Livestock Research for Rural Development 16 (1) 2004

Citation of this paper

Nutritional aspects of broiler production in small-holder farms in Cameroon

A Teguia and A C Beynen*

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agronomy and Agricultural Sciences, University of Dschang, P.O. Box 70, Dschang, Cameroon, e-mail: alexisteguia@justice.com
*Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.152, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands, a.c.Beynen@vet.uu.nl


Abstract

Surveys in the areas of Douala and Western Highlands of Cameroon were carried out in order to quantify the efficiency of broiler meat production. A total of 20 small-holder farms were included in the survey, the flock size on the farms ranging from 102 to 3060 birds.

On 8 farms commercial feed was used and on the other farms the diets were prepared using locally available feedstuffs and commercial concentrates containing animal protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The chicks were obtained from local hatcheries at the age of one day. Live weight of 49-days old broilers grouped according to type of feed ranged from 1.33 to 2.06 kg. The feed conversion ratio (kg feed intake/kg weight gain) for the 49-day feeding period ranged from 1.58 to 2.44. Mortality ranged from 2.3 to 16.3%.

It is concluded that broiler production in Cameroon is characterized by poor growth and low efficiency of feed utilization. One reason for the poor productivity is the use of low quality feed ingredients in a situation where the broiler industry has to expand in order to satisfy the meat demand by an increasing human population while being in a situation of maize shortage and prohibited use of meat meals. The objective of present and future research therefore should be to find and test locally available, safe, nutritionally adequate and cheap substitutes for maize and meat meal in broiler feeding.

Keywords: broiler production, Cameroon, nutrition, small-holder farms


Introduction

For many years, village poultry production has been a major supplier of poultry meat and eggs in Cameroon. It has been credited with more than 50% of the national production of poultry meat and eggs (Djoukam and Teguia 1991; Tchoumboue et al 2000). Although statistics are not available, it would appear that part of traditional poultry production is declining along with the rapid development, particularly around urban areas, of a modern poultry sector specialized in the production of broilers and eggs for consumption at national and Central Africa sub-regional levels. Table egg production is dominated by some major industrial and semi-industrial units, probably because of the high investment required to enter the market. In contrast, broiler production is mainly associated with small and medium size farms with flock sizes varying from 50 to 20,000 birds (Joumo 1998). In the West Province of Cameroon, housing more than 40% of the national poultry population, 72% of the farms have flock sizes of 50 to 1000 birds only (Djoukam and Teguia 1991). These farms are characterized by unqualified personnel and low productivity, which could very well be the main reason for the continuous changing identity of farmers who leave the market as rapidly as they come in (Le Coq 2002). Because of their fundamental contribution to the supply of chicken meat to the national and regional markets, a strong position of the small and medium size farms would be desired. Before any positive action could be undertaken to support this category of farms, it is necessary to have a clear idea of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Particularly, the sector faces the competition of imported frozen chicken meat which was to be more than 15,000 metric tons in 2002, or the equivalent of about 10 million live broiler chickens.

The objective of this paper was to characterize broiler production on small-holder poultry farms in order to identify the major constraints towards its development.

To evaluate broiler production in Cameroon, surveys were conducted in two different ecological zones, being the most important as to the national production of broiler meat.


Description of the survey

The first survey was conducted in 1998 in the Douala area. Douala is the economic capital of Cameroon situated in the coastal plains with an altitude barely reaching 30 m above the sea level. The climate is of an equatorial maritime type characterized by an abundant rainfall of about 2550 mm per annum. Temperature varies between 18.5 and 30 °C with an average temperature of 22.9 °C. Relative humidity is 60-100%, depending on the season. The second survey took place in 2000 in the Western Highlands of Cameroon (WHC). The WHC are situated in the Sudan-Guinean zone characterized by an altitude that varies between 1400 and 2000 m and a temperature of 16-27 °C. There is a single long rainy season from mid-March to mid-November and a short dry season from mid-November to mid-March. Annual rainfall is 1600 to 2200 mm and relative humidity varies from 60 to more than 95%.

