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Many producers nowadays consider adding a broiler branch to their farming enterprise, as it is an easy way to earn extra money. Entrepreneurs who would like to venture into farming, but who can only afford a small parcel of land, also give serious consideration to broiler farming. Yet broiler production requires a relatively large capital outlay and producers and aspiring producers therefore need to make the right choices from the onset. One such choice is the chicken breed to be used.

Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of the Broiler Organisation at the South African Poultry Association (Sapa), says there are three basic breeds used by the broiler industry worldwide, namely the Ross, Arbor Acres and Cobb. These three breeds were bred specifically to meet the requirements of broiler production.

These breeds are owned by two international companies that invest a lot of research into breeding the right type of genetics that will guarantee success. They select for rapid growth, a good feed conversion ratio, white feathers, low mortality and disease resistance. “These researchers are constantly striving to improve the breeds and are working on around 60 traits at a time,” he explains.

The right chicken

Several breeds have been tested in the poultry industry as a whole, but in the broiler industry, each breed has a specific function. When you start farming on a large scale, it is best not to use one breed for two purposes. Roosters that breed layer hens, for example, are not suitable for breeding broilers. These chickens have poor growth, feed too much and are not fleshy – on a plate they look rather emaciated and are anything but juicy.

Layer hens, explains Izaak, are suitable for egg production but not for broiler production. Backyard chickens, on the other hand, are slow growers and suitable for occasionally laying an egg. Their real purpose is to scratch in the garden to keep if free from pests.

broiler production
The broiler industry has a huge market for live day-old chicks and the Ross, Arbor Acres and Cobb breeds are ideal for this.

In South Africa, he says, the broiler is usually a fast grower with tender meat, but there are also markets that have other requirements. “Some producers sell slow-growing chickens that are hardier and have a leaner carcass. It is more suitable for markets in some African countries and for countries in the Middle East where consumers like firmer meat with more flavour. If the chicken is slaughtered when slightly older, the meat is firmer and tastes better due to the fat the chicken has accumulated.”

Highly sought-after traits

Ross: The Ross breed is known for being a fast grower that can reach a live weight of 2,9kg in 35 days. Its weight gain ranges from 52 to 58g per day. The breed is known for building more muscle mass and having clear skin and strong legs. The breast is large and white and in high demand in the market. This breed has remarkable survival traits and can easily win any battle in the chicken coop.

Arbor Acres: This breed has been at the forefront of broiler production for over 80 years. It has been developed to meet the current and future requirements of the industry. Hatcheries, whose main business is to sell day-old chicks, can benefit from the high number of saleable chicks produced by the parent stock, even in testing environmental conditions. Broiler producers will benefit from the Arbor Acres’ excellent daily growth, feed conversion and longevity. In markets where broilers are still mostly sold whole, the conformation of the breast is sure to attract the attention of the consumer.

Cobb: The Cobb broiler is seen as the breed with the lowest production costs, having excellent productivity and average daily growth at lower feed rations. It also offers producers the best uniformity in terms of broiler processing. The colour of its carcass tends to be more yellow, which makes it a very attractive option. 

Setting up your own poultry unit

For producers who want to add a broiler branch to their existing farming enterprises or prospective producers who want to build a poultry farm from scratch, a few aspects require close attention.

According to Izaak, the market is the first aspect that needs to be investigated thoroughly. Producers must also make sure that they will be able to comply with health regulations.

Poultry houses for broilers

Getting your chickens in a row requires more than just identifying a market; a producer needs to know how much chicken a customer is likely to buy and at what price. “There are many producers who invested large sums of money, but in the end could not compete with the prices asked by other companies. These producers suffered huge losses.”

Growing-out process

Another aspect that prospective producers need to keep in mind is the amount of time the chicken will remain in the poultry house. “For one, the feeding period of chicks varies. In South Africa, chickens are normally slaughtered at 32 days of age as it is more cost-effective. We also have a large live chicken market that can be very lucrative. In this case, chickens are grown out more slowly and only slaughtered at 46 days of age. The slower growing-out process makes for a much cheaper diet, in turn increasing profitability.”

broiler production
There are several factors to consider when it comes to the success of the broiler industry, including nutrition management, water, lighting, temperature and ventilation.

Izaak adds that entrepreneurs who want to start their own broiler operation cannot go wrong if they choose one of the three most prominent broiler breeds. These breeds have stood the test of time and boast years’ worth of genetic development.

“In South Africa, however, there are too many people in the market who sell substandard genetics. Instead of only relying on the Internet, producers need to contact Sapa to find out whether a genetics supplier is in fact registered. As in any other industry there are those who take advantage of others, and producers will save themselves a lot of trouble if they do their research first.” – Koos du Pisanie, Stockfarm

For more information, phone Izaak Breitenbach on 082 886 8150
or send an email to

broiler production