Alarming chicken deaths: Farmers blame chick suppliers for festive season losses

The Chronicle

Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
SMALL-SCALE poultry farmers are accusing day-old chicks’ suppliers of selling poor quality birds resulting in them incurring huge losses due to high mortality rates and poor growth.

A number of farmers dealing in broiler chickens who had hoped to cash-in on the festive season say they have made huge losses due to poor quality chicks.

The chickens are sold for R100 per bird or between US$6 and US$7.

The farmers are accusing the hatchers of colluding to sabotage them and they say what is disturbing is that they experience the same problem every year when they buy chicks for the festive season.

They say most suppliers sell poor quality chicks during this time of the year.

A farmer, Mr Enoch Tshuma said he bought 150 chicks and has lost a big number.

He said initially he thought the challenge was with him but was later shocked when other farmers started raising the same issue in farmers WhatsApp groups.

“The big question is why does this problem occur towards Christmas every year? There must be something wrong that these producers are doing to cause this challenge.

With the proceeds from chicken sales, we support our families and what they are doing is tantamount to sabotaging and disempowering us,” said Mr Tshuma.

He said the chicks have stunted growth because at five weeks, the chicks look like they are just three weeks old.

“We are forced to feed them beyond the six-weeks meaning we are running loses. The mortality rate is also very high,” said Mr Tshuma.

He said the chicks suppliers who were in the farmers’ WhatsApp groups were adamant that they are supplying quality chicks throughout the year..

Another farmer who identified herself only as Mrs Mguni said due to the huge losses she suffered last year, she did not buy chicks for the festive season this year.

“This year I did not buy chicks for the festive season after the losses I suffered last year. Out of about 100 chicks that I bought, only 40 birds survived,” she said.

She said the problem was with hatchers and the poor quality chicks were usually supplied towards the festive season.

“I suspect that due to pressure to satisfy demand during the festive season, they do not follow due process,” said Mrs Mguni.

She said it was difficult for farmers to understand what could have happened as they keep the chickens under the same conditions throughout the year and never experience the alarming mortality rate and poor growth.

Mrs Thubelihle Nyathi from Mpopoma suburb said she has been forced to reduce the price of her chickens as they are too small despite the fact that they are more than six weeks old.

Another farmer Mrs Nonceba Ndebele from Morningside suburb said farmers who collected chicks on the same day as hers suffered the same fate and this rules out the suspicion that the farmers were to blame.

“The problem is with producers of day-old chicks because how can all the farmers complain of the same issue? The chicks I have now is a third batch and the previous two did very well.

When I went to complain to my supplier they said my ventilation, heat and water were the challenges but I told them that the other batches did well under the same conditions,” she said.

Mrs Ndebele said the producers did not want to accept that they are supplying poor quality chicks because farmers will demand compensation.

She said some farmers suspect that suppliers were selling the best chicks to large-scale producers at the expense of small-scale farmers.

Mr Sijabuliso Mdluli of Entumbane said farmers have a big challenge in securing bookings for chicks from the market towards the festive season due to high demand.

This results in hatchers giving farmers poor quality chicks.

“I had 100 chicks and have so far lost around 40. Every day I am picking dead chickens and I went to the veterinary shops where I was made to buy some vaccines but I have realised that I am wasting money.

The vaccine is finished but they are still dying. Most of them do not show any signs of sickness, they just die,” he said.

The chicks suppliers however blamed farmers for the high mortality and stunted growth saying if they supplied poor quality chicks they would die within five days of collection.

One of the chick suppliers Mr Firk Muller who runs Big Brother Chickens blamed the increased mortality and poor growth rate to the fluctuating weather characterised by high temperatures.

“It has been very hot in November to beginning of December, and now we have this miserable weather (rains and overcast conditions) at the moment.

It is extremely difficult to get the chickens to perform the way they should because the environment is not allowing us to keep the chickens in the right temperatures or right ventilation. The challenge is prevalent at this time of the year,” he said.

Mr Muller said if it was a hatchery problem, the chicks would die within five days of collection.

He said he visited some farmers who got chicks from him and found that some of them were keeping the chickens in poorly ventilated places which was a major cause for the high mortality rate.

Mr Muller said he has introduced training for small-scale farmers on how best to keep the chicks.

The Zimbabwe Poultry Association chairperson Mr Solomon Zawe said the complaints by farmers was news to the association.

“People that have a problem of stunted growth must visit Government veterinary poultry units with their birds before they point fingers. They must first look at their own environment and production management,” he said. [email protected]

Article Source: The Chronicle

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