Writes Lieketso Ramoholi
The complexity and technicality of poultry farming has not bred an enabling environment for sustainability in terms of producing own day old broiler and layer chicks in the country, thus making Lesotho an importer when it comes to this industry. Although there are few of mini hatchery owners in the country, there is high shortage of fertile eggs and that is a major impediment for both sustainability and flowing supply of day old chicks.
Production of day old chicks, although still not explored in the country, is one profitable section in poultry industry. At the moment, with most farmers relying on sourcing day old chicks from South Africa, it is crucial to take into account the quality of these chicks in creating a viable and sustainable industry contributing to economic mainstream of the country. Quality of day old chicks still remains upper most in poultry industries and for a long time, it has served as a yardstick for the success of the industry.
Chick quality deals with the ability of a chick to perform to its set or optimal potential and all parameters which directly relate to this ability come to play to ensure success of the poultry industry. Any upset in one parameter negatively affects the chick quality or yield expected.
Given poultry farming is a closely knitted industry involving series of phases throughout the entire production; from hatchery, through rearing and lastly production, it is quite hefty and non-economical for a farmer to carry out the whole process, hence segmentation seen in this industry. The disadvantage though is that one phase of production is heavily dependent on the preceding phase, and the failure in one phase carried out by one farmer negatively affect the next farmer.
Quality of day old chicks can be affected at the earliest phase of formation at the farm. Any adverse mismanagement at the farm, be it in nutrition or health aspect upsets ultimately impacts negatively on egg production which in turn cripples chick yield.
Cross-cutting pointers to be taken into account when sourcing day old chicks and fertile eggs from the breeder are as follows;
- Hygiene and sanitation at the farm and hatchery
- Prevention and control of diseases at the farm
- Day to day farm management
- Egg handling (egg collection, handling and contamination control)
- Hatchery management ( incubator climate and biosecurity measures)
- Record keeping at the farm
The cycle below entails a summary of events including laying of fertile eggs, collection and storage of those eggs, incubation, hatching and lastly handling of the newly hatched eggs until they reach the final receipt.
Ensuring high quality day old chick production
A farmer has to inspect the farm from which day old chicks or fertile eggs are sourced. This is important step before decision making since obtaining a quality day old chick is characterised by a chain of successive and related events.
It is therefore of utmost importance to consider a reputable breeder to source day old chicks from. Since there is a pressing demand which far surpasses supply, it often takes a farmer a longer time to receive ordered chicks from breeders or agents in this industry hence tempting for a farmer to opt for any breeder without making an in-depth research. It is way beneficial to raise high quality chicks to avert from early mortalities, stunted growth and health complications throughout production cycle.
A farmer has to be able to observe and differentiate quality of chicks upon sourcing from a breeder farm and some of the characteristics are as follows;
- Well-dried, long fluffed feathers
- Bright round active eyes
- Have completely healed navel
- Legs should be bright and waxy to the touch
- Chicks should be free from deformities (crooked legs, twisted necks and cross beaks)
- Firm abdomen
- Uniformity in terms of size and weight
Evolution from a subsistence to a more competitive commercialised poultry enterprise involves being in a continuous process of identifying key areas determining the success and fate of the project. Quality of day old chicks still by far is one of the determinants in poultry industry and should not be overlooked. To ensure the forever sung ‘sustainability’, the country should hasten the initiative to kick-start hatcheries and breeder farms to respond to the pressing need for day old chocks and fertile eggs in the country. In disease outbreaks such as the recent ones of Avian Influenza in South Africa, this should serve as a clarion call for the country to sustain its industry by not depending solely on imports.