In the Douala area, the performance of a total of 6,034 Lohmann chicks, belonging to 3 small farms, were studied. All birds had been bought at one-day-old from the same local hatchery. On arrival, flock size varied from 510 to 3060 birds. Twenty two flocks with a total of 13,563 ISA15 Vedette and Arbor acres chicks, belonging to 17 small-size farms, were studied in the WHC. The chicks had been bought at one-day-old from 2 local hatcheries and flock size varied from 102 to 1129 birds.

Poultry houses in the Douala area were all of the open-side type, with wooden or concrete-block walls and roofed with aluminium material. Wood shavings were used as litter on all cemented floors. The chicks were brooded for 4 weeks in a section of the brood-growth-finisher houses at a density of about 52 chicks/m², 36 chicks/m², 21 chicks/m² and 10 chicks/m² at age of 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks, respectively. Heat was produced using fire wood for about 7 and 14 days during the dry and rainy season, respectively. As from the 4th week, the birds were kept at density of 10 birds/m². All birds were vaccinated against infectious bursal disease using either Bur706 ® at day-old with a booster at days 10 and 20 or using Gmboral® or Hipra Gumboro® between days 10-14 with a booster between days 23-27. Vaccination against Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis was done at 7 or 8 days of age with a booster 2 weeks later, using H120 and Hitchner B1, respectively. Coccidiostats were used on each farm for coccidiosis prevention and/or treatment.

Two of the three farms used commercial feed from two different manufacturers while on the third farm the feed was prepared with locally available feed ingredients such as maize, cotton seed cake, groundnut cake, soybean cake, wheat bran, rice bran and imported protein/vitamins/minerals concentrate. The analysed composition of diets used in the broiler farms of the Douala zone is given in Table 1. For the commercial diets, the guaranteed analysis values appearing on the feed labels are also given. On one of the farms using commercial feed, the feed was sometimes diluted either with maize or other cheaper ingredients such as wheat bran. Feed was given ad libitum on one farm, whereas it was supplied in restricted amounts on the 2 others. Water was provided ad libitum on all three farms.

Table 1. Chemical composition (% dry matter, DM) of commercial and farm-made broiler feeds used in the Douala area

Composition,
% DM

Starter 1*

Finisher 1*

Starter 2*

Finisher 2*

Farm starter

Farm Finisher

Label values

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crude protein,  %

21.5

19.0

23.5

22.1

-

-

Fat, %

5.6

6.3

5.5

6.1

-

-

Crude fibre, %

3.6

3.6

5.0

6.0

 

 

Calcium, %

0.85

0.84

1.2

1.0

 

 

Phosphorus, %

0.70

0.70

0.5

0.4

 

 

Analysed values

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crude protein, %

21.5

21.0

24.3

21.9

22.5

23.9

Crude fibre, %

5.7

6.5

6.0

7.0

8.1

6.1

Total ash, %

9.3

5.1

11.8

7.3

6.9

4.5

* 1and 2 correspond with different feed manufacturers
- not available

In the WHC area, the poultry houses were all of the open-side type with walls made of concrete blocks, wood or clay blocks. The floors, either cemented or not, were all covered with wood shavings as litter. All poultry houses were roofed with aluminium material.

The chicks were brooded in a restricted area of brood-grow poultry houses at a density of 50-68 chicks/m2 during the first 2 weeks and 28-40 chicks/m2 for the subsequent two weeks. The density during the finisher phase was 10-12 birds/m2. Heat was provided by firewood with a chimney system to expel the smoke. The birds were vaccinated at the age of one day, 8, 12 and 18 days against infectious bursal disease, Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis using GumboralÒ, Hitchner B1 or la Sota and H120 or H52 sero-type vaccines, respectively. All vaccinations were done through drinking water.

Six farms bought the feed from three local feed manufacturers. The others made their own feed on the farm using locally available ingredients (maize, cotton seed cake, groundnut cake, soybean cake, wheat bran, corn bran and rice bran) and an imported protein/minerals/vitamins concentrate. Feed formulas for the farm-made feeds had been proposed by the concentrate importers. Feed and water were freely available to the chickens. The analysed and labelled composition of three commercial feeds used in the WHC area is documented in Table 2. In Table 3, the analysed composition of farm-made rations is given together with the composition as calculated by the concentrate importers that had proposed the ingredient compositions.

