By Sally Mulambya – AgriCoop News – Premium Media Partner AgriTech Expo Zambia
Poultry farming has contributed to human health and wellbeing for millennia and for many it continues to be an integral part of farming systems and household economies.
Village chickens are the most common type of livestock in many rural areas because most people regard these chickens as the poor mans chicken due to their low labor and resource demand in terms of management.
There several advantages of rearing village chickens because small holder farmers can produce them at little or no costs, even more these have a very competitive advantage over almost any other income-producing activity because significant returns can be achieved from village chickens without the need for expensive housing or inputs not available locally.
Although realistically village poultry production often encounters problems related to lack of organization, an indication that local inputs such as feed, medication and veterinary services are rarely available, in addition the output of village chickens in terms of weight gain and number of eggs per hen is relatively low.
However, simple changes in management of village chickens can significantly improve production and the living conditions of many families in terms of enhanced nutrition and income generation.
To produce well and promote good resistance against diseases poultry farmers need to ensure their birds have adequate quantities of good quality feed.
However, lack of appropriate feeds for local chicken has made it difficult to improve the productivity of local poultry farming to meet the increasing demand for meat and eggs. The prices of commercially manufactured poultry feeds are beyond the reach of most small-scale farmers.
However, the cost of feeds is so high that farmers find it difficult to buy commercial feeds. Careful preparation of making own feeds at home poultry feeds improves productivity reduces costs and increases profit.
Farmers are advised to exercise caution when buying manufactured feeds. This is because some unscrupulous feed manufacturers sell poor quality feeds such as crushed maize cobs wi.th traces of aflatoxin and sell it as maize germ. Another key challenge in poultry feed formulation is erratic availability of local feed ingredients among poultry farmers.
A simple homemade poultry ration has been demonstrated for poultry farmers, based on commonly available resources. However, the formulation is recommended for only extensively reared birds (those which are not confined in a house). Homemade feeds ensure quality because the farmer can carefully select the type of ingredients to use.
Farmers should avoid the use of rotten maize when preparing poultry feeds because poultry are very sensitive to feed contamination especially with aflatoxins.
Best practices during the preparation of poultry feeds
When using low quality ingredients, it is always important to add toxin binders to prevent aflatoxin contamination. Mycotoxin binders greatly reduce aflatoxin poisoning especially for chickens as they are highly sensitive to aflatoxin poisoning. Egg production and meat quality are adversely affected. Farmers should understand that the formula has balanced proteins only. Energy and other nutrients can be balanced by the hen during scavenging. Therefore, the formula is not recommended for intensively managed birds. Farmers in urban areas, who have access to maize grain, can use it because it is cheaper than whole maize.
When preparing poultry feeds from home, it is always important to isolate a few birds and observe if there is any change. The changes to look out for are improved egg-laying or weight gain for birds meant for meat. For free range birds, this can be quite challenging. But, the farmer can isolate poultry by fencing off a section of the land where the birds can still scavenge as they are given the new feeds, and assessed for performance.
There are several other reasons why Farmers should consider rearing village chickens such their adaptation to harsh conditions, high resistance to diseases and poor husbandry conditions.
This article has been contributed to the AgriTech eLearning Platform by: