Operational challenges and opportunities in pastured poultry operations in the United States
As pastured poultry production has gained increased popularity in the United States in recent years, there is a growing need for research and outreach efforts aimed at this sector of poultry production. In order to get familiarized with American pastured poultry producers, we conducted an online questionnaire aimed primarily at evaluating what operational challenges are faced by producers and what educational opportunities should be initiated by researchers. Results showed that pastured poultry farms largely vary in total number of acres farmed and total number of birds kept. The vast majority of farms (96%) rotate their flocks on pasture and include livestock species (78%) in their rotation systems. Mobile coops are the preferred housing option provided by producers (88%). The most common source of mortality listed by respondents was predation (52%), followed by “other” (32%). However, predation was not selected as the most important challenge by the majority of respondents. Sixty-four percent of participants instead mentioned providing adequate feed at reasonable cost as the major challenge in raising poultry on pasture, followed again by “other” (52%) and lack of processing facilities for small numbers of birds (40%). Finally, the topics considered by respondents as the most helpful to learn more about were how to improve egg production rate and/or feed conversion ratio (67%), followed by how to improve pasture condition and optimum vegetative cover all year round (62%). Despite its small sample size, this study's results provide some valuable insights of challenges encountered and information needed on pastured poultry farms.