Size Matters – How population affects profitability

As we head into the fall and winter, it is essential to review the number of birds placed per turn – especially as poult availability issues and flock size reductions per plant direction may occur.

While smaller flock size hurts profitability, it provides a health benefit. In a barn built with a 15,000-bird capacity, with every 5% population reduction,  the birds tend to be healthier and have a higher rate of longevity. However, there are several downsides of the decline, as total pounds marketed is reduced. For every 1% decrease, the total weight of the birds in the flock must increase by .5 pound to compensate for the reduction of population. After a 5% reduction, you must market 47.5-pound birds instead of 45-pound birds to reach the same number of pounds sold.

Fixed costs
Even if you can make up the weight lost in a flock reduction, there is an increase in set costs, including heating and ventilating the barn. This is particularly true in the fall, winter, and spring months. Each bird adds heat and moisture to the barn, increasing the amount of propane and electricity needed on a per bird basis when there are fewer birds. Because the moisture must be removed it requires the same amount of electricity to run a 48 inch fan with 12000 birds as 15000; your barn will require more heat in the winter because fewer birds will produce less collective body heat to help keep the temperature warm.

Other costs
Other things to consider in a flock reduction are water and feed usage. Less flow to water lines can make them harder to keep clean, and as feed ages in the fall and spring, it can lose its freshness during the mid-day heat. The cost of labor is another consideration if you are paying someone to chore; salaried employees can particularly increase your costs per bird.

Advantages to downtime
The best course of action when poults are slim, or the plant does not need birds is to extend downtime and drop a flock. With that decision, your barns will be cleaner as you have more time to clean. More downtimes can result in less stress for you as the producer and more efficient cost management. These times are great opportunities to address those pesky maintenance chores that never seem to get completed, as the hustle of quick turns leaves you constantly feeling a little behind. You can also remove a barn from production to do a renovation or upgrades that you’d like to get done.

Always be your own advocate for your operation and involve your team. If your team does not include a veterinarian, consider giving Sioux Nation Ag Center a call. We are happy to help you grow the best birds possible for the most profit.