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Opportunities and challenges for poultry production in sub-Saharan Africa

by September 24, 2018

The poultry industry in Africa has grown and developed steadily over recent years. The pace of growth is now expected to quicken as companies move north from South Africa in an attempt to diversify away from their home market, which is under stress from imported chicken meat.

Major projects are planned for Zambia, Ethiopia, Angola and Tanzania, and these countries will see large commercial poultry operations within the next three years. Namibia has recently established such an operation and created the commercial conditions for a limited period to help it become established.

African poultry’s major challenges

The poultry industry’s main challenges in Africa include lack of large quantities of maize, soya, day-old chicks and broiler producers or even farmers who could move into poultry. The high price of feed raw materials is equally an issue in Africa as it is everywhere.

Delayed allocation of land and inadequate extension or advisory services to support developing farms are also major challenges. To overcome these constraints, government intervention is required, for instance, to build infrastructure such as roads, which need to be improved to allow heavy feed trucks and chicken transporters to move around easily in rural areas.

While most poultry in Africa’s developing countries is still kept by smallholders, a strong and internationally linked poultry industry is evolving by utilizing economies of scale and technology from developed countries like South Africa. European influences are also present as logistics from Europe are easier than from South Africa.

As in most developing countries, poultry production systems in Africa are a mix of family businesses and commercial operations, from the small- to large-scale with varying degrees of modern technology.

The continent’s largest poultry meat producers are South Africa, which produces 1.5 million metric tons of chicken meat per year; Egypt with 685,000 metric tons; Morocco with 560,000 metric tons; Nigeria with 268,000 metric tons; and Algeria with 254,000 metric tons. When production figures are compared with the size of the national flock, contrasting levels of efficiency become apparent.

While many African countries may be growing from a low base, they are nevertheless growing. This has clear implications for rising living standards and a greater demand for meat. Broiler production growth in a country like South Africa is about 3 percent per annum, while over the past 10 years the overall growth has been 38.8 percent. This is representative of most countries on the continent, but growth is predominantly through many small-scale producers entering the market.

Constraints to poultry consumption

The consumer market in Africa is limited by poverty, low employment levels and slow growth of fast food chicken outlets, such as KFC and Nando’s. People simply do not have the money for this kind of purchase when they can feed a family of five with one live chicken purchased on a farm or market for less than half the price of a takeaway meal. Indeed, most parts of these chickens eaten at home are consumed.

The pattern of meat consumption has changed significantly in Africa over the last 20 years. Beef used to be the most popular meat, but pork and chicken in particular have replaced this, with chicken now accounting for half of all meat consumed. This change in meat consumption has been driven in part by taste, but also austerity as consumers have looked to cheaper sources of protein.

Opportunities for sector expansion

The factory yield of chicken in Africa is already very high. Figures of over 90 percent yield are not uncommon as almost all parts are sold, with only the blood and feathers discarded.

There are various opportunities available to commercial African poultry producers, and chief among these are:

  • Production of further processed products, such as pre-cooked meat products and franchise products
  • Expansion of broiler breeding facilities to meet the continent’s hatching egg requirements
  • Large production bases to provide an opportunity for the local poultry industry to develop exports to neighboring countries
  • Improving efficiency of production, as in feed conversion and energy-friendly housing (In Kenya, for example, 84 percent of the country’s chickens are indigenous and, unlike modern broilers, not very feed efficient.)
  • Supply of raw materials, equipment, medication and vaccines, etc.

The ban on GMO grains like maize is a big limiting factor to production as yields are lower, and the viability of Africa’s poultry industry is reduced by its high production costs and increased chicken imports. Local producers must be committed to increasing output and supplying fresh chicken to limit the import of chicken meat.

As foreign nationals cannot own land, partnerships between current medium-size producers and foreign nationals with access to capital and technology are the way forward. If Africa creates a more friendly business environment, the poultry industry will grow and attract more investment to the continent.

