Lockdown’s Silver Lining
Pako Jood’s life took an unforeseen turn when he moved back to the family farm from his IT job in Johannesburg as South Africa entered its first hard COVID lockdown in early 2020.
Years earlier, his father had bought an incubator to produce chicks for his broiler business, but the project, in Pako’s words, “went horribly wrong.” With time on his hands, Pako began experimenting with the incubation of indigenous eggs. Self-taught and taking a scientific approach with strict record-keeping, Pako reached a 60% hatching rate, found that demand for his day-old chicks was strong, and calculated he was making a small profit. He had an inkling, “there’s something here for me!”
At the same time, feeling he had reached the ceiling in his internet self-learning, he was thrilled to be accepted to the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute’s Hatchery Management course in May 2021. Day one began very hands-on to Pako’s delight with a walk to the hatchery to set a new batch of eggs. “I think I was the most excited of all the participants,” he exclaimed. “There was nothing intimidating about the equipment used. I thought it’s within my reach.”
Over the five-day course, Pako realized he needed better breeding stock, “that’s the gold.” Going forward he will also use only A-grade eggs, pre-warm them, and further improve his record keeping. He learned which disinfectant to use and the advantages of changing to a weekly cycle for setting eggs. He also saw that newly hatched chicks could stay in the incubator for up to three days; he had been disturbing the batch by constantly removing chicks.
Pako has decided to leave his IT career behind him for the most part and concentrate on the hatchery. Self-funded, he now has three machines with just over 5000 egg capacity, and his sights are set on growing the business.
From his home in a sparsely populated region of South Africa, he relishes the networking opportunities that the Hatchery Management course provided: “It’s amazing, our struggles are so similar. It’s fascinating to be part of this cohort. I have a whole range of new ideas for my business.”
Next up, Pako would like to return to KZN PI to attend another World Poultry Foundation-supported course – Abattoir Management – to help his father advance his broiler business and provide a slaughtering service to the community.
Your enthusiasm is infectious, Pako. IT’s loss is clearly the poultry industry’s gain. Good luck to you!