Poultry Trend : Less Antibiotics More Probiotics (Part 1)
Don’t look now, but the growing trend in poultry production is toward the use of more probiotics and less of antibiotics. This is the case not only in the raising of free-range chickens but also in the mass production of broilers – the so-called white chicken which are produced by the millions throughout the year
The growing trend is for a good reason. Consumers are increasingly becoming health-conscious and are shying away from poultry meat packed with antibiotic residue. Antibiotics, of course, are the main weapon of poultry raisers in subduing deadly respiratory diseases. The trouble is that many poultry raisers tend to depend largely on these drugs, to the extent that they are overdoing it. Many of them think that the more antibiotics they use, the better for their flock’s health.
The trouble is that the excessive use of antibiotics results in high antibiotic residue in the poultry meat. And this is bad because the consumers who eat the antibiotic-loaded chicken will imbibe the drug. And the possibility is that when the time comes that it is necessary for the consumer to take medication, the antibiotic may no longer be effective in treating the human ailment. The bacteria causing the disease may have developed resistance to the antibiotic.
Fortunately scientists have come up with alternative means of protecting poultry health. One of them is the use of so-called probiotics. These are formulations of beneficial microorganisms and enzymes as well as vitamins and minerals which are added to their feed or drinking water. These probiotics suppress the growth of the harmful bacteria so that the immune system of the birds is improved, enabling them to resist disease and other stresses.
One big integrator that is sold to the idea of probiotics is Foster Foods which has numerous contract growers in Luzon producing millions of broilers every month. These include raisers growing 10,000 per batch to as many as 250,000 like the Era Poultry Farm in San Jacinto, Pangasinan.
According to Dr. Eduardo Agoyaoy, head of Foster Foods’ chicken business unit, their company supplies a lot of chickens to food chains like Jollibee, McDonald’s, upscale hotels and restaurants. These customers, he said, are very particular about the poultry meats they buy. They want them to be free of traces of antibiotic residue. And that is one of the reasons why the food company has adopted as a standard input the probiotics Biolyte and Nutradec in its contract growing operations. Previously, most growers give antibiotics three times to their birds. Now, it is only given once when the birds are 16 to 20 days old. By the time the chickens are 27 days old, no traces of antibiotic residue could be found in the meat.
Under the contract growing scheme, the integrator supplies the chicks, the feeds, the probiotics (vitamins and minerals) and technical supervision. A veterinarian or animal science graduate is assigned to assist the contract grower in growing his chickens. On the other hand, the contract grower provides the housing, water, electricity, labor and management. The contract grower has to see to it that the birds attain a certain weight at a certain growing period, and he is paid according to his performance. Normally, contract growers make P10 to P14 per head after a growing period of 35 to 39 days. There are some, however, who make as much as P20 per head.
One typical contract grower of Foster Foods is Garlando Luna who runs his farm in Rajal-Angayan Sur, Balungao, Pangasinan. He is currently raising 22,000 birds per batch which gives him about P 12 to P 14 per head. He says taking care of 20,000 to 30,000 is ideal for a grower like him. It is very manageable and requires just a few workers. One worker takes care of about 4,000 birds. Of course, he is always there to observe developments in his farm.
Garlando is a civil engineer who used to be a contractual engineer with the Department of Public Works and Highways. Eight years ago, he gave up his government employment to go into full-time broiler production. He loves contract growing of broilers because the turn over is fast. His chickens are harvested in 35 to 39 days and he does not have any problem in marketing because Foster Foods buys everything that he raises.
He said he likes the Cobb’s breed that Foster Foods is providing its contract growers because it has a very good feed conversion ratio of 1.8, meaning the birds eat only 1.8 kilos of feed to produce one kilo of meat. He also observes that there is very negligible cannibalism among the birds.
Like any other chicken breed, Cobb’s also suffers from heat stress during the hot days of summer. To prevent heat stroke, the workers spray water on the bamboo flooring every hour.
Another professional who has gone into contract growing with Foster Foods is Ramoncito Bella, 34. A business administration graduate, he gave up his job in a bank in 2000 to become a chicken farmer in Brgy. San Isidro, Cabuyao, Laguna.
He is taking care of 20,000 birds now under the conventional housing of wooden structures with elevated flooring. Like Garlando Luna, Monty, as he is called by friends, uses antibiotics only once but more of probiotics. He also attains a good feed conversion ratio as well as recovery. Although he was raised in the city, he loves farm animals and that’s why he chose broiler raising as his business. He is more fulfilled in farming than when he was working as an employee in the bank. Moreover, he makes more income from his chicken business than from the bank.
to be continued…