QUAIL meat and eggs are becoming increasingly popular at Cambodian celebrations – and one farm in Kandal province is reaping the benefits.
Demand for quail is almost too hard to meet, particularly during the peak wedding season before the monsoon rains set in, says Vith Thearith, dir-ector of Prampi Makara Stat-ion, which has a quail farm in the province’s Roka Khpos vill-age, in Saang district.
“During the wedding season, we can sell as many as 2000 quails a day and still can’t meet the demand,” he says.
“During regular times, some days we sell 500 and on other days we can sell 1000.
“As for quail eggs, generally we sell between 3000 and 5000 a day to customers who usually come down to the farm to buy them.”
In corrugated-roofed sheds, thousands of quail eggs are maintained at a regular temperature of 37 degrees Celsius under lights until they hatch after 15 days in the incubator.
Shells cracking are the first signs of the black-and-grey chicks, which are raised in pens and fed a special blend of food to keep them growing strong and healthy.
Supervisor Pham Yeang, 31, from Vietnam, ensures the chicks are kept warm at night by placing jars of charcoal embers around their enclosures to maintain a constant temperature.
“If we didn’t, they don’t have feathers to protect themselves so they’d freeze. We have to keep them warm when they are little,” he says.
Worker Sok San says this can be hard work, as the charcoal needs firing three times during the night – once in early evening, again around 10pm, and they must wake up at 3am to light the fires again to keep the chicks warm.
That’s besides changing the water every day and feeding them all, he says. When the quails are old enough, some are sold for meat while others are kept for breeding.
“In the breeding pens, we have about 100 female quails and we put about 30 male quails in their pen. Breeding quails need different food to quails sold for meat, which are mainly fed on rice bran,” Pham Yeang explains.
Most of the original breeding stock came from breeders in Thailand and Vietnam.
Although looking after so many birds and eggs can be labour-intensive, for 14-year-old Yon Sros the job has been a life-saver.
Rural poverty may have forced Yon Sros to drop out of school, but now he works and lives with two of his 10 siblings at the farm, helping to support his family and earning 300,000 riel a month (US$73).
“I’m happy here, and don’t want to find another job. One day, I’d like to open a farm of my own,” he says.