Who let the chicks out? The 2023 UP Agric Broiler Challenge tells all

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Chirp chirp chirp … That is the sound of the broiler chicks on the University of Pretoria’s (UP) experimental farm. These chicks are the stars of the UP Agric Broiler Challenge that officially started yesterday.

Every year, the fourth-year Animal Science students of the Department of Animal Science at UP, participate in a feedlot challenge where they must take care of animals earmarked for meat consumption. This is the first year during which students will have to rear broiler chickens, instead of cattle or sheep. With chicken being the most popular source of animal protein in South Africa, rearing broiler chickens will expose the students to different species of animals that will head for a feedlot. Furthermore, broiler chickens have a shorter feedlot time of approximately six weeks before slaughter, whereas it is12 weeks for cattle and sheep.

Read more about broiler production here.

What to expect

However, the challenge wouldn’t be completed without regular feeding and a guideline to follow. Students will complete the challenge under the supervision of Dr Christine Jansen van Rensburg, senior lecturer at the Department of Animal Science at UP, and two mentors, Ashlyn Southern and Joshua de Kock. Southern and De Kock are first- and second-year master’s students respectively.

Participating students must ensure the broiler chicks’ environment in the broiler house is clean and at a constant 35 degrees Celsius as chicks are very temperature sensitive.

The day’s proceedings kicked off with the students feeding the broiler chicks. The students must ensure that the broiler house is at a constant 35 degrees celsius and that the chick pens, feeding trays and water fountains are clean. Jansen van Rensburg informed the students of the rules and guidelines that must be followed during the challenge such as feed intake management, how to calculate the chicks’ weight and feed weight ratio and biosecurity measures. Dr Jansen van Rensburg stated that chick mortality is an unavoidable part of a feedlot and dead chicks must be taken to the abattoir. Elanco South Africa is a proud sponsor of the challenge. Megan Marshall, knowledge solutions specialist at Elanco, spoke to the students about the challenge as being an excellent example of the type of work animal science students will do post-graduation.

Read more about general feedlot management here.

Participating teams

This year’s participating teams are the Chicklettes, Naval Avianators, Eggspendables, Cluck Norris, the Flockers, Cock-a-doodle Crew, Mothercluckers, Lord of the Wings, Fowl Play and Bohemian Eggsody.

Plaas TV attended the day’s proceedings. Visit the Plaas TV YouTube channel for interviews with the various teams’ captains in the next few weeks. – Phillip Crafford, Plaas Media

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