Comprehensive Free Range Chicken Farming Manual for South African Farmers
With many major supermarkets now showing increase in free range poultry products, the free range chicken farming industry is coming of age in South Africa.
The opportunity to produce clean and healthy poultry products in a humane way using the best quality standards appeals to many new South African producers. Good free range chicken farming practices ensure that consumers get exactly what is advertised and that the producers are able to get certification and a bigger market for their products.
Best practice free range chicken farming ensures farmers are able to rear poultry that are stress-free, drug-free, antibiotic-free also animal by-products free. It is the best value proposition to an increasingly apprehensive consumer market that is increasingly worried about the health impact of factory farmed chickens and processed foods.
WHY FREE RANGE CHICKENS?
There is a winning edge in a free range chicken farming enterprises that is done well. Free range chickens are:-
Unlike factory farmed chickens that grow in a little environmentally-controlled cages with little to no access to the outside range throughout their lives, free range chickens are raised in an environment that is more humane. The stocking density is generally lower, ideally 1500 chickens per hectare. The chickens are also grown in an environment where they are able to express as much of their natural behaviour as possible. For example, they are free to forage, eat in the grubs and insects in the range, scratch and look for food. They have a good amount of access to sunshine, typically eight hours on average. They don’t just feed on the formulated rations. Their diet is more varied and includes lots of proteins from insects, legumes and grubs as well as vitamins and minerals from the various organic matter that they consume in the range. Free range chickens generally grow happier and research has shown they produce tastier and more nutritious meat. The eggs are also more nutritious, generally rich in vitamins and essential amino acids.
No Routine Use of Antibiotics
Many commercial poultry production concerns entail routine and sometimes indiscriminate use of antibiotics. That is partly improve productivity in a crowded environment. This is a practice that many free range producers shun not just out of ethical concerns but the free range spacious and less crowded environment in which the free range poultry producers eliminates many of the disease outbreaks that are likely to wipe out flock in a crowded environment. Overuse of antibiotics in animals has been linked to antibiotic resistance in humans and many health-conscious and ethical free range poultry measures go the extra step to limit the use of antibiotics as much possible unless it is necessary. In that case, the antibiotics should be deployed according to the strict prescriptions of veterinarians.
Free Range Poultry Products are Highly Marketable
Free range poultry products command a huge market share and farmers are always willing to pay extra for these products. Many retail outlets in South Africa, eager to project a sustainable and health-conscious image to consumers, are creating more shelf space for free range poultry products and that bodes well for many free range poultry producers in South Africa.