Lhakpa Quendren | Sarpang

SARPANG — In response to farmers’ breed preference, the National Poultry Development Centre (NPDC) in Sarpang is gearing up to recommence the supply of the popular hyline brown chicken breed to farmers starting in the second week of August.

According to NPDC records, a demand for a total of 98,850 chicks has been received from seven of eight dzongkhags in the region. Tsirang emerged as the front-runner with requests for 34,350 chicks, followed closely by Trongsa and Sarpang, seeking 23,200 and 22,700 chicks, respectively.

Arjun Gurung, the officiating programme director of NPDC, said that the first batch of chicks from the three government input farms is slated to be distributed by August 10. 

He stated, “About 20,000 chicks will be hatched weekly, but approximately 50 percent of them will be male, and we do not distribute them. As a result, we will be able to supply about 10,000 chicks every week.”

Notably, the NPDC is adhering to its research protocol to ensure the quality of the chicks before distribution. 

Gurung emphasised, “While poultry farmers are eagerly requesting immediate distribution, we must conduct thorough research to guarantee the chicks’ quality. Once the quality assessment is complete, we will proceed with the distribution process.”

This initiative incorporates a well-planned strategy of staggered production and distribution of day-old chicks (DOCs) to the dzongkhags, with the aim of kickstarting egg production by November 2023. This approach is anticipated to achieve consistent production and supply of eggs in the market.

Arjun Gurung said, “We have conducted extensive studies to ascertain the required eggs for the Bhutanese population and assess the availability of layer birds in poultry farms to identify any gaps.”

Previously, the restocking of the hyline brown breed commenced on February 2 with a batch of 3,500 chicks, and these chickens began laying eggs in June. Subsequently, the second batch of 2,240 chicks arrived on June 8, adhering to a consistent three-month interval between each batch.

For this restocking effort, the NPDC procured the breed from an Indian industry affiliated with Australia and New Zealand. The cost of each hyline brown chick amounts to USD 10, and upon hatching, these chicks are distributed at a subsidized rate of Nu 30, with the government covering 50 percent of the cost.

Notably, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NPDC faced challenges in continuing to purchase the preferred the breed from Australia and New Zealand due to stringent protocols and travel restrictions.

To address the demand for DOCs during the pandemic, the BV-380 chicken breed was introduced in the country. However, the outbreak of infectious bursal disease in August 2022, combined with non-lifting issues, resulted in the complete wipeout of the parent stock flock by November 2022.

Arjun Gurung acknowledged that poultry farmers exhibited a low preference for the BV-380 breed due to its limited production, egg colour, broodiness, and smaller size. 

“Following a nationwide survey, it was decided to discontinue the supply of the BV-380 breed,” he said.

Furthermore, Gurung underscored the utmost importance of farm management and maintaining stringent farm biosecurity measures. “Despite significant awareness and advocacy efforts, some farms, particularly smaller ones, are not implementing biosecurity measures, including timely vaccination and sanitary standards, which are the first line of defence for flocks.”

Gurung said that the lack of proper biosecurity measures can render chickens vulnerable to disease infections and weaken their overall health. “Such incidents not only result in financial losses for poultry farmers but also place a burden on the government in terms of compensation to affected farmers. By proactively embracing their responsibilities, such unfortunate incidents can be effectively prevented.”

Simultaneously, the two sister poultry farms of NPDC in Paro and Lingmithang in Mongar will also resume the supply of the highly sought-after breed, marking a significant step in meeting farmers’ preferences and bolstering Bhutan’s poultry industry.