Emerging poultry farmers should first find a market for the eggs or chickens they will be producing. However, these farmers shouldn’t try to compete with the large commercial producers for a place on the supermarket shelves.
These big producers use specially selected chicken breeds to produce eggs or broilers on a large scale for the mass market.
These chickens are the result of many years of intensive selection and only produce well under the strictly controlled environment in modern facilities that cost millions of rand.
These chickens are therefore not suitable for emerging producers.
Options for emerging producers
Indigenous chickens such as the Boschveld, and the old standard dual-purpose breeds such as the Australorp, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Potchefstroom Koekoek, are far more suitable for smallscale producers.
They may not grow quite as fast and they eat slightly more, but they’re hardier and more disease resistant, more adaptable and will produce better under semi-intensive conditions than commercial breeds will.
They’re also ideal for the informal and live-chicken market. The meat texture and flavour is good and so is the taste of the eggs, although they may not lay as many as the commercial breeds do.
It’s impractical for a small egg enterprise to rear its own hens to the point of lay stage.
Rather buy such hens from breeders, but avoid the specialised commercial layer breeds. Breeding day-old chicks on a large scale is only practical if you have a big-enough market.
Large companies specialise in this and an emerging farmer can’t compete with them or match their prices.
But large companies can sell day-old chicks to smallscale producers, who can grow them out for slaughter or use the hens for egg production.
It’s more practical and economical to buy these chicks from a commercial hatchery and rear them to six to eight weeks before slaughtering or selling them as live chickens. Again, be careful of the specialised commercial broiler breeds.
Mike Bosch’s Boschveld indigenous chicken is ideal for smallscale producers of chickens or eggs.
Selling your eggs
Fresh-egg production has small profit margins, warns the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).
Smallscale farmers find it tough to compete with the large suppliers, so you need a good plan or marketing strategy. And it must be one that allows you to sell your product as fresh as possible and as soon as possible.
Think about adding value to your eggs. You could, for example, sell hard-boiled eggs at schools or taxi ranks at three times the price of a raw egg.
You could package your eggs in more convenient amounts, selling units of four or seven, instead of the usual six and 12. You could also pickle eggs for a longer shelf life.
Speak to your customers, and see what they want.
Email Mike Bosch [email protected].
Source: Poultry Production (ARC-Animal Production Institute).