After several thoughts, I settled on discussing quick tips on how to run a successful poultry farm in Nigeria. Typically, I prefer to hit the nail on the head without losing the salient points in this piece.
I’m sure you have heard the saying “experience is the best teacher”. This is the story of how I ran my chicken poultry farm and FAILED, not some far-fetched internet or Google brouhaha.
NEVER believe money can solve all problems in poultry business. Yes, you have money and you think you can just wing it, I suggest you wing it into a business you can do when blindfolded or gamble it away on Lotto Nigeria or better still on some Ponzi scheme but not poultry. There are several issues money can’t solve on it own, for instance, money won’t teach your birds how not to run into the heating system in the farm. I suppose money can’t also teach them to respect colours, and not fight a bird with a different colour shade. I had planned on the business for a while and when I had the money and some piece of land, I went straight into it, saying to myself, “what more could I ever need?” Straight into the business I went! Because of my “I know it and have seen people do it” attitude, I lost some birds to a stampede by other slightly bigger birds when rushing for food, as weak ones were put off by stronger one. And I also lost few to the heating system, they ran into it not knowing the consequences. I guess with all my theoretical knowledge, practical ones are different. The old saying goes, “There are some things you don’t learn from Harvard.” So as important money is, experience also is, and the most interesting thing is, it doesn’t have to be your personal experience. Learn from others’ experiences and don’t make the mistakes they made.
DON’T do it alone. Yes, you have done it before and learnt a few management skills! Yes, your parents were poultry farmers!! You practically know how to breed birds!!! You have been doing it since you were born. My friend, you are in the big leagues now. While all the things you learnt will always be useful, you will still need someone who is currently in the business to give you advice or better, get a seasoned consultant. Most unsuccessful Nigerian entrepreneurs are penny wise, and pound foolish. They will rather not pay a consultant a meagre 5,000 Naira for an information that will help their businesses, and will later spend 25,000 Naira fixing a problem that arose from lack of relevant information. INFORMATION is POWER in poultry business. For instance, best practices for chicken feeds formulae change with time. I started with a particular kind and read up and a few quack farmers told me to mix feeds which I did and it affected the weight of the chickens. Sourcing solutions from every available source isn’t right especially when there are different peculiarities will only resolve to problems and listening to everyone just because they are ‘farmers’ will complicate things and leave you stranded.
DON’T leave your farm alone. You can hire a manager, but never ever be far from your farm. A farm’s greatest asset is its Farmer, and that’s you not your manager. You are the one with the vision and investment. There’s a saying “people will do what you supervise not what you delegate”. As much as you trust your helps, it’s your business and the amount of time you invest will ultimately determine your returns. While running that particular farm, I had plenty of distractions and chose to pass responsibility down to a farmhand who lacked the enthusiasm and proper managerial skills to run that kind of large farm. No point telling you the outcome. I can’t stress this point strongly enough.
WORK from the end. Where is the end product of your poultry? Who are the players? How can you play? If you start by building your farm first, and then move to the end, you will lose your bargaining power. I will strongly recommend that you are a player in the end market. This is simply saying, DO A FEASIBILITY STUDY. Who are you selling to and at what cost? I started without knowing my market and the specific they wanted. This is probably the most vital oversight most farmers skip. I did it too, TWICE! And they say once bitten… What does that make me? Well, I’m thankful it’s not happening again.
ANOTHER important thing in poultry business is cash flow, apart from capital. Even if you have the money, you need to work out your cash flow cycle or you constantly find yourself robbing Peter to pay Paul. At a time, because I was stuck, I had to sell some birds at a drastically reduced price to feed the others. And believe me, your buyers can smell when you are desperate and it’s not a good experience at all.
BE consistent. Pick your farm, stick with your produce and become known in that line. Reputation is a serious thing in poultry. If you lose your reputation, you can NEVER be a successful poultry farmer. It’s a very sensitive industry. It’s simply saying, don’t cut corners and improvise at the expense of good nutritious birds. It’s a matter of time, and your buyers will know and they will spread the word.
In a subsequent post, we will go into what I didn’t do that will equally makes a poultry business fail.