As with our pig operation and our egg laying operation we are happy to share what we do so that you don’t have to pay the school fees that we have. If you don’t want to see the photos, videos or witty comments below then click on the protocol and on the pdf drawings of the enclosures Chicken Broiler-sides and Chicken Broiler-plan and Chicken Broiler-sections by Mr W Hammers, master draftsman. These drawings are to scale if printed on A3.
Resilience in agriculture relies on creating soil. Every gram of soil organic matter (SOM) holds 8 grams of water. By rotationally grazing our animals around our farm we have since 2011 (which is when we started taking soil samples) increased our SOM by 42%. Please note that the farm average is still 1.87%, which is marginally better than beach sand.
I have written here about how our pigs create soil, here about how our laying hens in their Eggmobiles do the same. Here are more details about our cattle operation. Central to our cattle operation is the free choice mineral lick.
The underlying principle is that all the animals and their housing move regularly. The cattle are moved 4 times per day. The broilers and layers every day and the pigs once they have completely trashed an area which takes about 5 days. This ensures that the farm is neither overgrazed or overfertilised. Whether the conventional farming operation is caged or so called “free range” the housing is fixed and so the animals are under constant disease pressure as they live with their manure.
This picture explains why the vegan and vegetarian option is defeatist. Only animals managed properly, in this case broiler chickens, can regenerate soil. The dark green strips are where previous batches of chickens grazed in their enclosures and in the background the paler grass indicates that they have not grazed their yet. Sustainability is also a defeatist belief. Regenerative agriculture is the only option that we have left if we are to survive as a species for it is agriculture that is destroying the planet.
Above is a chicken we spatchcocked, marinated with herbs from the garden and enjoyed on the farm on which it was raised. Tasting our produce is one of the compulsory perks of the job.
If you don’t want to see any of the photos below and simply want our protocol then click here. It has the following sections. Daily tasks, additional tasks, materials sheet and vaccination program.
The chicks on day 1. Note the feeders, drinkers and heating lamp.
Our broilers operation is simple. We get the birds as day old chicks. We raise them inside a building for 3 weeks and then outside on the pastures for 4 weeks. Thereafter they go for slaughter in Hopefield.
The yellow on the beak at 11 o’clock is the yolk left from hatching out of the egg this morning.
The photos above are of a batch of 225 day olds on the day they hatched. We are lucky to have access to Ross chickens. We tried Cobb a long time ago and they were not as tough outside.
The greatest help you can be to your day olds is get them vaccinated and then fed and watered as soon as possible after hatching. More on our vaccination program in the protocol. Then you need to make sure their bedding is comfortable. We combine Zeolite (you can buy it from Agring – details in the protocol) with shavings. This is important as Zeolite binds to 27 Oxygen molecules, which enables it to help with your ammonia issues. The space that they are in is 3 metres by 3 metres. I would not put more birds in that space than 225. We have a second space for the other 225 that make up our 450 birds weekly.
Note the other lighting option. Also the drinkers have changed to bell drinkers which we buy from Poltek. Ditto the tube feeders. As the birds get bigger they are able to eat and drink from these devices which are easier to handle. They also move over to this feeding system when their food changes from the starter ration to the grower ration. It is very important that the birds get starter (Day 1 to Day 10), grower (Day 11 to Day 24) and then finisher (Day 12 to the end). You are wasting money on feed if you don’t stick to this.
The shavings/Zeolite combination needs to be turned every day. This is the best tool. It is a modified garden fork.
It is very important to have these hand sanitisers at the entrance to each room as you don’t want your staff handling the birds of different ages without sterilising their hands.
The enclosures on the land are 4m x 6m. It is critical to galvanise the metal. I promise you that if you try to do this with non-galvanized metal you will end up having to throw away your rusty enclosures. We have ours made by Rouan who is available on +27 76 197 1413.
At the back of the enclosures you need the wheels above so that you can move it daily. The daily moves are critical.
This is what we have made to attach to the tractor to pull the enclosure. Daily moves ensure neither overgrazing or undergrazing. The chickens very soon learn to accompany the enclosures on their moves.
The covers are made for us by SA Shade. Best to speak to Rudi on +27 84 503 6169. Under the shadecloth is a clear plastic which keeps rain off the birds. The sides are only shadecloth. You must have the ventilation along the sides at the bottom.
The team from Hopefield Abattoir where the wonderful team under the supervision of Essie and Tyrone do the job. Essie is on +27 82 7433 566
The birds have to be inside for 3 weeks as it is only after three weeks that they have enough feathers to handle the cold night time temperatures. These birds only reach sexual maturity at 20 weeks of age which is when they will be fully feathered and considering we slaughter at 7 weeks they look slightly bedraggled.
We have written a detailed protocol for this operation. Please click here Broiler chickens, nov 2017 to download it. The plans for the enclosures are here Chicken Broiler-sections and here Chicken Broiler-plan and here Chicken Broiler-sides .
I filmed the video below with my drone. Here I am showing Never, Murehwa and Khayalethu how it works.
13 December 2017