Trialing Your Way to Better Flocks

Some people experiment to find different ways to improve what they are doing. Those people are early adopters, and they are important as they help push better processes forward. But there are also risks involved with being the guinea pig for a new product or idea. Some people would be in the mid-adopter camp as they prefer to see the data on something and then try things conservatively. Regardless of when you decide to try something new, it is critical that you take the time to evaluate the results to make the best decision on what to do going forward.

Veterinarians often ask producers about their goals. They rarely get a clear answer to that question.

Maybe you want to prioritize the weight of the birds, pounds per square foot of barn, feed cost, cost per pound of gain, or livability. These components all play a role in deter-mining the profitability of a flock. The best way to keep track of these numbers is to use a spreadsheet.

There are three things to consider when determining the profitability of a farm and those are high pounds per square foot, low feed cost per pound, and low medication cost.

The ideal scenario includes a method of assessing net profit of the flock, as the effect of mortality is accurately evaluated on feed efficiency and poult cost, as well as on overhead cost per bird. The overhead cost of the barn and utilities is a constant, which means it is the same regardless of the number of birds in the barn. Less birds means the cost is distributed over a lower number and therefore the cost per bird is higher. One way to account for this is to give each flock a set amount of overhead cost on the spreadsheet and then input the flock livability and average weight to distribute the cost per bird and per pound.

Let’s take a closer look at what comprises these values.

Pounds per square foot
This calculation accounts uses the weight and number of the birds, and divides that by the size of the barn. It can also take into account condemnation if you use the wholesome pound number from the plant versus the gross weight.

It is completely attainable to have over 13 pounds of bird go out the door per square foot with FP Tom production. If your weight is under 12 pounds, consider seeking advice to help you increase the weight. There are a number of farms already doing this, and you can too!

Feed cost per pound
This relates the cost of the pound of feed per pound of gain. If you have a high protein and high fat feed, usually the feed is more expensive. This higher cost is lost if you only con-sider the feed conversion alone. The feed conversion will tell you it took 2.75 pounds of feed to result in one pound of gain. That can be a great number, especially when you compare it to the 3 pounds of feed per pound of gain that another producer reported.

However, when you examine cost, your feed might be $1 per pound, and while another producer’s feed cost him $.75 a pound.

The other producer is the winner here, as he is gaining a pound of body weight for $.50 less than you. This is true even though he is feeding more feed, as his feed was less expensive.

The feed cost is variable depending if you are vegetarian fed or doing a NAE/RWOA/ABF feeding strategy etc. Use your historic costs to evaluate how you are currently doing.

Medication costs
The medication cost is important because the most ex-pensive thing you can do is run antibiotics, a probiotic, or an essential oil. They can be needed, even crucial, to success, yet we need to be in control of that number and always understand where the money is going.

Sometimes we can avoid antibiotics by using a management tool, or finding a new probiotic that will work just as well as one that is established and could be less expensive.

The total medication/additive costs should be less than 3 cents a pound. Farms with the best management programs list their cost at around 1.5 cents. It is ok to be higher, as long as you can identify where the expense was incurred. Did you have an ORT challenge? Was there a cocci break? Are the additives you are using helping with total pound increases? If the products work, they should be giving you enough added performance to pay for themselves.

These indexes make it easy to compare your own farm’s performance to itself, as well as to compare performance from farm to farm in an apples to apples scenario. This will help you benchmark your farm’s performance with other farms in your area and help with monitoring your performance over time. If another producer tells you he had 48-pound birds, ask him his stats for pounds per square foot. If he had 10 pounds per square foot, you should not necessarily be jealous. You might be marketing more meat and your farm could be better off because of it.

Other things to keep in mind are looking at the number of repetitions that are needed to evaluate a process – something like a feed change can show a trend after 3 flocks, whereas something like the change in a probiotic might need 9 flocks or more to indicate a trend. The bigger the piece of the puzzle for the goal parameter being monitored, the less flocks are needed to see a difference if there is one.

If you would like help tracking performance and/or expenses, the risk management staff at Sioux Nation Ag Center are exceptionally qualified to assist you. They can help you set yourself up to approach your business in a thoughtful, pre-pared way. If you have any curiosity about what Sioux Nation can do for you, give us a call.