The study focused on market age, enterprise size and relative efficiency in broiler production in Imo State . The main aim was to determine resource use efficiencies in broiler brooding and rearing enterprises as well as large-scale and small-scale outfits in the two enterprises. Using multi-stage sampling technique, the study area was zoned into three using the existing zoning arrangement of the Imo State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP). A total of nine L.G.As were randomly selected and a total of 180 broiler farmers (made up of 90 brooders and 90 rearers) were selected. A set of structured questionnaire was administered on the farmers to obtain required information. Data were analysed using simple statistical tools, regression models, additive multiplicative dummy variable models, profit function technique and enterprise analysis. Results showed that broiler production was profitable but rearing birds to maturity was more profitable than brooding birds and selling at four weeks old. Large-scale rearing of birds was more profitable than small-scale outfit. In brooding enterprise, no remarkable difference in profit margin existed between large-scale and small-scale. Broiler rearing farmers were found to be more technically efficient than the brooding farmers and small-scale rearers were more technically efficient than large-scale ones. The implication is that technical efficiency may not increase by increasing size of operation in rearing broiler. In brooding, large-scale outfit was more technically efficient than small-scale. Technical efficiency may be increased by increasing size of operation in broiler brooding business. None of the farmer groups achieved absolute allocative efficiency. They therefore did not maximize profit. However brooding farmers were more allocatively efficient than the rearing farmers. Large-scale rearers were more allocatively efficient while small-scale brooders were more allocatively efficient in brooding enterprise. The implication is that in broiler rearing business, allocative efficiency may be increased by increasing size of operation. Brooding farmers were found to be more economically efficient than rearing farmers. Small-scale brooders were more economically efficient than large-scale counterpart. Allocative efficiency may not be increased by increasing size of operation in broiler brooding. None of the farmer groups operated at constant returns to scale. Brooding farmers operated at increasing returns to scale while rearing farmers operated at decreasing returns to scale. Brooding farmers by operating at increasing returns to scale means that they grossly under-utilized resources, they had opportunity to increase output by increasing input use. The rearing farmers over-utilized some resources. It was recommended that farmers should brood and rear their stock to maturity to avail themselves the opportunity of allocative and economic efficiencies of brooding and technical efficiency and high profit margin of rearing.

1.1       Background Information

Nigeria, one of the developing countries of the world with rapid population growth, is faced with the task of providing adequate food for her citizenry. While food production increased at the rate of 2.5%, food demand increased at the rate of more than 3.5% due to the high rate of population growth of 2.83% (F.O. S, 1996).The scenario induced increase in the country’s food import bills from about #8b in 1996 to over #183b in 2005 (CBN,2005). Apart from this problem, there is inadequate animal protein in the diets of a large proportion of the population especially in the rural areas (Ojo, 2003). Animal protein is essential in human nutrition because of its biological significance.

In realization of the importance of animal protein, various governments in Nigeria have inaugurated programmes at the national, state or community levels to encourage mass production of livestock. Such programmes included the micro-credit scheme for livestock production and establishment of livestock parent/foundation stock at the community level by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Poultry is an example of such community level livestock. Poultry is a general name for several kinds of birds that are useful, mainly as food to man which include domestic fowl, duck, turkey, guinea fowl, and goose (Ayivor and Hellins, 1986) and they are reared for other useful purposes such as meat, eggs and feather (Walter, 1976; Eze, 1991). Poultry is widely grown in Africa, Nigeria and Imo State. Sonaiya (2000) pointed out that there were 82.4 million chickens in Nigeria, 11% (i.e. 10m) of which were for commercial purposes. Livestock statistics by RIM (1992) showed that there were 13.8m cattle, 34.4m goats, 22m sheep, 3.4m pigs, 104.3m local poultry, 20m exotic poultry, and 1.7m domesticated rabbits in Nigeria. Also, Imo State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resource (MANR, 2004) showed that there were 6.35m poultry, 1.1m cattle, 1.5m sheep, 2.85m goats, 3.32m pigs and 54,000 rabbits in the state.

Poultry has some advantages of being good converters of feed into usable protein in meat and eggs; low production cost per unit relative to other livestock; meat which is tender, palatable and acceptable; short production cycle and the egg which has a biological value of 1.0, is one of the most nutritious and complete food for man (Orji , Igbodi and Oyeke, 1981).

In the recent time, there has been recorded improvement in poultry production in Nigeria in that poultry eggs’ and meat’s contribution to the livestock share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 26% in 1995 to 27% in 1999 (CBN, 1999). This improvement can further be enhanced by proper analysis of resource use productivity and efficiencies in broiler production.

Broiler is a meat type chicken bred for marketing at early age and matures faster than other types of chickens (Williamson and Payne, 1977). In the livestock market today, broilers are offered for sale at different ages and sizes depending on circumstances and purposes. The market age in broiler production is the age at which producers target to offer their stock for sale. Most outstanding among them are:

i.                  four weeks brooded (brood and sale);

ii.                seven to 12 weeks reared (mature types); and

iii.             above 12 weeks reared (over-aged).

Broiler producers show their interests in the production of one or a combination of any of these three. On this, Oluyemi and Roberts (1979) pointed out that the exact time for marketing broilers depended on different marketing situations involving the relative costs of chicks and feeds and market preferences. The broiler producers also operate at various scales and use various techniques and available resources to achieve their production goals. Anthony (2001) considered those farmers producing not more than 500 birds as small-scale farmers; those producing between 501 and 1000 birds as medium-scale and those producing from 1001 and above as large-scale; farmers. The definition of farm size or scale of operation has varied in efficiency literature, as what is considered large or small-scale is relative depending on the agricultural system setting (Ohajianya, 2002). However, the most useful economic definition of....

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