[BLOG] Five Essential Poultry Layer Farm Production Records
In this article, I discuss five (5) important farm production records a poultry farmer needs to diligently capture, to ensure s/he can take timely farm planning decisions that will result in the best possible performance.
The records discussed are operational in nature, and NOT financial. Relevant financial records - and related Key Performance Indices (KPIs) - useful for farm business evaluation will be highlighted in a future write-up.
At various points below, I have highlighted certain important farm production KPIs. The idea is to illustrate real world relevant uses, to which the records advocated can be usefully put, for the benefit of your farm business.
(Note: You may wish to consider using a simple MS Excel spreadsheet to track and analyze your operations data as time goes on. Use a paper based form, to record the data during farm operations. Then retire to your PC, to post the data into your spreadsheet. I have inserted screenshots from an MS Excel based poultry farm management application built for a 12,000 layer farm in 2009. They show formats you can adapt to your needs).
1. Flock (or Mortality) Record
At the risk of stating the obvious, it's important to always know how many birds you have on site. In computing your farm's value, the birds - and their eggs - are your farm's greatest asset (in equivalent market price monetary terms).
It goes without saying therefore, that getting a loan (or attracting investors/partners) can be much easier, if you keep accurate records. The following are various aspects of flock records that need to be kept.
a. Opening Stock
For operational effectiveness, weekly and monthly stock count of layers in production can be done. At the start of the week for instance you would count and document the number of birds physically on the farm.
b. Losses (Dead/Killed, Missing or Culled)
In every process, allowance is made for losses or waste. Poultry business is no different. But losses need to be kept as low as possible. Otherwise profit margins suffer. Good management may produce lower rates, but reports by extension specialists and farm owners suggest that a 10% mortality rate from start to end of laying would be normal.
You will not know how well you’re doing in relation to the above standard, if you fail to keep accurate records of birds that die (or are killed). Your record format could capture Dead/Killed, and Missing or Culled birds in separate columns. You want to do this because it will facilitate summing up the right numbers for use in computing the important KPI called Mortality Rate (%).
Note that records of birds culled and killed (say due to disease outbreak) must be treated differently from those culled and sold off (say due to ageing poor laying). The former can be added to the number of dead birds for computing mortality rate. The latter should however not be so treated, to avoid skewing the mortality index results.
Birds that are ill, deformed, not laying well or display aggressive vice habits are better off being culled (removed) from the laying flock. You will document the number of culled birds against the date the action was taken. Your farm record form could also allow you specify some detail about why a bird was culled - possibly in a small comments section.
c. Additions (Transfers and Purchases)
Sometimes new batches of birds are brought in, and others are moved out. Proper documentation of these movements is crucial for effective planning and decision making.
For instance, in planning for your layer's farm, you could adopt a schedule which requires you to rear chicks to point of lay, then send them out to the laying pens. This is actually a best practice strategy employed by smart owners, to maximize the output of their farms.
However, it requires accurate documentation to really succeed. You need to know which birds went where, in order to track their performance, against their history.
For instance, a batch of pullets might have suffered an unexpected (but quickly curbed) disease outbreak or feed outage, during their last week or two in the rearing house. You would want to closely monitor them to see how well they fare in their laying cycle.
If the output from that laying pen falls short of your birds’ norm, your farm records would offer some possible explanations. And it could stop you from embarking on corrective actions that are not necessary.
d. Closing Stock
At the end of the week or month, you should count and document the number of birds physically present in the pens or houses. Your closing and opening stock values are required for computing the mortality rate for your flock.
To calculate Mortality Rate (%):
Number of birds dead x 100
(Opening Stock + Closing Stock of layers) x 0.5
Mortality rate can be computed at weekly or monthly intervals. What’s important is to try and establish a trend with a view to keeping it low as possible.
Any unusual spikes would signal a problem that needs to be proactively investigated. The ultimate purpose is to enable you take timely corrective action BEFORE damage occurs.
2. Feed Consumption Records
About 41 kg of feed is said to be consumed by a bird from start to end of lay. Using this number as a reference, you can monitor the feed consumption of your birds, and determine how well they are doing. Your birds will not necessarily follow the same pattern. However, you should be able to establish a representative average for your own flock. Making sure an accurate record of feed given to them is documented, will ensure you make useful progress in this regard.