Table 2. Chemical composition (% dry matter) of commercial broiler feeds used in the Western Highlands of Cameroon

Composition,
% DM

Starter 1*

Starter 2*

Starter 3*

Finisher 1*

Finisher 2*

Finisher 3

Label values

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crude protein, %

21.5

23.5

20.0

19.0

22.1

21.0

Fat, %

5.6

5.5

-

6.3

6.1

--

Crude fibre , %

3.6

5.0

-

3.6

6.0

-

Calcium, %

0.85

1.2

1.0

0.84

1.0

0.98

Phosphorus, %

0.70

0.5

0.7

0.70

0.4

0.68

Analysed values

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crude protein, %

21.0

23.5

22.4

21.1

21.8

21.4

Crude fibre, %

5.3

6.0

5.7

6.5

7.0

4.7

Total ash, %

4.7

11.8

7.3

5.1

7.3

7.9

* 1, 2 and 3 correspond with different feed manufacturers
- not available


Table 3.
Chemical composition (% dry matter) of farm-made feed used by broiler farmers in the Western Highlands of Cameroon

Composition,
% DM

Starter 1*

Starter 2*

Finisher 1*

Finisher 2*

Label values

 

 

 

 

Crude protein, %

21.7

21.8

19.7

20.1

Fat, %

2.9

2.6

3.1

2.7

Crude fibre , %

4.0

3.9

4.0

4.2

Calcium, %

0.61

0.41

0.6

0.41

Phosphorus, %

0.40

0.43

0.4

0.47

Analysed values

 

 

 

 

Crude protein, %

23.6

24.1

21.1

21.4

Crude fibre, %

4.1

5.3

6.6

6.5

Total ash, %

7.4

8.0

6.2

11.1

1 FM = farm made
  1 and 2 correspond with different protein concentrate importers

On each farm, live weight at 49 days of age was measured to the nearest 5 g using a TRADEÒ balance. Weighing of the birds was done early in the morning. Feed consumption for each flock was calculated on the basis of data kept by the farmers. The data were used to calculate total weight gain by subtracting the average live weight of day-old chicks, and to calculate feed consumption and feed conversion ration (FCR). Samples of feed collected on the farms were analysed for crude protein, crude fibre and total ash according to the methods of the AOAC (1990).


Results of the survey

In general, the labelled crude protein contents of the commercial feeds were confirmed by laboratory analysis (Tables 1 and 2). The calculated protein values of the farm-made feeds were lower than the analysed values (Table 3). Irrespective of the origin and type of feed, the analysed crude fibre content was consistently higher than the labelled or calculated values.

In the Douala area, the live weight of broiler chickens at 49 days of age, when they are supposed to be ready for the market, was 1.35 kg on all three farms (Table 4). The birds fed on farm-made feed ate more than those fed on commercial feed. The poorest FCR of 1.91 was recorded on the farm using farm-made feed, whereas the other two farms had FCR values of 1.81 and 1.58, respectively. Mortality was highest on the farm with farm-made feed, mortality being 16%, whereas the other two farms registered 7 and 2%, respectively.

Table 4. Broiler chicken performance on small-size farms in the Douala area

Performance

Commercial feed 1*

Commercial feed 2*

Farm-made feed

Live weight at 49 days, kg

1.33 0.7

1.38 0.2

1.36 0.6

Total mortality, %

7.47

2.32

16.34

Feed consumption, kg

2.30 0.3

2.95 0.2

3.73 0.3

Feed conversion ratio (FCR)

1.72 0.8

2.13 0.1

2.74 0.8

*1 and 2 correspond with feed manufacturers
Results are presented as means and SD

The performance of broilers in the WHC area is summarized in Table 5. Total feed consumption was on average 4.39 kg and was similar for birds fed either commercial or farm-made feed. Feed conversion ratio was well above 2 for all groups. Live body weight at 49 days of age was on average 1.81 kg. Mortality was about 5%.

