The broiler bird is bred as a meat producing chicken, one that is fast growing to cater for the protein requirements of any community. There are two main breeds found in Zimbabwe, namely Cobb 500, and Ross. The differences between the two are mainly on the mortality and weight performance though can be considered negligible provided good agricultural practises are being done for both breeds.
- Excellent liveweight gain – Can reach 2.4-3kg at 6 weeks with good rearing practices.
- Good Feed Conversion Ratio – Uses less feed to make a kilogram of meat, ranging from 1.4 at 5 weeks to 1.6 at 6 weeks.
- Large, strong legs – Important for supporting the big bird at harvest.
- White and large breasts – Good for consumers.
- Low mortality when well reared.
Broilers are white in colour when fully grown and feathered. They are characterised by fast growth, high feed conversion efficiencies, good carcass quality, and are bred to be resistant to diseases.
There are three main players in the production of broilers, namely the hatchery, the feed supplier, and the farmer. All three have great influence on the performance of the birds, with the farmer being the main player once the birds have been placed in their shed. Farmers do tend to blame hatcheries when their birds do not grow, but in general, all hatchery related issues tend to present themselves within the first five days after placing. Similarly, poor growth is also often misattributed to feed supply without due consideration as to whether the bird’s environmental requirements are being met by the farmer.
Growth is influenced by several factors which include the bird’s environment, feed used, health conditions, and hygiene. When the bird is kept in an environment where all its temperature, ventilation, feed, and water requirements, as well as disease prevention measures are maintained it will thrive and perform to give the farmer good profits. If the same bird is kept in an unsuitable environment with no attention to the details required for good production, it will not perform.
Locally, the broiler project is viewed as an easy one to take on, mainly due to the very low cost of entry when first starting out and has seen more and more consumers embarking on their own small projects. It is imperative, however, to acquire a solid understanding of the field and actively work towards getting the best from the chosen breed of broilers. As mentioned before, if its needs are not adequately catered to, the broiler will not perform.
Thus, my main thrust over the articles to come will be discussing the farmer’s role in this cycle so we can assist each other to work on the areas we can control to always ensure the best performance. I have worked with all levels of farmers, from the small-scale backyard projects to the very large-scale commercial farmers and will draw on my experience with broilers to ensure your project is profitable and a joy to run. Let us draw on each other’s knowledge, particularly practical experiences and make this a conversation that helps us all learn. Please bring your questions as well as areas you’d like us to address.
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