Free range chicken pro­duc­tion low

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

THE coun­try’s free-range poul­try farm­ers are fail­ing to meet the de­mand as the in­ter­est in indige­nous foods con­tin­ues to surge, an ex­pert says.

Speak­ing at a free range chicken breed­ing workshop in Figtree last week, one of the big­gest and most rep­utable indige­nous chicken breed­ers in Mata­bele­land re­gion, Mr Agrey Moyo said com­mer­cial free range chicken pro­duc­tion in the coun­try was still at its low­est ebb. The workshop was at­tended by prospec­tive and poul­try farm­ers from Mangwe, Umguza and Gwanda Dis­tricts.

“Cur­rently we can’t ful­fils the de­mand of free range chick­ens lo­cally for both chicks and breed­ing stock es­pe­cially those that are at a point of lay­ing. Peo­ple aren’t aware that poul­try is more of a game of numbers be­cause when there is high de­mand on the mar­ket one may have all their stocks be­ing wiped out. It’s bet­ter to have huge numbers so that you can have con­ti­nu­ity,” said Mr Moyo.

Over the last decade there has been a rise in pop­u­lar­ity for tra­di­tional meals that in­clude free range chicken pop­u­larly known as “road run­ners” or nkukhu makhaya, guinea fowl, turkey, rab­bit and duck meat to go along with tra­di­tional starches such as sorghum and rapoko pasta as well as brown rice.

While al­most ev­ery house­hold in ru­ral ar­eas has al­ways kept free range chick­ens for food and a few have sold a bird here and there to help raise money for use around the home, com­mer­cial free range chicken pro­duc­tion is a fairly new con­cept in most ar­eas.

“The prob­lem we have in the coun­try is that most peo­ple are ob­sessed by be­ing for­mally em­ployed and tend to be ig­no­rant of the fact that there is a day they are likely to have their con­tracts ter­mi­nated or re­tire and then find them­selves poverty-stricken there­after. Peo­ple should be en­cour­aged to ven­ture into in­come gen­er­at­ing projects such as poul­try. It’s not easy to start but if one per­se­veres they even­tu­ally reap af­ter­wards thus there is a need to change the mind­set of peo­ple,” said Mr Moyo.

The en­ter­pris­ing farmer hatches about 20 000 eggs a month us­ing his large ca­pac­ity mi­cro-bi­o­log­i­cal in­cu­ba­tor and sells to a num­ber of en­thu­si­as­tic poul­try farm­ers drawn from Bu­l­awayo, Mata­bele­land South and North prov­inces as well as some parts of Mid­lands.

Mr Moyo boasts of seven breeds of free range chick­ens, which in­clude boschveld, blue aus­tralorp, black aus­tralorp, koekoe, white leghorn and splash while he also raises guinea fowls and a few tur­keys.

An ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer in the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­tural Tech­ni­cal and Ex­ten­sion Ser­vices (Agri­tex) in Bulil­ima District Mrs Nyararai Chinyoka said there has been a grow­ing in­ter­est in rear­ing free range chick­ens over the past few years in a mar­ket that has been dom­i­nated by hy­brids.

“There has been grow­ing in­ter­est in free range chick­ens rear­ing but most of the farm­ers are still strug­gling to re­alise op­ti­mum prof­its from their en­ter­prises largely due to lack of proper pro­duc­tion and man­age­ment skills with im­proper hous­ing be­ing the ma­jor fac­tor,” said Mrs Chinyoka.

Free rang­ing is sim­ple and eco­nom­i­cally vi­able when it comes to feed­ing. Free range chick­ens can feed on a nor­mal diet of grass, worms and bugs as they are al­lowed to freely roam about and ac­cess sun­shine for long stretches of time each day.

There are how­ever, plenty of other foods that free range birds can feed on, which in­clude small grains such as rapoko, mil­let, sorghum and ground maize as well as fish meal, cot­ton seed, sun­flower cake, maize germ and bone meal.

The rise in free range chick­ens poul­try pro­duc­tion has led most stock feed man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­duce al­ter­na­tive feed for these birds.

“We have been pro­duc­ing spe­cific feed for ‘road run­ner’ chick­ens for the past six years and we have also been of­fer­ing tech­ni­cal sup­port to these poul­try farm­ers at no charge to as­sist them get es­tab­lished be­cause this is a fairly new project. They are very few farm­ers that have re­ally em­braced it.

“We im­part them with the req­ui­site in­for­ma­tion that it’s no longer about throw­ing grains or food left­overs at the chick­ens but they need to add value and get the busi­ness side of those ‘road run­ners’. The vol­umes of free range chick­ens have been steadily been in­creas­ing over months . . .,” said Feed­mix tech­ni­cal sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ms No­magugu Mat­wasa.

Agrib­ank sales and mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Mr Noel Sibanda said the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion was of­fer­ing a num­ber of loans tai­lor made to suit small-scale farm­ers.

“We have a num­ber of loan fa­cil­i­ties to of­fer to var­i­ous groups of peo­ple as with this na­ture of project we are look­ing at in­di­vid­u­als ac­cess­ing loans through our youth em­pow­er­ment and women em­pow­er­ment funds for work­ing cap­i­tal or cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture pur­poses.

“We also have a mi­cro-fi­nance di­vi­sion, which of­fers loans from as low as $20 to $2 000. Con­sid­er­ing that some of the poul­try farm­ers are for­mally em­ployed we of­fer loans through our con­sumer fa­cil­ity whereby we will is­sue then loans 12 times their net salary payable over 36 months,” said Mr Sibanda.


Mrs Sindiso Ma­suku (nee-Ncube) in­side a fowl run with six weeks old chicks af­ter she at­tended a free range chick­ens workshop held at a Figtree ho­tel, Mata­bele­land South on Wed­nes­day

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