Baffled farmers

Poultry farmers are again experiencing low production, but are in a quandary over the cause. 

Chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), James Paul, said that due to limited access to laboratory testing, farmers are unable to pinpoint the source of the latest reports of stunted growth. 

Responding to complaints from the public about sparse availability of chicken in some supermarkets, he said the situation was not cause for alarm, as current production numbers were still an improvement from the supply challenges in the lead-up to last Christmas

Paul told the Nation News that the farming community had been casting blame on several factors, including feed, quality of hatchlings and heat, but without the ability to conduct the appropriate test, there would be no way of knowing for sure.

“We have been checking on the numbers and the placements have not been up to where they should be. I know some people have been complaining about slow growth in the field, but the numbers are certainly better than what they were going into Christmas last year. We are trying to determine where the problems are and trying to fix them,” he said. 

“In terms of what is stunting the growth of the chickens, we really do not know for sure. Some people want to say it is the feed, some want to say it is the chicks, some want to say it is the environment. Unless we do the level of research and have the laboratory backup to be able to pinpoint the problem, we will be engaging in guesswork.”

The BAS chief disclosed that the Government-run veterinary lab does not have the equipment to yield answers in a timely manner.   

“One of the things that will help the industry greatly in terms of dealing with these issues when they happen is that we do need better laboratory analysis in the industry. We have been asking for sometime for the veterinary lab to be provided with adequate equipment that would allow them to do the appropriate test so that the farmer can know what exactly is causing the issues. Without that equipment, it is just guesswork,” he explained.

Paul also lamented the current policy for accessing the public veterinary laboratory service, contending that it was quite an expensive avenue for growers. He said time was of the essence in getting to the root of these recurring issues in the poultry industry. 

“We had a situation before that when birds died, farmers were permitted to take them to the lab to get some analysis done. Right now, in order to access those services, you must go through a vet. With the way that costs are now, many farmers cannot afford to have on-time analysis done.

“We need the necessary testing resources available locally, not somewhere in Suriname or the United States. This is the only way farmers are going to be able to know what is going on and to manage the problem,” he said.

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