Poultry Farming Training: Key Skills for Optimal Profit (Case Study: Zaria, Nigeria)
What Zaria local gov't discovered to be the key skills for poultry business profits
Often in business and in life,
The most complex problems are rooted in the simplest causes.
As is the case with poultry farming,
Zaria local government (Nigeria) found on examination that many of its familiar complaints re:- the shortcomings in poultry production are the results of one thing:
A lack of knowledge / strategic smarts.
(Particularly in the areas of managerial and operational expertise.)
In other words,
Their poultry farmers lacked business acumen & strategic thinking -
(Both in a general management sense and in a poultry sense).
Background analysis of poultry farmers in Zaria, Nigeria
Interestingly, small scale poultry farmers in the region of Zaria tend to be:
Average age of 48 years old
Mostly involved in broiler farming
Typically with over 10 years farming experience
With households of 8 persons, on average
Without any extension support services
And despite an educational advantage, the practicality of business managerial acumen seems lacking amongst them.
When asked directly, the farmers cited the following as the precise areas of training most needed:
Top on the list was proper record keeping.
Then technical rearing knowledge on stock density and vaccine administration.
Followed by marketing, site selection etc.
Diagnosing training needs of poultry farmers
I always feel that this kind of self-diagnosis approach, however, is inherently flawed with subjective bias.
In other words, limited by what the subject can see.
A better approach would be to initiate exploratory probing by the expert to discover actual areas of observed need.
Said simply, patients might not actually know what’s best for themselves - being the ones suffering the issue.
But a well trained (physician’s) external pair of eyes will see all sorts of things previously missed by the subject themselves.
Business acumen is built upon traditional, solid business disciplines
Business administration mixed with practical business experience is a great lead into entrepreneurship.
MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree classes are tailormade for this.
Their goal is to produce a ‘high-potential’ business person with exceptionally high business acumen.
Or, all-round business understanding and ability.
Here’s a summary of the types of skills an MBA graduate should walk away with:
Now, I know what you’re thinking - not everyone can afford the time nor fees to sit an MBA, right?
But in response, I’d say, with a disciplined approach, all of what you would learn on an MBA course can be studied independently - via the internet.
It’s actually all there and for free.
And evidently, the pursuit is rewarding.
For when you look at our MBA corporate counterparts in the real world,
They are far better equipped for the realities of business than their peers.
Here are some tangible benefits of MBA training:
In summary, by-enlarge they benefit from greater all-round business successes (& return on investment ‘ROI’), simply from being well trained.
As entrepreneurs, the same applies.
The benefits of an MBA would be enhanced commercial success gained from the ability to perform optimally within any commercial context - whether agriculture or otherwise.
In fact, I would go as far as saying unless you have these fundamentals, either learned or lived - you’ll be unprepared.
The MBA syllabus
Cambridge University’s MBA syllabus quotes these core subjects:
Business & Society
Financial Reporting and Analysis
Organisational Behaviour & Leadership
Organisations and Markets
(A lot to take in…I know.)
How does a business cover all bases?
A corporation would simply hire specialists in each field.
But an entrepreneur has got to wear ALL these hats himself.
Deficiency in any area will leave a blind spot.
Blind spots cost.
But then again, so does an MBA ($60,000 on average).
The poultry entrepreneur’s MBA alternative
This is it.
My answer to delivering an MBA course to poultry farming beginners worldwide…
…yet with the convenience and affordability of an agri-extension.
All via email.
Within this course, I address every aspect of business management and administration.
Revealing techniques, tips and solutions to your commercial poultry challenges that will give your burgeoning bird business the lift it needs.
The end goal?
To raise your business IQ to tackle ANYTHING your poultry market throws at you - optimising your ROI (long term profit).
So, let’s do it.
Let’s ‘Pick Up’ together.
But 1st, let me break down the real returns that are on offer from gaining improved business acumen with this programme.
In a nutshell, what you can hope to get back.
The Real Returns of Business Acumen
At every level of business, from micro-entrepreneur to megacorp…
Staff members from every discipline knowing exactly ‘how’ their business makes money adds bite to performance.
From IT to Legal, or Marketing to Procurement.
Acumen (or strategic sharpness) in understanding the core business goals makes for a more profitable return on investment for all involved.
The example of procurement (managing business inputs)
Take the role of ‘procurement’.
(That’s managing suppliers to you and me in ‘everyday speak’.)
As seen from the diagram above - ‘Procurement’ as a business discipline can be summarised by two core functions:
Gathering business data (internal: financial, strategic business & external: prices, forecasts)
Converting that data into profitable input acquisition - via advantageous purchase prices, product quality & service levels, plus financial savings.
In other words,
Studying and analysing (internal and external) information relating to the business needs and conditions faced by their organisation…
…to make better buying decisions.
Better buying decisions mean the accumulation of profit.
In a single phrase: procurement has A LOT of value to add because they impact your input (and its related cost).
Consider this, that in every business, profit = output - input.
Better control of your input leads to more output at a lower cost.
Here’s how the procurement function achieves profit:
To translate just a little, the big blue circles, in order of size above, show how better procurement (input buying) activity adds value or profit to the overall business:
Cost savings / Cost management: not spending as much
Process compliance: always buying the stuff that matches need
Cost of procurement function: no points dropped in the buying process
Supplier performance: making sure suppliers always deliver A+
Contract management: signing up to the most favourable terms only
Improve service levels: make sure suppliers never miss a beat
If you multiply all these benefits above -
You can see how a top rate procurement function can add $‘000s - and MUCH more - onto the bottom-line profit.
