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Think about farm efficiency in the face of higher input prices

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POULTRY farmers must look closely at their business and think about ways it could operate more efficiently, according to James Smaldon of broiler breeder firm Exmoor Agriculture.

“There are lots of things that hapen on poultry farms that don’t need to be done the way they are,” he told Poultry Network Live.

See also: The challenges behind reaching net zero poultry production

“You might think you are doing really well, but could find that you are actually quite low down the ranking (compared with others).”

He said some interesting things could be found by digging into the detail, and it came down to knowing the numbers and measuring.

“Not many people run the numbers on their farms, of things like the kilowatts energy used per bird, what individual fans are using, what the feed motors are using.

Measure, Model, Manage

“The trinity of livestock farming should be measure, model and manage.”

Efficiency is about doing things right. There is no point in achieving good performance figures on broilers, for example, if more birds are rejected at the processing plant.

“Supermarkets should not have to compensate underperforming farms,” he told the meeting. 

To be efficient, set goals

“If you took the farms in the bottom half of performance and raised them up just to achieve the current average level, the broiler breeder sector could produce 23m extra chicks a year.”

“To be efficient you needed to set goals, and have a direction of travel.

The first step is to analyse each parameter. 

“With energy, how much is used, where is it used, and does it need to be – what are the alternatives?

Lighting

Lighting was the easiest to address. On one of Mr Smaldon’s family farms, they took one shed and replaced the high-frequency fluorescent lighting with LED bulbs, and went from consuming 4kW per shed to 4 kW over all six sheds.

It is also worth looking at feed augers, he said. 

Whether they are running efficiently, if they have been tested recently, and whether they are the right size. Finally, can they be slowed down, or are they ever running empty? 

Maintenance

Maintenance is another area to consider. 

It is better to inspect and service equipment at turnaround rather than wait for a breakdown, which could cause significant stress to the flock, he said.