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High Production Costs in Poultry

What are the primary costs that factor into raising poultry?

Feed costs account for about 70% of the overall cost of poultry production, so the primary cost that factors into raising birds is usually related to providing a balanced ration for poultry. Poultry feed can vary depending on the bird’s genetic strain and age and the surrounding environmental conditions, but most poultry feeds include grain, protein supplements, vitamin supplements, mineral supplements and other preventative feed additives. Many of the larger commodity ingredients depend on supply and demand — which, in turn, depend on weather, freight and the quality of national crops.

What influences poultry production costs?

As producers aim to reduce the amount of antibiotics in poultry feed and change production systems to meet driving consumer demands, the prices of production are also expected to increase. These costs usually impact the nutritionist team and the live production staff, who must still raise healthy, safe animals for the food system.

What steps can I take to lower my cost of production?

Every producer, regardless of the size of their operation, is aware of all of the components that cost them money and are determined to lower those expenses. In poultry production, profit margins are already so small that even seemingly minor factors can have a significant impact on costs. Feed costs represent the majority of production costs, but there are several other variables that can also impact your overall business.

If you are interested in reducing production costs, consider evaluating the following factors:

  • Poor water quality and low water consumption:
    Could the water your flock is drinking be having a detrimental effect on their performance and productivity, thereby increasing your production costs? Water quality and consumption are directly correlated with feed intake; if birds do not drink enough water, they will not consume enough feed. In fact, birds consume about two times more water than feed.

    Depending on the stage of development, water consumption also declines when birds are transitioned to different houses. The stress and uncertainty of an unfamiliar environment can cause birds to stop drinking and, in turn, stop eating. The more quickly birds get on water, the faster they will start eating, which will help them acclimate to their new environment more quickly and will decrease the likelihood of any negative side effects due to related stress.

    Water line management helps increase on-farm water quality and consumption. A new generation of water-soluble probiotics for poultry have also been formulated, and this alternative administration tool allows for probiotics to be added directly to the water supply. Remember to check your water lines, and implement a program that monitors and maintains the proper levels of these five water quality indicators:
    • Total bacterial count
    • pH
    • Water hardness
    • Total dissolved solids
    • Nitrates and nitrites
  • Feed quality and feed efficiency:
    Are the ingredients in your feed compromising your flock’s growth and performance? Feed quality is vital, as it plays a significant role in both intake and digestibility. With feed costs representing up to 70% of the total production costs, ensuring optimal feed quality and maximum feed efficiency should be a top priority for all producers.

    Providing a balanced ration for poultry is essential. Digestibility issues can be detected by recording feed intakes and weight gains, as well as by calculating feed conversion ratios at all stages of production, as this will reveal any drops in performance, thereby signaling that changes to the feed may be required. These numbers may also indicate problems with the feed, such as mycotoxin contamination — especially in the case of feed refusals — or the poor digestibility of the feed ingredients used. Understanding the factors that affect feed quality and implementing a quality-assurance program will help to ensure that your birds are getting the best possible nutrition.
  • Early mortality:
    Are your young birds getting the nutrition they need for optimal health and performance? Sound intestinal health is one of the keys to achieving optimal growth, production performance and feed efficiency, and it can be developed by offering gut acidifiers to birds.

    Young birds are more sensitive and susceptible to challenges that might cause sudden spikes in mortality. Mortality in poultry flocks represents lost income for both growers and integrators.

    There are many causes for early chick mortality, and it is particularly challenging to diagnose. Some common causes for early mortality include:

    To help reduce the risk of high mortality early on in a flock’s placement, provide them with additional nutritional support in the form of pre-, pro- and postbiotics, which will help build birds’ immune system defenses, even at an early age.
    • Genetics
    • Management challenges
    • Nutritional deficits
    • Disease
  • Chick and poult quality:
    Are your birds producing poor-quality hatchlings? While “hatchling quality” often differs depending on who you ask, it is typically determined via the following measurables:
    • Two-week mortality
    • Changes in morbidity throughout the lifespan of the flock
    • Long-term growth potential
    • Flock uniformity
    Many stressors that contribute to hatchling quality — such as vaccinations, beak trimming and transportation to placement — all occur during the stage of life in which birds are at their most vulnerable. There are also several genetic components and operational processes that can affect the quality of your hatchlings, including:
    • Hatchery processing methods
    • Metabolic shift
    • Breeder hen age
    • Time of placement
    • Diet composition

    In order to minimize the impact of these challenges and enhance the quality of your chicks and poults, we recommend providing them with a boost to their immune system. This should include dietary changes, such as proven feed additives that are specifically designed to help birds grow, thrive and pass along beneficial traits vertically between flocks.