How I built a thriving poultry empire at 23

by September 24, 2018

Matatus, boda boda riders and heavy trucks are competing for the little space left by earth movers constructing the Kisumu-Busia highway. We manage negotiate our way to Tiengre Shopping Centre, a 20-minute drive from Kisumu Town.

From here, one can see Kit Mikayi rock, a famous tourist attraction to the north and to the east, you can see aeroplanes landing and taking off from the Kisumu International Airport.

We are looking for a young farmer who has set up a poultry empire here. He name is Immaculate Ochieng and her farm is called Green Farm.

We find her busy tending to her birds when we arrive. Her little child tucked firmly on her back, Immaculate, 23, goes about her business in her poultry farm with a lot of ease. She puts more layers mash in the feeding troughs, collects eggs and cleans the water cans.

She has 700 kuroiler chicken, 200 which are cockerels and the rest hens. “I sell eggs and birds for meat and hatch chicks. I have been doing this for over three years now,” she says.

Immaculate started chicken rearing as a hobby in 2012. She bought a 60 capacity egg incubator using her ‘chama’ savings. She also bought two crates of eggs at Sh1,800. Through the support of her husband and the youth group in which she is a member, her business has expanded.


Immaculate is an all-round farmer who is carving a niche in the business as she works on her dream of building a poultry empire.

She also makes poultry feeds using a machine called drum mixer that she owns. She feeds her chicken with some and sells the rest to other farmers.

Immaculate further has a 3,000 egg capacity incubator that she uses to hatch eggs for sale. Also, she offers brooding services to farmers.

“I started this business after getting tired of being a stay-at-home mum. I talked to my husband and he agreed to support me. He bought the birds and built the poultry houses. I later bought the incubator at Sh44,000 and the feed mixer.”

The farmer collects 860 eggs after every two days. From this, she keeps 350 for hatching. She sells unfertilized ones at Sh330 per crate while the fertilised Sh900. “I put the fertilised eggs into the incubator after every seven days to ensure I have chicks all the time.”

For brooding services, which involves vaccinating chicks, keeping them in the brooder for several days and feeding them, the charges differ depending on the age of the birds. The cost ranges from Sh130 to Sh240 per chick per week, with brooding a month old birds attracting the highest fees.

She says many farmers buy three- week old birds because they are easy to manage as they have been vaccinated. She sells between 300 and 500 chicks each week.

She sells mature cocks at Sh1,200 and hens at Sh1,000. She disposes the cocks at four months at Sh500 to avoid inbreeding. If she does not get ready market, she separates them from the rest and waits for them to mature so that she can sell at Sh1,200.

“I market my products through Seeds of Gold and free online classified websites,” says Immaculate, who is studying an online computer science programme at the University of the People, California, US.

To make feeds, she buys the ingredients that include maize germ, sunflower and cotton seed cake, pollard, grounded shells and salt (iodine) from dealers in Kisumu. She says salt is important during the formulation of feeds because lack of it in feeds or diet may result to diseases.

A 50kg bag of maize germ retails at Sh860 while the same amount of pollard goes for Sh1,050. “It is advisable to have one reliable supplier to buy the ingredients from for accountability. Besides, some of the ingredients sold in the market are contaminated and may affect the chicken,” says Immaculate, who researches heavily on poultry farming on the internet, and sells 50kg at Sh2,000.


For shells picked from the shores of Lake Victoria, she gets a kilo at Sh25 from a supplier in Ahero market.

“I have no problem balancing between studies, my family and rearing poultry. I submit my assignments every week which gives me time to concentrate on poultry and family.”

“As a married woman, I would get visitors, and I preferred cooking for them chicken. This prompted me to start rearing the birds,” says Immaculate, who is a member of Mazingira Youth Group, which gives her loans whenever she is in distress.