(And that’s just by better management of supply arrangements.)
Sure, the job requires technical expertise in understanding frameworks supporting how supplier contracts work.
But equally, as in the case of negotiating supplier contracts - for example:
Procurement officers with a deep understanding of what the business’s CORE strategic objectives are…
…gives a sharper cutting edge to their work.
And this takes business acumen.
Now, let’s look at business acumen in the context of another business function (other than procurement)…
Business acumen (using the example of a finance officer)
Business acumen amongst corporate professionals is being able to think about business in a bigger, broader sense than just from their technical function.
It’s something everybody in business ought to possess.
The advantage of possessing business acumen is being able to mentally join up the dots across the various facets of the business.
And then to apply profitable strategic thinking to improve what you see.
Here’s what business acumen might look like in theory:
In a phrase, you might say:
Commercial problem solver.
In the corporate world, they call such people strategic business partners.
They are the glue that enables internal departments (like IT, marketing, sales, operations etc.) to understand one another in light of the overall executive vision.
Strategic business partners:
…to overcome business challenges.
Here’s a further breakdown of what such a person might look like under the spotlight (in a finance department context):
The light blue circle in the middle (with the figure of a person inside) represents a finance strategic business partner.
between their finance unit/colleagues & the other business unit they support (like marketing, for example)
beneath the principal or senior sponsor (budget holder & decision maker)
To help pull all those parties together successfully from a finance perspective, the finance strategic business partner must straddle:
business unit knowledge
a network of contacts
The end result is:
…a ‘financially sound and supported’ business unit strategy that fits in with the executive vision and is universally approved.
360-degree buy-in. Everybody’s invested.
Budgets are freed up and programmes of work are enabled with the right money released to back them.
Sound good to you?
Business acumen benefits the poultry business
As we said before, the crux of business acumen is solving problems.
And if you haven’t heard already,
Poultry has its fair share of problems:
Sky-high, soaring input costs
Lack of quality ‘DoCs’ (day old chicks)
Middlemen squeezing producer margins
Imports destabilising domestic trade balances
And there aren’t standard answers to these questions.
That said, there are clear examples of those who buck the trend and brave a new way.
Grass-roots, poultry business problem-solvers
Innovating the poultry trade is not without the pioneer risk factor, but if (when) they strike gold - they own the field.
For example, Senthilvela (whose story I covered in a recent series), has taken organic poultry farming to new heights in India - yet still on a small scale.
India, much like many other poultry markets globally, suffers the same economic pressures.
And the smallest producers and most exposed to the realities of risk.
Senthilvela is no exception.
As a single-handed chicken meat/egg producer and breeder in a competitive market, he also is open to the winds of change.
But, this poultry micro-entrepreneur has turned economic threats into commercial advantage.
By adding value.
Most commercial markets suffer the squeeze of the macro-climate.
In other words, when conditions go against - everybody gets hit.
However, there are some who shelter in rocky enclaves that seem to be able to weather almost any storm because…
…the dare to offer something different.
So long as ‘different’ hits all the right notes, the result can be an overwhelming chorus of monetary melody.
In the example of Senthilvela, he niched down to selling only native birds.
In particular, Kadaknath Chicken (known for its unique black flesh and feathers) fetches up to 150% of the price of an average broiler bird.
And because of his low labour costs and decreased inputs (e.g. he farms on a strict zero-pharmaceuticals policy) -
Senthilvela maximises profit.
But did Senthilvela just stumble upon this strategy by chance, or was he more calculated?
Confession: he’s a former IBM and Citibank management professional.
That pretty much confirms that his approach to business is no fluke.
Senthilvela has built an entirely organic poultry farm on:
a very small plot rented from his friend
a no-drugs policy
native birds alone
selling to hospitality buyers in the city
What can the average poultry farmer learn from this?
That actually none of the achievements in the list above are beyond any of our doing.
The take-home lesson being:
Senthilvela just dared to do things differently.
Selling a niche product to a select audience at a premium price.
(Avoiding the allure of plugging into the mass market, but rather narrowing down.)
The premise that:
making fewer sales at a higher price, or niche,
Is more efficient than:
selling many products at a lower price, or mass market.
A much smarter and low cost/risk way to make your money.
Interestingly, some prominent economic studies confirm that niche markets are anything but limited.
…often the niche demand far outweighs the potential of the larger commercial marketplace.
Like in the landmark study above, 38% of U.S. restaurant chefs interviewed said they would happily buy more locally produced ‘niche market farm products’ (from small scale farmers) if they could find them.
My advice to poultry farmers everywhere?
Learn the principles of business administration & grow your business acumen.
Research widely and find a narrow, yet potent poultry niche.
Minimise input cost.
Maximise output value.
Consider some feasible & cost-effective ways in which you would meet that demand.
Learn poultry production modelling.
Identify key buyers, interview them and fully understand their business needs and preferences.
Devise a strategic approach to delivering the best value.
Write a plan (feasibility, financial, operational, management, project…etc.)
Secure buyer interest early on.
Get the simple things done perfectly and grow from there.
Hypothesize, put into practice, monitor results, report, analyse, devise improvements, take action and examine outcomes…do it again!
The profit awaits you.
And now over to you…
Are you currently thinking about getting poultry farming training?
Have you already tried some training programmes?
Either way, I’d be interested to hear from you.