Economic impact of decreasing stocking densities in broiler rabbit production based on Belgian farm data

Ann Verspecht, Luc Maertens, F. Vanhonacker, Frank Tuyttens, Guido Van Huylenbroeck, Wim Verbeke

Abstract

Stocking density is a prominent issue in public debates on farm animal welfare. Public perceptions and economic impact of reduced stocking density should be considered, along with effects on animal performances and welfare.  In this paper, experimental data and accountancy data based on 15 Belgian farms were combined to calculate the financial impact of different stocking densities on broiler rabbit farm profitability.  Using the partial budget technique, only those elements that change with stocking density were taken into account.  From the experiment, feed conversion and feed intake were found to increase slightly though significantly with decreasing stocking density, although only 5% and 6% of the variation, respectively, were explained by stocking density.  However, reducing stocking density implies a recalculation of all costs in a reduced number of broiler rabbits, which has a negative impact on farm profitability.  Reducing stocking density from the standard situation of 15 rabbits per m² to 10 rabbits per m² reduced added value by €22 per doe.  In general, farm income was low and amounted to only €28.10 per doe during 2006-2008 for the reference situation of 15 rabbits per m².  Below a density of 9 rabbits/m², a negative farm income was calculated.  Sensitivity analysis showed that rabbit meat price has a stronger influence on the added value at a given density than rabbit feed price.


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