Lhakpa Quendren

Sarpang – The poultry farms in Sarpang started receiving hyline brown breed chicks after a year-long hiatus due to numerous challenges.

Many poultry farms closed after they lost many birds to contaminated feed. The National Poultry Development Centre (NPDC) in Sarpang also faced challenges in purchasing the preferred breed and supplying them to the farms during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

With the restocking efforts, the remaining farms, which had previously downsized, have now resumed their regular farming activities. The farms are now receiving the preferred breed from both NPDC and private suppliers.

Nima Wangchuk Tamang, a poultry farmer in Shompangkha received 4,000 day-old chicks (DOCs) from the NPDC in two batches, and an additional 1,500 DOCs from a private supplier.

His poultry farm, which can house 10,000 birds, had to reduce its bird population to 3,000 birds, which are all at the hatching stage. “I could not make full use of the farm due to a lack of chick supply. This has led to a huge loss,” said Nima Wangchuk.

“I produce about 12 cartons of eggs a day, and my monthly income is about Nu 80,000 to Nu 90,000 after deducting all the farm-related expenses,” he said, adding that the restocking will increase his monthly income.

The NPDC distributes the DOCs at a subsidised rate of Nu 30 per chick, with the government covering 50 percent of the cost. Private suppliers provide each chick at Nu 66 after purchasing them from Tamilnadu in India.

San Bahadur Subba, another poultry farmer in Shompangkha, purchased 1,800 hyline breed chicks from a private supplier, and these are now over 50 days old. He said about 30 chicks did not survive during the transportation.

“I decided to order from a private supplier because waiting for the NPDC would have led to delays in restocking,” he said. “My chicken population had been downsized from 3,000 to 300 for about a year. The farm can accommodate more than 4,000 birds.”

Of the total demand for 133,000 chicks, the NPDC supplied 17,700 chicks to central dzongkhags, including Tsirang, Sarpang, Dagana, Trongsa, among others.

Arjun Gurung, the officiating programme director of NPDC, said that the three government input farms will meet farms’ needs in six months. “Our target is to supply 20,000 chicks each month from October. Currently, we can only produce 10,000 chicks in a month due to the low production of eggs.”

He said that the birds get heat stress when the temperature rises above 26 degree Celsius despite using water sprinklers on the roof. “We have also a plan to transport birds to the hatchery as well, but the challenges will remain the same. We have to maintain the temperature below four degree Celsius.”

Despite these challenges, he said, the farm mortality rate is very low, with only two to three chicks per day, due to the implementation of various preventive measures. “This mortality is considered normal given the current weather conditions. Normally, the mortality rate is between five to 10 birds every day.”

Arjun Gurung said that the average weight of the chick is 37 grams, which is higher than the normal weight of 35 grams. “This is due to the high quality and the size of the egg, which weighs 58 grams. It is bigger than the normal weight of 45 grams.”

“We have not received any complaints from the farms, and the growth of the chick is progressing well,” he said. “But the outcome also depends on how the farms are managed because newer and younger farmers may struggle due to a lack of necessary training.”

The closure of farms and the decrease in bird populations have caused egg shortages in Thimphu and an increase in egg prices in the markets.

However, with the ongoing restocking efforts and kickstarting egg production by November this year, the price of the eggs is expected to decrease. Currently, the farms are selling eggs at Nu 2,700 per carton.

Poultry farm operators say that illegal egg imports and the high cost of feed prices have been the major threats to their businesses. Many of them claim losing their marketing agents in Thimphu due to illegal imports.

Sarpang, Samtse, and Tsirang together produce 70 percent of the total egg production in the country.