The broiler industry worldwide has advanced to the point that every gram of meat has value and that value must be accounted for when evaluating breeds for a specific operation. The days where live performance was the only thing that mattered in breed decisions are long gone, according to Jay Hughes in his presentation at the World Poultry Congress in Salvador, Brazil.
By Jay Hughes, Cobb-Vantress, Inc
The most frequently asked question in a broiler operation is which breed should be used? Integrators tried multiple breeds in their operation and now they have the results . Unfortunately these results most of the time only consist of average daily gain, feed conversion ratios, and mortality. They less often go into any detail about the different yield values they have got in the testing process or even what their product mix consists of. These things are just as important if not more economically than the live factors that go into choosing a breed for an operation.
Of course there are some countries with very large live bird markets and a few countries where the industry is not vertically integrated, and in those situations the meat yield difference of one breed versus another may not be very important. In most poultry markets around the world, however, the end product is meat and the economic factor driving the company is profit per pound or kilogram! Here, a good combination of live performance and meat yield are critical in analysing the most profitable breed for each specific company based on their needs for their product mix.
How to measure yield
Before yield is inserted into the economic evaluation for breed selection it is important to determine the method to be used to collect the data. Live factors are calculated in pretty much the same way the world over. Number of hatching eggs, average daily gain, feed conversion ratio, and mortality percentage are all pretty self explanatory and do not contain very many variables that could change the way they are calculated.
The same cannot be said for meat yield. There are a multitude of variables in the yield process that would have to be accounted for in order to settle on a consistent method of evaluating yield between breeds for an economic evaluation. With commonly over a million birds coming through a processing plant every day it is recommended that the yield for economic analysis be collected via specific trials rather than daily yield figures from the plant. That way the variables can be controlled and a specific sample of birds can be cut for all yield evaluations.
The variables that are the most imperative to control for a specific yield trial are: 1) growing method, 2) sample selection, and 3) hot yield (pre-chill).1) Growing method – The most important thing to keep in mind while growing the broilers during grow out is that everything should be the same in each house of birds regardless of breed. When growing different breeds in side-by-side houses it is important to choose a farm with identical houses so that the environmental variables are reduced during grow out. The house, equipment, feed, and care of the birds should be identical between breeds.2) Sample selection – The method of selecting your sample from each breed is possibly the most important point of an entire yield trial.
A method should be used that allows you to select a sample that is small enough to be manageable in the plant but accurately gives you the average yield of the flock of broilers you have sampled. The absolute best method to be used to select sample birds from an entire house of broilers is called “Restrictive Random Sampling”. This method uses the mean and standard deviation to restrict the sample being taken to the actual distribution curve of the broilers in the house (Figure 1). This is always to be done by sex even if the broilers are grown “as hatched”. Statistical rules state that in a normally distributed population that 95% of the individuals will weigh between plus or minus 2 standard deviations of the mean weight. Of that 95%, 2/3 of the individuals will weigh between plus or minus 1 standard deviation of the mean weight. This method will ensure that the sample being selected for yield evaluation follows this statistical rule.
The most common other forms of sampling are either simple random sampling, where the desired number of sample birds are chosen with no regard to weight, and common weight sampling, where birds are chosen from each breed at the same weight with no regard to the actual average weight of the flock (Figure 2). There are common flaws in each of these methods and will either result in the sample producing yield numbers greater than the average of the flock that they came from or will not give you an accurate evaluation of the expected yield. 3) Hot yield (Pre-chill) – The third factor that is important to control when evaluating yield is the amount of moisture in the carcass. This is a factor that becomes important when the carcass is chilled with either a water chill or air chill method. When water chilled the carcasses will all have variable water uptake and when air chilled the carcasses will all have variable drip loss. For this reason it is preferable to eliminate this possibility of a variable altogether and cut the birds for yield evaluation prior to chilling of either type.
In order to fully evaluate the economic advantages of one breed versus the other in your operation you must combine the data from the breeder, broiler, and yield phases of production. When the numbers are multiplied out from a single bird to a million birds per week processed in a single location you can begin to see the large amount of importance that yield plays in the economics of breed decision. Using this simplified model that will compare the effects of feed conversion, egg numbers, and breast meat yield you can see that breast meat yield is the economic driver for the breed decision process (Table 1).
It is also extremely important to factor in the product mix of the processing plant. If a plant is producing fully deboned product then the yield will factor differently into the final economic decision compared to a small bird bone-in product mix. A full economic analysis will then factor in all facets of the production process and the costs and returns of each process.
Yield value based on the product mix
The model you use should begin at the cost of the parent breeders and move forward. From the breeder performance side it should include the number of hatching eggs per hen and the average hatchability for each breed. These performance numbers will factor in with grower payments and hatchery costs to figure a chick cost to produce each broiler chick. From the broiler performance side the model should include the average weight and the number of days to reach that weight, the feed conversion ratio, and the liveability of each breed. The model should then be able to figure the cost per pound or kilogram to produce the live broiler.
At this point it is important to have the full yield breakdown of the broilers from each breed and an accurate source for meat pricing in the market. The yield values will work with the live weight of the broiler to the back of the plant to calculate the total pounds or kilos available to sell for each part of the carcass. These values will be compiled through the product mix in the model and the cost to produce the different types of products and produce an “income per pound or kilo” value. When this value is multiplied by the total number of pounds or kilos produced in a year it should give a clear result as to which breed is the proper breed of choice for a particular operation.