Like many other farmers, I do direct marketing of my poultry products that include meat, chicks and eggs by word of mouth because marketing channels are undefined.
But I must admit this kind of channel is not very effective as it leaves farmers at the mercy of unscrupulous middlemen.
About 20 crates of fertilised eggs are sitting in my store because the price offered by the middlemen cannot offset my production costs.
I have tried marketing using social media networks but I have realised brokers too have invaded the forums masquerading as end-users or grocery operators, thus, distorting the market.
Now, as I go about trying to find the best channel to market my meat, eggs and chicks, I have learnt a few things, chief among them is that customers are increasingly interested in buying poultry products with special attributes.
“I prefer meat from indigenous birds because it is lean, has flavour and is an organic product,” a customer recently told me.
Those who prefer broilers normally say, “The meat is tender and lacks the strong odour found in some indigenous birds.”
Some customers prefer hens to cocks for meat. Selling a hen at the same price as a cock is a loss because I can get about 200 eggs a year, which can be sold as fertilised eggs at Sh25 each or as day-old chicks at Sh100 each.
A good farmer should always try to balance and meet all the interests of his customers.
But it is with poultry meat that I have experimented with an innovative idea that I believe it is the route farmers who are keeping improved chicken breeds like Kenbro, Kuroiler and Kari Kienyeji should take if we are to make profit.
I have been selling my Kari Kienyeji cocks per kilo as opposed to a general price per live bird.
The reason is that these improved birds have high-feed conversion, therefore, they gain weight progressively as opposed to the traditional birds or broilers.
A mature improved breed cock can weigh from 2 to 2.5kg in a few weeks as opposed to the others that average 1.5kg.
Thus, when a farmer sells a kilo at Sh500 or thereabout, they benefit more than selling at a flat rate of Sh800 or Sh1,000.
I recently sold a live cock for a flat rate of Sh1,000 and the cold-dressed (carcass) weight was 2.7kg.
The customer was happy and ordered a second one, though I realised I had incurred a loss.
However, on realising the cold dressed weight for the second bird was 1.7kg, he insisted to pay Sh700. I politely declined.
Certainly, it will take time to convince customers to buy per kilo.
But it is good to note that selling per kilo may not apply to all chicken breeds as a live bird can weigh half a kilo more than a cold-dressed one, meaning for the broilers, which are sold at eight weeks, and the indigenous birds, these may disadvantage farmers.
All in all, there is added value in selling chicken when it is processed and packed.
In some leading supermarkets, one now finds the improved chicken birds packed and labelled and this increases prices by about 50 per cent.
Always wrap the meat in cling film before putting in a plastic bag and avoid recycled bags.
Put the meat in a freezer immediately if not delivered within the hour to avoid food poisoning.
IMPROVED CHICKEN BREEDS
When it comes to eggs, the issue of the cost of an egg from a kienyeji chicken relative to that from exotic ones keeps coming up.
Generally, many farmers sell Kienyeji eggs at Sh20 each compared to Sh10 from exotic birds.
We need more research to understand at what price customers will forgo the benefits of a Kienyeji egg (yellowness and taste) and opt for exotic one because it is cheaper.
Ultimately, production costs, in particular the cost of feeds, should be factored in.
The great disparity in prices is what is making many farmers find it difficult to sell eggs from improved chicken breeds.
For chicks, farmers who want to buy to rear always want to know whether I maintain my own breeding stock of fertilised eggs or whether I outsource from other farms. This is important because when one outsources, you are never sure of the quality and some farmers have complained that they were sold chicks that performed poorly.
I also keep a comprehensive record of the following dates: incubation, hatching, and vaccination schedule up to laying point at week 19. Do not accept to be told verbally that the chicks were vaccinated. Insist to see complete records for the first and second Gumboro vaccines; first, second and third Newcastle vaccines, fowl typhoid and fowl pox.
However, things don’t always go as planned. Last week, I had to refund Sammy from Kitengela his