To remain financially viable, a small-scale poultry operation has to sell the birds when they reach the optimal economic weight in relation to the food they consume.
However, this can be difficult, says Don Taylor, managing director of South African poultry equipment manufacturer, Rotamaster.
According to him, industry research suggests that the optimal economic age is normally not much more than five weeks. Beyond this point, the cost of feed cuts into profits, managing bird rotation gets complicated, and cash flow becomes a nightmare.
Rotamaster helps the small-scale or entry-level poultry producer meet this challenge. Its abattoir equipment enables the farmer to slaughter from 50 birds per day, up to 2 000 birds per day with the top-of-the-range setup.
A skilled operator plucking and dressing birds by hand can manage about 10 birds per day.
Rotamaster claims that, with its small abattoir process, it takes less than five minutes to produce a dressed bird ready for refrigeration. The system is designed to bleed the bird completely while restricting movement to prevent bruising.
After it has been stunned, the bird is placed head down into the bleeding cone and the carotid artery is severed. Complete bleeding takes about 90 seconds. Next, the bird is immersed in the scalding tank and agitated until the feathers are saturated.
Easy feather removal
The 100ℓ tank accommodates four birds at a time, while a consistent temperature (54°C to 60°C for broilers) ensures easy removal of the feathers.
For plucking, both a drum and a fixed bowl plucker are available.
The bird is held against the rubber fingers on the rotating drum after scalding, and manoeuvred by hand to remove the feathers. With a little practice, the operator should be able to do this in about 30 seconds. The drum plucker has a powder-coated or galvanised steel frame and plucking drum, and a fibreglass hood, feather bin and belt guard.
Fixed bowl plucker
Operating the fixed bowl plucker requires no prior experience. Up to four scalded birds are simply dropped into the bowl one at a time, and vertically rotating rubber fingers inside remove the feathers automatically.
The machine takes about 40 seconds to pluck all four birds.
Joe Spencer is the mechanisation editor of Farmer’s Weekly.