Optimal conversion of feed fed to broilers is very important as it dictates to a very great extent the profitability of broiler production. This is largely due to the fact that feeding constitutes about 60-70% of the total cost of production.
Feed conversion ratio refers to the measure of how efficiently a given flock converts feed fed into desired end products of meat. It is calculated as;
FCR = Total Feed Given / Total Flock Live Weight.
The smaller the FCR, the better the efficiency of feed conversion. Normally, FCR increases with the age of birds. The implication of this is that birds are better converters at early/younger ages. Farmers should thereby pay extra attention to their flocks during the brooding periods of their life ( i.e. the 1st 2 weeks of life) as this is the most important phase of development in the life cycle of birds. Another factor that makes this phase of life very important is that it is during this phase that gut development takes place and proper gut development is very essential for optimal feed utilization. Since broilers are usually kept on the farm for a shorter period (8-10 weeks), the brooding period constitutes about 20-25% of the bird’s life and any mismanagement during this phase of life will reduce the profitability of the venture greatly. The table below shows the average FCR of Abor Acre Plus over an eight week growth period.
The different factors affecting FCR can be grouped into:
- Nutritional Factors
- Health Factors
When it comes to nutrition, the quality of feed fed is a very important factor. But other factors such as quantity fed, even distribution of feed, timely presentation of feed to flock and adlib provision of clean germ free water all contribute to the overall nutritional status of the flock. A good combination of all these factors will help the birds grow faster and more evenly. Disease incidence will also be reduced to the minimum. Farmers must realize that though all feeds look alike, they differ in their nutritional composition. Different feed types are formulated to meet up with the different nutritional requirement of birds at different ages of development. It is recommended that starter should be given between day 1-14 days of life. This is then followed with grower mash which is feed for a period of 15-25 days of life. The birds are then finished with finisher mash which is fed from day 26 until slaughter. The finishing period is another important period in the life cycle of broilers because of the rapid changes in body composition going on at this phase and any nutritional inadequacy in terms of quality may lead to fat deposition and result in poorer FCR.
Generally, diseases reduces birds performance as birds’ appetite, immunity (ability to fight diseases) and FCR are all affected during any disease outbreak. Farmers must enforce strict biosecurity measures to reduce to the minimum the entry of pathogenic agents. This should be combined with good vaccination program as biosecurity alone does not give 100% guarantee against disease entry. Responsible use of drugs is another factor that must be ensured. Using the right drug at the right dosage helps in preventing the emergence of multiple-drug resistance strains of pathogenic agents on the farm.
Broilers appear to be more susceptible to some disease conditions than other breeds of birds. Some of these are, Coccidiosis, Necrotic Enteritis, and Heamorrhagic Enteritis. The most important of all the three diseases is Coccidiosis as the remaining two are opportunistic infections that ride on a prevailing coccidial infection. These diseases should be given immediate attention because apart from the huge loss that they cause in the form of mortality, they erode the gut lining of surviving birds rendering the gut less efficient in performing its function of nutrient absorption leading to nutrient loss in feces ultimately causing stunting and runting syndrome within the flock.
Management simply refers to the combination of other factors of production for optimal result. Good management is not just important but one of the necessary skills any serious minded farmer must possess in other to make his farming venture a very successful and profitable one. Farmers must ensure they observe the following for better management of their flock.
- Avoid over stocking
- There must be cross ventilation
- Theft of feed and other farm imputes must be totally eliminated as this can be misinterpreted as poor FCR.
- The right and adequate farm equipment (feeders and drinkers) must be used for the different ages of birds.
- Equipment (e.g feeders, drinkers and brooders) must be evenly distributed within the pen to ensure that each bird have almost equal opportunity to assess feed, water, drugs and vaccines.
- Monitor water consumption of the flock because any factor that deny or discourage birds from drinking sufficient quantity of water will lead to reduced interest in feed consumption.
- Adjust feeders and drinkers level from time to time to reduce feed wastages and to encourage birds to stand while eating and drinking which enables the legs to grow properly.
- Avoid over filling the feeders per time as this can lead to excessive wastage of feed.
- Adjust feeding pattern as we move from one season to the other.
- Ensure conformity with standards.