ENGAGING in a poultry enterprise can be very rewarding when one ensures that the basic operational requirements like housing, feed, water, and lighting are in place.
With many farmers being small-scale producers, feed happens to be their most significant cost, accounting for 60-75% of the operational cost of an enterprise during a production cycle.
Therefore, a diversified farming operation with crop production may offer a cheaper alternative to a farmer’s poultry feed needs. Moreover, the long-term sustainable option for farmers who are engaged in poultry production is to produce feed using local crops that are compatible with local weather conditions.
Firstly, farmers must be in a position to understand the nutritional requirements of the types of chickens they are raising.
For instance, if one focuses on producing broiler chickens, the focus should be on growing crops rich in proteins and carbohydrates. To this end, crops such as groundnuts, soybeans, sunflower, and cowpeas can be grown and used as a protein source in locally formulated chicken feed.
Cereal grains such as yellow maize, pearl millet (mahangu), sorghum and wheat are also good sources of carbohydrates that can be used as a carbohydrate source in locally formulated chicken feed.
Furthermore, for feed formulation, it is essential to harvest crops like soybeans, cowpeas, groundnuts, yellow maize, and sorghum in their dry form. Farmers are, therefore, advised to formulate chicken feed in 50 kg proportions, which should constitute a 60% (30 kg) protein base such as soybeans, cowpeas, or groundnuts and a 35% (17,5 kg) carbohydrate base obtained from crops such as yellow maize.
The grains of yellow maize and soyabeans must be crushed in a hammer mill to produce crumbs that can be easily ingested (swallowed) by the chickens. The remaining 2,5 kg of the 50 kg feed formulation should consist of additional supplements such as Carmino+ or Phenix ® Stress Pac to aid in the supply of vital minerals such as iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin C.
Once a farmer is done with formulating their chicken feed, the feed should be tested for nutritional content by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform’s Directorate of Agricultural Research laboratory at head office.
Another crucial aspect is to first and foremost trial this feed on a small number of chickens, for example, 10 chickens.
This will safeguard the farmer from setbacks in the growth rates of the chickens should the feed be found to be defective.
Finally, farmers are advised to keep a record of the costs incurred (buying seeds, cultivating the field to grow crops, weeding, irrigation, harvesting, fuel used in the hammer mill and the 50kg bags in which the feed is stored).
The farmer must then make a comparison to determine whether formulating their own 50kg bags is cheaper than buying commercially formulated feeds from retailers.
This is crucial in production cycles that require timely availability of feed such as broiler and layer enterprises.