emphasizing the need for a realistic feeding program based on grams of feed per bird per day. A feeding program aligned with the breed and stage of development, acquired from the chick supplier, is crucial.

Feeding broilers ad libitum is discouraged; instead, it should be regulated based on energy content. A good feed conversion ratio (FCR), between 1.4-1.6, is the target, translating to a feed consumption cost of Sh280-304,000 for 1000 birds.

Strategic Considerations for Success

To enhance profitability, focus on growing birds with higher live weights, lower FCR, and appropriate feed consumption. This entails providing a conducive environment for larger bird growth through meticulous husbandry practices.

Minimizing feed waste, ensuring feed quality, and selecting broiler genetics with efficient conversion potential contribute to achieving these objectives. Additionally, effective disease control through vaccinations and medical treatment is paramount to unlocking the genetic potential of a broiler flock.

In conclusion, the intricate web of factors influencing broiler farming demands a strategic, cost-conscious approach. By amalgamating efficient operational practices with a keen eye on costs, broiler farmers can not only weather market challenges but also propel their operations towards sustained profitability.