Emerging poultry farmers in KwaZulu-Natal are getting hands-on training at advanced new facilities at the (KZNPI), with the support of the US-based World Poultry Foundation (WPF).
The training, the first in-person course at the institute since the start of the pandemic and lockdown, took place at the KZNPI poultry management training centre near Pietermaritzburg in February.
Thirteen small-scale poultry farmers experienced conditions in an advanced new chicken house financed by the WPF last year.
Lindelihle Nxumalo, KZNPI Farm Manager, says the training exposed farmers to the differences between the enclosed and open-sided chicken houses, underlined key factors in poultry mortality, and improved farm management and business skills. “We taught farmers how to properly weigh their broilers, and placed the new chicks in the new houses so they could see the differences between the automated and open sided house and get a feel for the differences in weight,” he says.
“A major problem for many emerging farmers is high mortality. Farmers often blame the hatcheries, feed companies or vaccine companies for this. However, we instilled the importance of attending to ‘FLAWS’ – feed, lighting, air (ventilation), water, and sanitation – to help correct the mortality,” he says.
Another important lesson was the importance of weighing the birds. Nxumalo says very few small-scale farmers weigh their poultry regularly, resulting in losses when pricing the birds for sale. “You have to weigh the birds to understand the feed conversion ratio and sell the birds priced per kilogram, not per bird. That way, people pay correctly for the feed it has eaten.”
This advice resonated with participants, he says. “They all said the first thing they would do after the course was buy a scale. Most comments on the evaluation forms indicated that the farmers now intend to weigh chicks when they arrive, then weekly, then again when selling them.”
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The training at the new chicken house allowed farmers to experience the use of climate controls, automated feeding systems, and state-of-the-art scales as part of an ongoing campaign by the WPF to improve capacity among poultry sector stakeholders in SA. More than 200 emerging poultry farmers have learned to improve their financial management and discovered more efficient and cost-effective farming methods in a series of workshops funded by the WPF.
Network for knowledge
A number of emerging South African poultry farmers have also benefited from training in the US, where they receive training at major commercial farms and processing plants as part of a WPF-funded internship programme.
In addition to helping the farmers improve their poultry management practices, the course has also given them access to a new network for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Says Nxumalo: “They have formed a WhatsApp group, and they never stop talking!”
Xolisani Mtolo, a farmer who underwent the training, says: “The course helped me to reduce mortality in my chickens. I also learned more about the importance of biosecurity and following the right procedures according to the environment of the area or province.”
Says another participant, Zamamvula Cebekhulu: “The course helped me to understand more about growing broilers. Now I know more about how to wash the chicken house, feed them correctly, the importance of vaccinating, the structure of the chicken house, and managing the farm. I am looking forward to doing another course.”
Nxumalo says the courses are proving hugely popular. “Once a farmer has undergone one of the courses, they want to do them all. It exposes farmers to opportunities for growth and expansion. Some of them are now looking beyond broiler production to expand into layers, hatcheries and abattoirs. The WFP courses give participants the push they need to do more and grow their businesses.”