Today, I want to focus on critical factors of brooding, cost implications, production efficiencies and the health of the chicks in contractual brooding.
During a regular chitchat with my farmer friends, some of them said they were contemplating contract brooding and wanted my opinion on cost implications.
Brooding is the provision of artificial heat or warmth to chicks in the absence of their parents.
Currently, farmers are spending about Sh16 per chick on brooding due to the cold weather. This is unlike during the warmer periods when farmers spend as low as Sh4. However, before you contract brooding services to a third party, let us look at what factors you may need to know.
Early development and growth
The role of a farmer is to provide the best possible conditions for chicks to stimulate and activate their body functions. This will then be rewarded by high egg production and/or efficient meat yield.
There is always a correlation between early body weight and final performance. For broiler farmers, the target day seven body weight should be 4.5 times the placement day-old chick weight. For egg producers, week five body weight should never go below 380 grammes per pullet, as this is critical for high egg production.
Please note that good brooding practices will ensure that birds have the ability to grow essential body organs in preparation for production. This is accomplished through rigorous attention to details, provision of comfortable stress-free environment and easy access to good quality water and feeds.
It is never about reducing mortality alone. A contractor for this essential function may never be interested in this aspect of rearing birds; they will charge you for a live chick. If you want to buy brooded chicks, insist on weighing samples of birds and check against the expected weight profile for the specific age before you pay. Remember, you are buying a promise or genetic potential.
When chicks are hatched, they are relatively uniform in terms of body weight and frame size, with a 98 per cent accuracy level. This is extremely important as it sets the stage for a flock to maximise their individual genetic potential to deliver target performance parameters.
However, as birds grow, this uniformity is not always easy to maintain, considering the different factors of environment, feeding, water and ventilation that occasionally upset the trends. Within the first 24 hours in the brooder, 95 per cent of all the birds should have feed and water in their crop.
In the next 48 hours, 98 per cent of birds on subsequent crop fill test should have water and feed in the crop in a sample of 5 per cent of the total population. This achievement will ensure that the gizzard is promptly developed, the intestines undergo elongation and more digestive enzymes are produced in preparation for growth and development.
In a good uniform flock, 80 per cent of the birds should be within the target weight and frame size bracket, while 10 per cent below or above the breed targets. Before you buy readily brooded chicks, check for the level of uniformity and insist on a coefficient of variation of not more than 12 per cent.
Health and efficiencies
Cold stress generally disturbs the gut health and lowers the resistance, making the birds susceptible to diseases. Ensure the chicks are vaccinated to strengthen their immunity. Insist on getting all the records and remember that a good start is just half the battle.
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