Poultry farm business in a war zone

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“On February 24, we woke up to war, and soon after, Russian tanks drove through the front gate of the poultry house. With roadblocks between the feed mill and the farm, egg production has become almost impossible,” says Oleksandr Strilets, owner of the Ptahoprodukt group of companies, in an exclusive interview with Poultry World.

The Sumy region is located in the eastern part of Ukraine. It borders Russia to the north and was immediately occupied by the Russian army on February 24, with heavy fighting taking place for individual towns. The territory was liberated from the occupiers on April 4.

During the occupation, the Russian army killed more than 100 people and several dozen others went missing. In addition to human casualties, the company also suffered losses. Companies were shelled, looted, office and production equipment taken away.

One of the companies that fell under the Russian occupation was one of the poultry factories of the Ptahoprodukt group of companies. The company includes 2 poultry houses (6 and 10 hectares) and a feed mixture. A poultry farm in Vilshana village was attacked and eventually occupied. Owner Oleksandr Strilets comments on the unprecedented situation: “You try to run the business as best you can, but no management decision will work against a tank.”

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Strilets says: “Our biggest challenge was a direct attack on the farm by the Russian army. More than 100 vehicles with military equipment entered the territory of the factory – it was a shock for everyone. Russian forces invaded after the end of the working day. The gate was demolished by a tank and their equipment was scattered everywhere. The occupiers camped there for the night. The factory guard was locked in a room and his phone was taken.”

At the time, the farm was raising 30,000 day-old chickens as well as laying hens. Russian soldiers occupying the poultry farm destroyed the cage equipment, tampered with the feeding and ventilation systems and slept on feed bags. In addition, the chickens were thrown out of the cages and the temperature in the smokehouses dropped below a critical value, which substantially increased the mortality rate.

Hard decisions
According to the owner of Ptakhoprodukt, working under occupation is about regularly making tough decisions within limited time frames. In such conditions, it is most important when the top management of the company is highly motivated and committed to work. Employees then do not give up and find practical solutions to situations that no one can predict.

On March 5, in the middle of the occupation, 50,000 new chickens were to be delivered. “Since the amount of feed was limited, before receiving 50,000 new chickens, we decided to change the diet of the adult farm animals, limiting the volumes and the level of nutrition. However, each change entails a chain reaction – adjustments to feed recipes, adjustments to logistics, redistribution of resources and more. When we realized that the feed problem on the farm was critical, we took the most tactical decision at the time to let the existing flock “molt”. They didn’t eat well for a few days anyway and then once we got the feed we started dealing with shedding. According to farm workers, this is a violation of proper animal husbandry. Still, thanks to it, we managed to save the flock.”

Reconstruction
After 6 weeks of occupation, the Russians were driven out of the Suma region by Ukrainian forces, but this did not mean the end of the fighting. One of the most immediate problems left behind by the wires of the Russian troops. Because of them, none of the employees could enter the territory. Everyone was afraid of the possibility of their detonation.

The director of the poultry farm, Mykhailo Bespalyi, was the one who took control of the situation. He surveyed the wire-covered area, worked out a safe route, and the staff followed him.

Strilets: “The first thing they did was catch the chickens and put them back in the cages. Then they defrosted the heaters to heat the space and started other manufacturing processes. They managed to save quite a lot of chicks and chicks. Still, about 10-15% of the 30,000 chickens died.”

Despite the fact that the efficiency of production is somewhat reduced, the feed mill and poultry houses continue to operate. “We managed to restore sales markets in the Sumy region, Kharkiv and Kyiv. In addition, just the other day, a new batch of 50,000 chickens was delivered, which means a new beginning,” concludes Strilets.

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