However, it has not been all rosy. Only 28 eggs out of the two crates she started with hatched. “By then, I had no idea that there was something like a candler to determine whether the eggs are capable of hatching.”

Poultry farming has made her sit with the high and mighty in the farming business. She recently travelled to Israel to learn from farmers there. The trip was sponsored by the UN Women, which seeks to equip them with leadership skills.

Jackson Achila, a poultry consultant based in Homa Bay at Blue Bound Farm, says the common poultry diseases are Newcastle, infectious bronchitis and gumboro, foul pox, foul typhoid and salmonella.

“When birds are confined in one place, a farmer should be careful because one of these diseases may break out. However, these diseases can be managed through vaccination.”

He says it’s important to keep records of all birds especially the history of the parent birds so that the farmer is able to keep track of the diseases that have at one time affected them.

He advises farmers not rely on internet because they can be misled. “Unless it’s a site that gives the opinion of a well-known poultry consultant, then be cautious to use the information.”


How to feed a dairy cow for more milk

by September 24, 2018

How to feed a dairy cow for more milk

Some literature compares a dairy cow to a factory. That means what is fed to the cow determines to a large extent the quality and quantity of milk produced.

It is from the feeds that a dairy cow derives energy for maintenance, growth, milk production and reproduction.

When a cow gets sick and is unable to feed well, its energy levels go down. The cow’s first response will be to cut down milk production to save energy for its wellbeing.

If energy levels remain low, the cow will not show any signs of heat.

This shows that production and reproduction are the two most affected when a cow is not fed with the right quality and quantities of feed.

It is, therefore, important that a farmer knows the nutritional requirements of a dairy cow to provide adequate rations to meet it production and reproductive requirements.

For a healthy and productive cow, feed rations should have a balance of quantity, quality, amounts of concentrates, protein, mineral and vitamins.

Fodder/roughages are bulky feeds that are rich in energy and proteins, but are not whole meal. They are important for high milk production in dairy cows and constitute up to 80 per cent of the diet.

Example of fodder includes napier grass, Boma Rhodes, lucerne, desmodium and sweet potatoes vines. Napier grass is best intercropped with desmodium, harvested and fed together.

Fresh fodder should be fed after a day’s wilt, chopped into 2 inch pieces to enable the cow feed easily and minimise wastage. A dairy cow should consume 15-20kg of chopped forage per day preferably in two splits, one in the morning and the other in the evening.

During steaming up, extra high quality feed is given to in-calf cows/heifers for the last two months before calving. Quantities may vary depending on the condition of the animal. Steaming up is done to:

1. Encourage growth and repair of the udder tissue
2. Get a strong and healthy calf at birth
3. Ensure there is enough energy for the cow while calving
4. Avoid difficult calving
5. Build-up of body reserves that will be used in the first two months after calving

A dairy cow may be steamed up by providing good quality hay, dairy meal concentrate 1-2kg per cow per day and Intromin mineral block supplement free choice.


After calving, a dairy cow should be fed 3kg of concentrates (dairy meal) per day depending on individual production. The animals may be challenged further by increasing their dairy meal rations for up to an optimal level.

Dairy meal should be fed after milking so that the cow remains standing until the teat canal closes. This helps to avoid teat infection and mastitis.

Farmers should supplement their dairy cows with yeast either in feeds or drinking water to boost milk production.

Yeast fed to a dairy cow improves feed digestibility, increases feed intake and overall performance and productivity.

Yeast extracts increases the number and activity of beneficial bacteria leading to increased rate of ruminal fermentation and a subsequent increase in net energy.

As more organic matter is fermented per unit time, the animal is able to consume more dry matter which also increases net energy.

As the number of beneficial bacteria increases, there is subsequent increase in microbial protein, which when combined with increased net energy leads to high milk production.

Chachu is a well-balanced combination of yeast, vitamins, organic acids and minerals.

Mineral supplements should be provided as they are essential in milk production, they improve fertility, reduce incidences of retained placenta and also contributes to development of strong bones in the growing foetus.

