How to Improve FCR and Reduce Feed Cost in Poultry
In poultry farming, feed efficiency is a major variable to determine the cost of a kilogram of poultry meat (chicken, turkey …). Depending on the country and species concerned, the proportion of feed in a broiler’s ration ranges from 40 to 70% of the cost of production. The Feed Conversion Ratio, which varies depending on the type of production applied, is always a very helpful benchmark to determine the profitability of a farm. Should one aim to increase the revenue of their poultry enterprise, it is important to know how to improve the Feed Conversion Ratio and how to reduce the feed costs.
Technical and economic assessment and monitoring variables in poultry production
The feed conversion ratio (FCR) is the amount of feed ingested by an animal which can be converted into one kilo of live weight. This definition also applies to a single-age poultry flock held in an enclosed house. It is important that this house contains an indication of the amount of feed that has been eaten. The end of a rearing cycle is a good opportunity to undertake the technical-economic balance sheet of the cycle taking account of the following parameters:
The technical FCR is the total amount of ingested feed divided by the number of animals that have exited the house
The economic FCR is the total amount of feed ingested divided by the weight of poultry animals that can be accepted at the slaughterhouse. That is to say that the weight of seized meat is deducted from the total weight of goods.
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The corrected FCR at fixed weight is the average ratio of different flocks considering that they have all been slaughtered at the same weight. In other words, these animals are all brought down to the same weight through calculations.
The corrected FCR at fixed age is determined by estimating the weight that these chickens might have reached at the same age, depending on what they have consumed.
The FCR and hence, the amount of feed ingested, are the major variables that can help to set the cost of a poultry animal. Depending on the species and countries considered, the share of feed makes up 40 to 70% of cost production. Poultry, including broiler, remain the species whose FCR is the lowest (it can be as low as 1.5). Unlike other species, poultry are not religiously banned; this is why their consumption has no impediment and their yearly growth rate averages 3%.
Improving poultry FCR and reducing feed costs
Poultry’s FCR are first determined by the chosen genetic selection mode and the rearing conditions applied, as follows:
A red label chicken of slow-growing strain reared outdoors and slaughtered at 81 days will have an average FCR value ranging between 2.8 to 3.2
A standard broiler chicken reared in an enclosed house will have an FCR between 1.5 to 1.9.
By comparing these two chickens of different strains that have been fed with raw materials of same origin, it turns out that the first chicken will end up costing twice as much as the second.
Despite these differences, FCR calculations are very relevant. Evolving from an initial FCR of 3.2 to 2.8 in the case red label chicken implies that 800 grams of feed have been saved. At the scale of France, these 800 grams, based on one hundred million of red label chicken produced within a year make up 80,000 tons of feed per year. In other words, an amount of 20 million euros (for the prices applied in 2014).
Besides the type of farming and genetic selection applied, the improvement of FCRs lies on various factors:
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On the suitable transformation of raw materials, on the nutritional standards and physical presentation of feed, on the chosen genetics and the type of farming used.
On the rearing conditions applied, animals’ comfort and their access to water and feed.
Any element likely to cause discomfort, difficulties in accessing water and feed, as well as the animals’ aversion for specific types of feed, could lead to heterogeneous growth, health issues and to seizures at the slaughterhouse. The eventual impact may lead to significant drops in FCRs.
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