In line with the development of the poultry broiler industry in Sierra Leone, it is most appropriate to start with the natural way of growing chicken, rather than to introduce the 45-day pressure cooker life cycle in broiler production. Instead, the free-range chicken farming, which grows broiler chicken as naturally and organically as possible by allowing the chicken to show its natural behavior is what we are proposing. Free-range chicken farming has consistently proved that chicken meat is generally healthier and more nutritious than those produced in a caged or factory environment.
The free-range chicken market is already developed in countries such as Australia, the US, the UK, and Germany. In other developing countries, eating free-range or organic poultry products is a trend that is catching up fast like in the Philippines. The main characteristic of free-range chicken farming is that the chickens are allowed lots of access to an outdoor range. They are not confined inside overcrowded poultry houses where each chicken has just enough space to stand. In free-range chicken farming, chickens are allowed lots of space and exposure to the pasture where they can feed on the grass, legumes, grubs and many other natural sources of chicken food.
The chickens spend ample time in the outdoors and they are exposed to the sunshine. In the process, the chickens, have meat that is of a higher nutritional quality. The free-range poultry products generally have more muscle and less fat, less cholesterol, more essential amino acids, more vitamins A, D, and E and many other benefits. Research results have shown that free-range poultry products generally contain as much as three times of these nutrient products compared to poultry products from caged birds.
Advantages of Growing Free Range Chicken in Local Communities in Sierra Leone
There are various other aspects of free-range and organic poultry products that make them particularly attractive to farmers in Sierra Leone. The farming operations do not require expensive housing and other feeding equipment. It uses antibiotics only when necessary. Growth hormones and other growth stimulants are not applied.
The development of the poultry industry in Sierra Leone will involve the participation of farming communities because it will need lands that are still available and local materials for the confinement of the chicken.
Vertically Integrated Free Range Chicken Operations
Using integrated operations that involve the establishment of a nucleus farm that provides the breeding, hatchery operations, dressing, cold storage, and marketing services to cooperating farmers provides a base for the expansion of the poultry industry. On this basis, the establishment of the Sierra Leone Free Range Chicken Corporation is being proposed. This corporation provides a leadership role for the development of the free-range chicken industry in the country.
Goal and Objectives
The goal of the business enterprise is to establish and operate the Sierra Leone Free Range Chicken Corporation as an agribusiness company that engaged in the integrated operations for the following purposes:
· The anchor farm consisting of breeding farm and hatchery, grower farm, feed mill, dressing plant, and cold storage,
· Contract farming of free-range chicken in partnership with farmer cooperators in different farming communities
Operations and Management
· The Anchor Farm
The anchor farm will be established initially in a five-hectare farm area. The components of the anchor farm are as follows:
· The Grower Farm
This is an enclosed property where the chickens will graze. Stocking density will be about 1500 birds per hectare. The chickens are housed during night time and during rainy days.
There must be adequate range or pasture where the chickens will graze. However, pasture may not be sufficient to meet the free-range poultry production needs. In many instances, supplement feeding with formulated feeds is necessary, especially if they are egg-laying birds in order to obtain the bird’s genetic potential. The most important aspect is that the birds must be provided with reasonable access to the outdoors for at least 8 hours every day and measures to minimize indiscriminate use of antibiotics are practiced. Fence to secure the pasture area is necessary for ensuring that the chickens have been adequately protected from predators.
· Feed Mill
The feed mill is a facility composed of grinding, mixing, and bagging equipment. The feed formulations for the different growth stages of the free-range chicken are mixed. It contains warehouse storage.
· Dressing Plant and Cold Storage
The chicken dressing plant and cold storage facilities are components of the anchor farm. The dressed chicken is stored first in the blast freezing facilities before loading in the refrigerated van that will bring the frozen chicken to the supermarkets. The frozen dressed chicken is sold as a branded product.
The Contract Growing Operation
To ensure the participation of the farmers and to expand the operations of the company, the growing of chicken including egg-laying chicken for breeding are outsourced to farmer cooperators. The farmers must comply with certain requirements such as location and accessibility, fencing and housing, and training to be provided by the anchor farm.
The company provides the chicks and feeds and agree on the date of harvest. For farmers who engage in breeding, they have the option to sell the egg or hatch the eggs naturally but the chicken will be sold to the anchor farm for processing at a pre-agreed price.
The proposal has already laid down the strategic direction to establish the Sierra Leone Free Range Chicken Corporation. The detailed business plan with detailed cost will be prepared after the actual visit to the area and after considering other details by a team of consultants.