Granular mineral salts should be mixed with feeds in a feeding trough or fed with the concentrates. It may be necessary to moisten the granular mineral licks to prevent dusting during licking as this predisposes the cows to respiratory problems.

Provide mineral salts at a rate of 150g for every 5 litres of milk produced, and an extra 60g for every 5 extra litres.

A Mineral block should be availed at all times. Wholesome drinking water must be available all the time.

Reference: Dr Muchibi, How to feed a dairy cow for more milk,


by August 18, 2018

DENMARK – New results show that in the first few days after calving the dairy cow suffers from a massive protein deficiency. For this reason scientists are now shifting their focus from the cow’s energy balance to her protein status.

The first few days after calving are a challenging time for the dairy cow. She has spent months nurturing the growing foetus inside her, she has just been through a calving with all the opportunities for infection and other troubles that calving entails, and now she is getting set to produce huge amounts of milk – her yield will rocket from 0 to 20 kg milk in the space of a few days. No wonder that 90 percent of disease cases in dairy cows occur within the first weeks postpartum.

For decades, farmers, advisors, veterinarians and scientists have had their focus on the energy balance and fat mobilisation in cows in connection with calving and the ensuing heavy milk production.

With a new research project the scientists are going to study yet another aspect, namely the cow’s protein status. New studies show that the cow suffers from a massive protein deficiency the first weeks after calving.

“We have known for a long time that just after calving, the cow has a protein deficiency, but our latest studies show that the extent of it the first week after calving is huge,” says the leader of the research project postdoc Mogens Larsen, Department of Animal Health and Bioscience at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.

The massive protein deficiency can have an impact on the ability of the cow to absorb and use nutrients and this can affect her liver function. This can, in turn, lead to a reduced function of her immune response and poorer feed uptake,” explains Mogens Larsen.

Studies of the cow’s protein status show that the amino acid content plummets at calving. Amino acids are used in the liver to produce plasma proteins, and to maintain immune function – altogether, important elements in the cow’s ability to resist disease.

Within two weeks after calving the blood amino acid content will increase again but not enough to match the enormous increase in milk yield.

The scientists will investigate what this means for the cow by conducting a study in which the cow is given extra protein already the same day that she calves – and by using the direct route.

“The cows will be given an infusion of protein directly in the abomasum,” explains Mogens Larsen.

If it turns out that a high dosage of protein immediately following calving can keep some of the problems that cows experience in connection with calving and early lactation at bay, then that knowledge can pave the way for further research projects regarding feeding strategies.

The three-year individual postdoc project is supported by funds from the Danish Council for Independent Research. Parts of the project will be carried out in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Source: TheCattleSite News Desk, Massive Protein Deficiency In Cows,

How Much Does a Chicken Eat?

by February 27, 2018

How Much Does a Chicken Eat?

A common question among poultry owners, especially those new to raising birds, is “How much do my birds eat, so I know how much feed to buy?”.

Below are some general guidelines to go by, keeping in mind that a variety of factors, from weather to other available food sources, can influence the exact amount of prepared feed your birds will consume.

Feeding Amounts for Newly Hatched Birds:

  • Layer Chicks: 9-10 lbs per bird in the first 10 weeks
  • Broiler Chicks (based on Cornish Game Birds): 8-9 lbs per bird in the first 6 weeks
  • Turkeys: 72 lbs per bird in the first 12 weeks
  • Geese: 53 lbs per bird in the first 8 weeks
  • Ducks: 22 lbs per bird in the first 8 weeks
  • Gamebirds: 9 lbs per bird in the first 8 weeks

Feeding Amounts for Laying Birds:

  • Chickens: 1.5 lbs per bird per week
  • Turkeys: 4 – 5 lbs per bird per week
  • Geese: 3 lbs per bird per week
  • Gamebirds: 1 – 1.5 lbs per bird per week

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