Table 5. Broiler chicken performance on small-size farms in the Western Highlands of Cameroon

Performance

Commercial feed 1*

Commercial feed 2*

Commercial feed 3*

FM feed 1*

FM feed 2*

Live weight at 49 days, kg

1.73 0.1

2.06 0.2

1.63 0.2

1.82 0.1

1.81 0.1

Total mortality, %

5.51 2.4

6.58 7.0

4.93 1.5

5.91 2.1

6.28 3.4

Feed consumption, kg

4.52 0.4

4.39 0.6

4.39 0.5

4.34 0.4

4.30 0.4

Feed conversion ratio (FCR)

2..61 0.2

2.12 0.0

2.69 0.1

2.38 0.2

2.37 0.1

*1, 2 and 3 correspond with different feed manufacturers or protein concentrate importers
FM = farm made


Discussion of the survey

On all farms in the two ecological zones, total feed consumption was lower than the 4.86 kg as recommended by the hatcheries of ISA15 Vedette chicks. The hatcheries of Lohmann and Arbor acres chicks indicate feed intakes of 4.74 kg from one-day-old until 49 days of age when the birds are supposed to be ready for marketing. The low feed intake could be related to the type of ingredients used. The high analysed values for crude fibre would be expected to raise feed intake due to depressed feed utilisation (Chiengain  1981; Diambra et al 1990). The diets were fed in powdered instead of pelleted form so that the birds may have selected the more palatable portion of the diets, thus leading to a lower growth rate and a subsequent low feed intake (Joly  1998). This might explain that the observed live weight at 49 days of age on most farms was lower than 2 kg which would not be expected for the strains of broilers used.

The diets used on the farms could have contained proteins of poor quality and thus have provided an insufficient amount of essential amino acids (Buldgen et al  1996). Poorly mixed feeds require higher safety margins of critical nutrients otherwise they may cause sub-optimal performance (Feed International 2003). On two farms in the Douala region, feed restriction was practiced which could lead to inadequate supply of feed rather than to poor feed intake. However, performance on the farm using ad libitum was not clearly better than on the other two farms. In general, broiler birds that are fed ad libitum may take full advantage of their genetic potential for rapid growth. Restricted feeding is usually envisaged earlier in the life of chicks as a means to induce compensatory growth following starvation (Leeson and Zubair  1997; Teguia et al 2002). On one farm in the Douala region the commercial feed was mixed with feedstuffs. Dilution of commercial feed with uncontrolled amounts of maize or other ingredients will change the nutritional value of the feed. Feed intake often is biased because the added ingredients are usually not taken into account when calculating feed consumption. Poor weight gain generally is a consequence of inappropriate feeding practices and the use of low quality ingredients which are justified by the high cost of feeding broiler birds. The efficiency of feed utilisation was relatively poor on all the farms in the WHC area. (Table 5). FCR values were well above 2 as opposed to the expected values of 1.95 and 1.97 for Vedette and Arbor acres chicks, respectively. The relatively lower FCR recorded in the Douala area point to a better efficiency of feed utilisation, but could relate to the poor growth of the birds and/or bias due to not recording by the farmers of the use of maize or other ingredients.

High mortality rates in broiler production are usually related to poor sanitation programmes and inadequate conservation of vaccines and other medicines at the farm level (Tchoumboue et al  1992). The farm in the Douala zone that used farm-made feed had a high mortality. High temperatures associated with high relative humidity will create an environment in which the birds have difficulty to control their body temperature, contributing to high mortality.

In general, the performance of broiler production in the two ecological zones was low when compared to the expected production variables. Tchoumboue et al (1992) attributed the low production to insufficient management and lack of expertise among the farmers who do not properly understand the production process and the nutritional requirements of birds because most of them have never been formally trained. Poor sanitation and poor feeding practice are the main causes for low performance of broiler production on small and medium-size farms in Cameroon.


