Egg farmers are responsible for the care and maintenance of laying hens used as part of an egg producing poultry farm.Duties
Routine responsibilities for an egg farmer include cleaning and repairing cages, feeding hens, giving medications, treating minor injuries, monitoring behavior, collecting eggs, evaluating the quality of the eggs produced by the flock, and other daily duties.
Another area of importance for egg farmers is effectively marketing the eggs that their hens produce to a variety of consumer outlets. This marketing could involve sales made either directly to the public or to entities in the commercial chain of supply.
Egg farmers are also responsible for raising chicks for replacement stock and selling culled hens to meat producers. There is a continuous cycle of bringing new hens in when they reach production age, and removing older birds from the flock as their production levels decrease.
Poultry producers also may work with veterinarians to provide proper health care to their animals, especially with regard to establishing a vaccination program and treating flock illnesses as they arise. Animal nutritionists and livestock feed sales representatives may also contribute to developing nutritionally balanced rations for the hens.
The hours that an egg farmer works may be long, and work is often necessary on nights and weekends. Depending on the type of egg production system, work may occur outdoors in varying weather condition, or indoors in close quarters. Egg farmers must be prepared for the demands that they will face in either sort of setup.Career Options
Egg farmers can work for large commercial operation or run their own independent family farm. Egg farms can have anywhere from a few dozen to many thousands of hens.
Egg farmers may choose from several management systems for their egg production operation. Free-range operations allow the hens to access open-air runs. Cage based operations are more cost efficient, allowing a greater population density and increasing the ease of egg collection. Some producers run organic egg operations, which feature free-range conditions and heavily restricted use of antibiotics and additives.Education & Training
A growing number of poultry farmers hold a two or four year degree in poultry science, animal science, agriculture, or a closely related area of study. Coursework for such degrees can include poultry science, animal science, anatomy, physiology, reproduction, crop science, genetics, farm management, technology, and agricultural marketing.
Direct, hands-on practical experience working on a farm with laying hens is very important for aspiring egg farmers, as they can learn the business from the ground up. Most egg farmers grow up on a farm, apprentice with an established operation, or produce eggs as a hobby before venturing out on their own to run a large scale egg production facility.
Many aspiring egg farmers also learn about the industry in their younger years through youth programs. These organizations, such as Future Farmers of America (FFA) or 4-H clubs, give young people the opportunity to handle a variety of farm animals and to participate in livestock shows.Salary
The salary an egg farmer earns can vary widely based on the number of hens kept, the level of egg production, and the success the farmer has in marketing their product to consumer and commercial markets.
Egg prices are expected to show a steady rise over the next decade. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA/ERS) projects that the price of a dozen farm eggs will rise from the 2011 rate (79.7 cents) to an estimated 86.4 cents in 2012 and to an estimated 93.6 cents in 2013.
Chicken manure may also be collected and sold for use as fertilizer. This can serve as an additional source of revenue for some egg farms.
Egg farmers must deduct a number of expenses from their net profits to determine their final profits for the year. These expenses may include a number of costs for labor, insurance, livestock feed, fuel, supplies, veterinary services, waste removal, and equipment repairs or replacement.Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that there will be a slight decline in the number of job opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers over the next decade. This is due primarily to the trend towards consolidation in the farming industry, as smaller producers are absorbed by the larger commercial outfits.
While the total number of jobs may show a slight decline, the USDA’s industry surveys indicate that egg industry earnings are expected to increase steadily. Through 2020, the egg production industry should remain a reasonably stable and profitable area of agriculture.