To calculate Feeding rate (grammes per bird):
Total Kilograms feed x 1000 x 100
(Opening Stock + Closing Stock of layers) x 0.5
3. Egg Collection Records (Crates and Pieces)
Every farm has its own collection schedule. It's wise to minimize frequency of collections, to avoid disturbing the birds too often.
You will decide on the best collection times for your birds, based on your observation of their laying performance over time.
Your record format should allow entry of the exact number of eggs collected in crates, with any remainders not up to 30 units recorded as pieces, next to it.
Your diligently documented records will be valuable in computing Hen Day Production (HDP) percentage. This index indicates the laying efficiency of your birds. Note that a layer takes about 26 hours to produce an egg. This means that not all your birds will lay an egg on each given day.
The Hen Day Production gives you a working idea of how your flock is doing in terms of its laying performance. It goes without saying that you cannot achieve 100% HDP.
The formula stated below takes into account losses arising from mortality. And it therefore helps to make your HDP result more realistic.
Once again, you should aim to establish a standard, and monitor the trend your birds produce over time with reference to that standard, taking corrective action as needed.
To calculate Hen Day production (%):
Number of eggs produced x 100
(Opening Stock + Closing Stock of layers) x 0.5
4. Layers' Strain (Genetic Record)
Egg laying performance is partly dependent on genetic quality of the laying bird. Hybrids have been in widespread use for decades in the poultry industry. Due to a variety of operational realities, farms are likely to have different strains and batches of birds in production.
Without accurate record keeping, mix-ups can occur that could totally disrupt the farm manager’s ability to accurately assess the performance of separate batches or strains.
5. Age In Lay (Weeks)
For proper management of the birds during their laying cycle, and also to plan effectively for their replacement, you need to track their age in lay. Pullets usually start laying from about 20 to 21 weeks.
Summary: The Link between Farm Production Data and Farm Financial Records
In my experience (including a recent discussion session I had with a government agricultural development agency operative), when “records” are mentioned, most people think only of "accounts and financial reports".
The reality is however that even the accountant in a manufacturing company, must start by sourcing production data from the factory, before s/he can prepare any sensible financial reports on the manufacturing business.
I say this from years of personal experience as a manager of manufacturing processes. During this time, I liaised closely with the accounts department, to reconcile figures used for financial reporting in a large brewing multinational.
One example: In the production department, we used paper based record forms, to capture volumes and weights of raw materials, ingredients and processed product that passed through our section. The data recorded on those forms were posted – on a shift by shift basis - into a custom automated spreadsheet application developed by an expatriate manager.
At month end, that application auto-generated a Variable Cost Analysis report, using price per unit values (of raw materials, ingredients and product) supplied by the accountant (and/or purchasing departments).
The accountant would in turn generate his Production Statement, using our documented process data. To ensure accuracy, his team would have conducted physical stock counts to verify our data. It was always reassuring to find that our little application produced cost per unit output that, often agreed with theirs.
The above digression illustrates the close relationship between production data, and the financial reports prepared in a batch production based business.
If you fail to produce accurate production data, your financial records and reports will have little or no useful value. For instance, financial records of sales from your farm would NEVER be accurate, if your farm egg collections are documented haphazardly.
In other words, without accurate documentation of day to day farm production records, no useful financial records – or reports - can be produced.
To download an MS Excel workbook (80.5kb) containing real-life sample formats of the records discussed in this post, click this link: http://www.spontaneousdevelopment.com/uploads/Figures1to4.xls
Tayo Solagbade works as a Performance Improvement Specialist/multipreneur, with a bias for Farm Research & Extension Advisory Services provision. He is the author of the Practical Livestock Feed Formulation Handbook, and developer of its accompanying MS Excel-VB driven Feed Formulation spreadsheet software.
Visit Tayo’s Self-Development Nuggets™ blog to find out how you can get your FREE copy of his new Practical Guide to Important Feed Ingredients (with high resolution pictures, prices, nutrients, uses etc). When he’s not amazing clients with his superhuman skills (wink), Tayo works as the creative force behind his Cost-Saving Farm Business Ideas website, and the Public Speaking IDEAS newsletter (which he publishes to promote Burt Dubin's Public Speaking Mentoring service to experts working across the African continent).