Conclusion of the survey

Broiler production on small and medium-size farms in Cameroon is characterized by poor growth, poor efficiency of feed utilisation and high mortality. Insufficient management skill of farmers, poor feeding and sanitary problems seem to be the major constraints to the activity.


Feed and feeding problems

The development of the poultry sector in Cameroon would benefit from improved feeding practice. In developed countries, poultry feeding is based on maize-soybean diets. Maize and soybean meal can effectively make up to 95% of the diet as maize is the major energy source while soybean meal has become the standard against which other protein sources are compared (Leeson and Summers  1997). Other feedstuffs used by the world poultry industry, but of minor importance in terms of quantity, include wheat and wheat by-products, animal protein sources, minerals and vitamins. Meals of plant origin such as groundnut cake, canola meal are only used in small quantities. Modern poultry production has been imported to Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, together with these major feedstuffs that are considered essential for a successful business. However, as opposed to developed countries, maize is an important staple food in Cameroon and therefore there is competition between humans and chickens. A major consequence is the constant fluctuation of the maize price, with a concomitant increase in the price of chicken feed. This is a considerable problem because the cost of feeding represents up to 70% of the total production costs. The evolution of the price of maize and other major feedstuffs used in Cameroon between June 2001 and March 2002 is given in Table 6.

Table 6. Average price (FCFA/kg) of feedstuffs used in chicken feed on the Cameroon market from June 2001 to March 2002

Month/
Feedstuff

June
2001

July
2001

August
2001

Sept.
2001

Oct.
2001

Nov.
2001

Dec.
2001

Jan
2002

Feb.
2002

March
2002

Maize

100

120

140

150

100

100

120

150

170

186

CSC

120

120

120

120

150

160

160

160

170

170

S. meal

360

360

360

360

370

380

380

380

380

380

G. cake

250

250

250

250

250

250

260

250

260

260

P.K.cake

45

45

45

45

50

50

50

50

50

50

W.bran

42

42

42

42

42

42

42

45

45

45

O. shell

60

60

60

60

60

50

50

50

50

50

- CSC = cotton seed cake; S. = soybean; G. = groundnut; PK.= palm kernel; W. = wheat; O.= oyster.
Source: Le Coq N01, June 2002.
1euro = 655.95 FCFA

Table 6 shows that the price of maize increased by more than 80% within a 1-year period, whereas that of soybean meal increased by 5.5% during the same period. The systematic increase in the price of maize was due to insufficient national production. All of the soybean meal used for animal feeding in the country is imported not only because national soybean production is insignificant, but there is no industry for the local production of soybean oil and meal. Thus, importation of the two major feed ingredients, maize and soybean meal, is the only way if poultry production is to be based exclusively on these ingredients. This would mean that huge amounts of foreign exchange are needed and at the same time are depriving a poor country of resources that could otherwise be used for development projects with positive impact on the national economy. Furthermore, the higher price of locally produced chicken meat would justify the import of this product from developed countries where the cost of production is more efficiently controlled, thus increasing the fragility of local broiler industry.

Finding local substitutes for maize and soybean meal could help bring down the price of poultry meat to the level that can be afforded by of the average citizen. Imported concentrates containing protein, vitamins and minerals represent up to 10% of broiler rations. Their fundamental role is to provide essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The concentrates not only are expensive, but now are subject to harsh regulation as well. After the recent cases of "mad-cow disease" in Europe, the import of concentrates containing meat meals has been banned in the Central African sub-region as from December 2000. As from February 2001, in Cameroon the use of meat meals in poultry nutrition is prohibited even though chicken meat has not been identified as a cause of the transmission of Creutzfeld Jacob's disease. Meat meals have been an important source of essential amino acids. Thus, the broiler industry in Cameroon is facing multiple challenges. It has to expand in order to satisfy the meat demand by an increasing human population while being in a situation of maize shortage and prohibited use of meat meals. The objective of present and future research therefore should be to find and test locally available, safe, nutritionally adequate and cheap substitutes for maize and meat meal in broiler feeding.


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Received 3 November 2003; Accepted 21 December 2003

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