Livestock and crop farming are increasingly under threat from risks such as drought and it has become essential for farmers to explore diversification options to sustain their farming ventures.

In fact poultry production specializing in the rearing of layer hens to produce fresh table eggs offers farmers a great diversification option to increase farm income.

In other words, there is money in the eggs business.

At least this is the view of Mr Hanks Saisai, who is the technical advisor on crop farming and poultry at the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank).

Mr Saisai states that the starting point, when one intends to venture into the production of fresh table eggs, is to register as a producer with the Poultry Producers Association of Namibia which is affiliated with the Namibia Agriculture Union (NAU).

“Upon completion of registration as a producer, it’s important for the farmer to conduct market research to determine input suppliers from which he or she can source the chicks or hens, feed, veterinary medicines as well as housing materials such as chicken wire mesh, fencing poles and other equipment,” he says.

“Moreover, it’s crucial for a famer to determine the possible target market and costs associated with the production of eggs.”

Once adequate market research is conducted, a famer can commence with the construction of the chicken coop. During construction it is essential for the farmer to construct a rough concrete floor inside the chicken coop for easy cleaning and maintenance of hygiene.

A follow-up consideration is for a farmer to procure the chicks or hens from reputable suppliers.

“One can buy popular Lohman Brown day old chicks that cost N$22.00 per chick on average. Day old chicks offer the cheapest option to a start-up farmer and if raised correctly, the farmer has an influence on the quality of hens and their production time span,” the agricultural expert states.

“The main disadvantage associated with raising day old chicks, however, is that they take about 4 months before egg production can begin, which implies that a farmer has to incur feed and vaccination costs without any income during this time.

“Alternatively, a farmer can procure point of lay hens at an average cost price of N$ 130.00 per hen. The hens offer the advantage of immediate production after purchase or a week or two for egg production to begin.

“Furthermore, the farmer does not incur the cost of feed to raise the chicks and mortalities are less when compared to buying day old chicks.”

He points out that there are, however, some disadvantages “such as, the price per hen, which is higher than the cost of day-old chicks, limited control in terms of the quality of hens and the possibility of hens bringing diseases if sourced from unreputable suppliers.

Once the hens or chicks are procured, it becomes essential to ensure that the chickens are fed with the right type of feed for their respective age groups.

“Day old chicks must be fed with Pullet Starter Mash, whereas chickens of the age group of 1 to 4 months must be fed with Pullet Grower Mash and at the age of 4 to 5 months (Point of lay hens), the hens must be fed with Layer Mash which is necessary to stimulate egg production.”

At the age of 4 to 5 months, it is recommended that farmers provide each hen with about 110 to 120 grams of layer mash per day and each hen must have access to light for approximately 16 to 17 hours per day for optimum egg production in the 12-month production cycle.

“The recommended light intensity should be 30 lumens per square meter and therefore, light bulbs of 30 lux are necessary as hens are very sensitive to a change in lighting in the house.

“Moreover, water must be provided in adequate amounts to all hens to ensure uniform growth and egg production.

“Lastly, when venturing into egg production, another crucial consideration is the documentation and maintenance of records on egg production, feed utilization and vaccination against infectious diseases such as Newcastle Disease, Infectious Bursal Disease (Gumboro) and Infectious Coryza.

“This will help the farmer to make informed decisions when entering the second production cycle and ensure their egg production enterprise has good returns on investment.”

In the photo: EGGCELLENT. More money can be made in the eggs business.