Why it’s Important
Feed costs are generally 60-70% of the total costs of production for artisanal producers, so as much as possible, it’s important to track your feed cost per bird so you have a good idea of how much this input is impacting your business. It’s only after knowing your feed cost that you can start to make improvements to productivity.
Use the simple worksheet below to calculate your feed cost per bird. Note that we have assumed conventional feed is being used, the default prices can be overwritten if you are using GMO or organic feed, or enter your own feed costs.
Chicks should be started on a high protein ration. Poultry Starter is a relatively small proportion of overall feed cost. At this stage, it is more important to achieve maximum early growth and establish a good appetite to boost performance and profitability than to reduce costs.
As the chickens mature, their growth rate slows and they need less protein. Feeding programs generally use a three stage program that reduces protein levels from poultry starter to poultry grower and to poultry finisher.
Finisher feeds are generally the largest proportion of overall feed costs so economic considerations should be applied at this stage. If you purchase feed that is to be mixed with your own on-farm grains follow the mixing instructions of the purchased feed. Attempting to reduce costs by not following directions can result in feed that doesn’t provide the right nutrition1.
Feed consumption is impacted by numerous factors, including management, temperature of the environment, and whether birds are pasture raised or confined. Cooler temperatures will cause increased feed consumption and slower growth rates, but excessive heat can reduce appetite and growth. Growth rates and feed consumption of pasture raised birds will depend on the forage availability and quality.
Consult with your feed company to be sure your birds are getting the right nutrition.
The “golden rule” of farm management: a 5% improvement in productivity, plus a 5% increase from marketing savviness, plus a 5% gain in efficiency (lowered production costs) equals a 117% improvement to the bottom line.2
“The biggest impact on productivity is mortality. Especially when they are pasture raised, the birds are at the mercy of the elements and weather affects mortality. We manage their environment as much as possible to minimize losses.”
– Will & Tara MacArthur
“A heat lamp for chicks until they get feathers will help reduce chick mortality. Temperature probes help us adjust to the right temperature.”
– Will & Tara MacArthur, Owners
“When we started, we set our number around what we thought we could sell – 200 seemed right – and we grew as we created our market.”
Will & Tara MacArthur, Owners