SARE has a new brochure on raising poultry for profit. This is a such an important subject, because people need to earn a living and can only do it if there is money involved. The new brochure, Profitable Poultry: Raising Birds on Pasture, is available free. It includes sections on Determining the Right System, evaluates the Potential for Profit, the Environmental Benefits, discusses Quality of Life issues and Marketing options.
"Most producers find alternative poultry systems make economic sense because the cost of establishing them is low while the potential for significant and steady income is high. However, much of the growing interest is because these new systems also promote values such as family and community cohesion, environmental stewardship, working outdoors and independence for farmers," it introduces the Quality of Life section.
It's definitely an excellent brochure, and another example of how the USDA is more willing to work with alternatives to the industrial system.
My only concern with it is that it fails to make the case for standard breeds. It addresses the issue in a section on Breeds, but then confuses the subject: "Many producers are finding a compromise between
the accelerated growth of the Cornish Cross and the lower feed conversion and dress-out weights of the older heritage breeds. Several varieties of broilers with names like Freedom Rangers, Red Rangers and Rosambros have been selected for high growth rates and hardiness for living outdoors on range."
Freedom Rangers, Red Rangers and Roseambros are industrial hybrids that producers will have to purchase every year from the commercial hatcheries. They may do better on pasture than Cornish Rock crosses, but they are not standard breeds. The brochure quotes Harvey Ussery on the subject: "Ussery, writing in Grit!, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) newsletter, details the problems he encountered with the Cornish Cross. Cornish Cross chicks from nearly all hatcheries in the country come from the same stock. The variety, he argues, is ill-suited for raising outdoors because it has been bred for confinement. Properties that make for good and efficient foragers, he said, have been 'selected out' because they are not needed in confinement production models."
Ironically, the page is illustrated with a photo of Frank Reese, a tireless campaigner against raising Cornish Rock crosses on pasture, because of their genetic inability to manage outside. He campaigns for standard breeds for their many advantages, including the fact that they can reproduce naturally, something that commercial hybrids can't offer.
The other advice in the brochure is excellent, though. I'm encouraged by it. If you're thinking of adding a poultry operation to your farm, it's a good place to start.