Lessons from a Thai Layer Farm
By Ronald G. Mangubat
In Changmai, Thailand, success in the layer business is anchored on being part of an empowered cooperative.
Our recent visit to a layer farm in Changmai, Thailand only confirmed what we heard that in this country, farmers are disciplined, business minded and organized. They also get more support from the government and from their fellow farmers as well.
One sweltering morning, we (a group of agrijournalist from Asia, UK and Australia) visited a layer farm in Changmai owned by K. Supatra Lounnetngern, a former professor in an agricultural college. Together with his whole family, the former academician abandoned the world of textbooks and decided to practice what he has been teaching for years. With his family’s support, Lounnetngern focused all his energies on the layer business. With a 4-6 million baht investment loaned from a bank, the new entrepreneur, through the help of agricultural consultants, built a closed-system type of layer farm, complete with huge ventilation machines and other modern poultry paraphernalia that would be conducive for the birds to lay their eggs on time.
Having had several cases of bird flu in the past, the Thais are very strict when it comes to poultry house sanitation. The day we visited the farm, we were required to wear sanitizes overalls, boots, masks, gloves, etc. before we were allowed to enter the layer house. They laid down their rules clearly: no talking, no pictures-just five minutes of observation. The birds should not be disturbed because the moment they get stressed, they might not lay eggs.
Part of the family’s confidence in starting their own layer business is the fact that they are one of the 67 strong members of a layer-farm cooperative in Changmai. It was from the cooperative where the whole family bought the initial 20,000 birds. The cooperative’s collective pool of layers totals 300,000 heads, with a daily production capacity of 80,000 eggs per day. With a modern mechanized egg grader, members of the cooperative can easily grade around 4,500 eggs per hour. We later learned from our translators that this is still a miniscule figure considering that bigger cooperatives raise around 10 million layers.
It was the layer-farm cooperative which provided Lounnetngern the technical expertise to operate a layer farm, although according to his daughter, it’s still his father who did the final decision when the layer house was being built. Still, part of the advantages of being a member of the layer cooperative is having a strong bargaining power in terms of selling their eggs to the market.
As was told to us by some Thai cooperative members, one strong asset of the cooperative is their huge cold storage facility which has the capacity to store as much as five million eggs. In fact, in Thailand there are five cold storage facilities of such types, strategically located in the whole country.
Aside from technical assistance, officers of the layer-farm cooperative also conduct regular training courses on modern poultry production, which further enhance the skills of their members. And with the cooperative’s wide network, members of the poultry industry can also share information with their members.
Another instructive point that we found worth sharing is the seemingly never-ending gathering of information on poultry production which the Thai cooperative members seriously embark on. Lounnetngern’s daughter, for one, is a food technologist but is very passionate about understanding the science of layer production. She reads up on the subject, talks to experts and makes a lot of observations based on their poultry birds.
When we prodded our translators to ask Lounnetngern’s daughter about the problems that they have encountered in their layer farm so far, she couldn’t think of anything except when some of the birds fight with each other. “ No serious problem,” she cheerfully told us.
In the next few months, the layer farm cooperative is targeting to produce 100,000 eggs per day. For Lounnetngern and his fellow cooperative members, as long as they stick together and barring no pestilence o, this figure can easily be achieved.