Egg production is one of the livestock ventures with great rewards if done well. Overall table egg production recorded about 24% increase from 36.4 million dozens in 2018 to 50.4 million dozens in 2019. However this is lower than the 2016 high of 55.3 million dozens. Projections are already pointing at slightly decreased egg production in 2020 mainly due to high costs of feeds and difficult operating environment. However due to insatiable appetite for eggs by Zimbabweans demand is still high. Both large scale commercial farmers and small scale farmers are involved in egg production.
Now what does it take to run a successful table egg production enterprise in Zimbabwe, it takes passion, hard work and continuous marketing. Capital is the first thing required, it’s needed to buy feeds, equipment and layer chicks or point of lay birds. This enterprise requires planning ahead and all capital requirements has to be clearly laid out in your business plan. Then housing structures has to be put in place. The birds can be raised in cages or deep litter system. The cages are readily available on local markets then they have to be placed inside the houses which are well ventilated. The birds can also be raised in a deep litter system, here the birds are raised in a house where bedding has to be monitored and maintained. General factors to consider when siting a house are that it should be on well drained soils. The design should allow adequate ventilation and should have concrete floors and usually asbestos roof is recommended.
Nutrition is the next thing which is considered. Usually layer diets are bought, they are available on the local markets. It is difficult for startup farmers to formulate own diets since it requires a knowledgeable individual and also the need for accuracy when formulating. To lay well the hens must get the best feed. The birds need plenty of calcium in their diets to lay eggs with strong shells. It is best to buy commercial feeds such as laying mash/pellets. The mash is specially formulated to provide all the nutrients they need in the correct quantities. Make sure that you have a permanent supply of clean fresh drinking water for the birds.
The next thing is acquisition of the birds. The birds should be sourced from reputable suppliers. They can be acquired either as chicks or point of lay birds. Chicks require monitoring and management from brooding usually 0 to 6 weeks of age, growing and development 6 to 20 weeks and laying from 20 weeks to about 72 weeks. There is also need to carry out a vaccination program. Usually point of lay birds from reputable suppliers will have undergone a vaccination. Onset of egg laying at around 20 weeks of age is usually initiated by following a recommended lighting program. Maturity and laying performance is affected by the lighting program during the growing and production phase. Length of day is not allowed to increase until about 20 weeks of age. Light hours are stepped up at around 20 weeks to stimulate laying. Another management is debeaking. Debeaking is done at 8-12 weeks by cutting 2/3 of the upper beak and a tip of the lower beak this reduce chances of egg eating and vent pecking or cannibalism.
Health of the birds should be monitored at all times. Common diseases should be controlled once found before they spread. In case a poultry disease for example Newcastle diseases has been discovered in your area it’s wise to vaccinate all your birds immediately. Behavior of the birds should also be monitored. Abnormal behavior such as vent pecking and egg eating usually result from a deficiency of one or two nutrients. Also step up bio-security measures at your layer houses, this involves fencing as well as keeping gates locked, reduce visitors and have foot baths available. This prevents bringing diseases on the layer houses.
Another critical component in table egg production is marketing. This involves advertising eggs to potential customers. Social media also play a key role in marketing your eggs to customers. You can also supply supermarkets, schools, hotels and bakeries if you can find open tenders. Other markets involve local retail shops as well as your local community. As long as you produce quality eggs and market your produce you will always have customers. Also maintain up to date records to check your progress.
In conclusion this business requires adequate planning and management, consultation of skilled individuals and other farmers in the business. Continuous search of knowledge on better management practices as well as clearly set objectives. Ability to adapt to ever changing markets and strategies to survive in a difficult operating environment will result in the success of the business and you will reap profits.