Chicken farmers who have gone organic with their birds and perhaps also produce eggs organically can look forward to reaping plentiful rewards for their efforts in many specialised markets in South Africa. In recent years, consumers have become more particular about the environmental footprint that they leave behind. Companies such as Radium Engineering provide the products which these farmers use to farm.
Organic poultry farming
To farm chickens organically means they cannot be raised in cages and, like free-range birds, need to have access to the outdoors where they feed on organically produced products. The eggs too are said to be more nutritious than with the use of conventional farming methods and free-range production. Disease control also differs and, unlike conventional and free-range production, the use of antibiotics to treat ailments is prohibited in organic farming.
Remember, raising chickens organically – and eggs produced in this way – is not the same as free-range. Like free-range birds, organically raised chickens have access to open-air runs but organic farmers face more stringent and unique requirements regarding feed, veterinary care, poultry housing density of the birds and undergo mandatory poultry industry inspections and audits. A certified organic producer must consider the effect of their practices on the welfare of the birds and strictly follow an environmentally friendly ethos all the time. Organic is also a costlier production method than free-range when it comes to the price of feed and prescribed quarantine periods for birds recovering from ailments. These are some of the reasons why organic chicken products have become so popular in upmarket, niche markets.
Cleaning and packaging eggs on site are possible as a small free-range chicken egg farmer. But you need to know the different regulations and food safety standards regarding washing, grading and storage of the eggs. If you are making deliveries to customers you need to have refrigerated transport to keep the products fresh.
To make sure both the environment and the pasture for the poultry is managed efficiently, it’s important that the housing for free-range chickens is as movable and when you design your shed, make sure you have enough nesting and roosting areas for your hens. Also, bear in mind ease of relocation when the shed needs to be moved and be sure to give the hens a comfortable interior environment with provision for enough ventilation to maximise egg productivity. This means that flock sizes, in most cases, do not exceed 2500 hens per hectare but don’t be surprised if you see some farmers who exceed these levels.
Challenges on small farms
Making a profit from free-range chicken farming is easier for large commercial farmers due to economies of scale and the production process that is mostly automated. Also, on big farms vertical integration of the production process takes place and this makes it easier than for smaller farmers. This is due to commercial farms have their own large-scale poultry farming equipment for all stages of the chicken’s life and production stages.
It’s much harder work and there are greater challenges for the small-scale free-range farmer as you need to maximise the productivity of the chickens. Things like the number of eggs laid by each hen, egg and chicken meat quality, cost of feeding and overall efficient management of the farm and operations are critical – often a seven day a week activity. One of the biggest challenges can be to get access to markets because free-range farming serves a specialist but popular and growing market. On some farms of only 2ha, determined farmers have been able to achieve very rewarding and successful operations through dedication and sheer hard work.
Some of the chicken farm equipment, feed mixers for sale in South Africa and chicken feeding equipment on organic and free-range farms is sometimes designed and built by the farmers themselves when the farmer starts off with the new venture.
But on more established and large farms, certain implements, such as spreading equipment to till organic material, need to be sourced from reliable poultry and agricultural equipment suppliers in South Africa. Not all farmers have the time or know-how to be engineers in addition to mastering the skills of successful farming all at the same time.
Spreading equipment from farm equipment suppliers Radium goes a long way to enhance both organic and free-range operations and help you achieve success.
Contact Radium today for more product information and to chat with one of our knowledgeable sales reps.