|Livestock Research for Rural Development 4 (3) 1992||
Citation of this paper
Alternative non-cereal diets for poultry
Thomas R Preston
Centro para la Investigación en Sistemas Sostenibles de Producción Agropecuaria (CIPAV), AA 20591 Cali, Colombia
(Paper presented at the XIX World's Poultry Congress, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 20-24 September 1992)
The feasibility of using non-cereal grain feed resources as the basis for intensive poultry production is increasing slowly. Sugar cane and african oil palm offer most perspectives as the basis for sustainable intensive livestock production including poultry. The development of feeding systems from these non-conventional feed resources will require an equally non-conventional approach to the design of the production system. It is probable that the most appropriate species of poultry will be ducks and geese and that these should be complemented with ruminant animals in farming systems that integrate crops and livestock with efficient recycling of residues, by-products and wastes.
KEY WORDS: Non-cereal feeds, sugar cane juice, african oil palm, poultry, ducks, geese, integrated farming systems, biomass, sustainability
Poultry and sustainability
As with all other agricultural activities, the role of poultry as food producers must be assessed in terms of their impact on the sustainability of the system in which they play a part. Sustainability, defined in its broadest sense, has to do with profitability - meaning advantage or gain - assessed from the point of view of:
The first question is: how does modern poultry production, as practised in the more developed countries, measure up against these criteria? The answer must be: rather badly!!
At the present time, in most countries, poultry meat from broilers is the cheapest form of carcass meat and the branch of animal production with the most consistent and rapid growth. However, the future outlook is far from secure as there are a number of issues which could dramatically change the present situation. Almost all western' style poultry enterprises use cereal grains as the basis of the feeding system. But world grain production is in decline due to: (i) decreasing yields caused by reduced soil humidity resulting from higher summer temperatures in all the major producing countries; (ii) increased costs of, and ecological pressures against, use of agrochemical inputs; (iii) decisions to reduce subsidies to both producers and exporters of grain in Europe and North America. At the same time demand for grain by the human population is rising due to population growth. The long term effect of these trends is likely to be an increase in the price of cereal grain used as livestock feed.
Modern poultry production us carried out in large units usually without land, all feed being purchased. Accumulation of excreta and litter poses an environmental problem. Recycling wastes as animal feed (in the case of litter) and as fertilizer (excreta from caged birds) has been an effective solution in many cases. But these outlets require transport, the cost of which is certain to increase, since the production units are almost never integrated with the end use of the excreta -- agricultural crops and ruminant livestock.
Animal welfare and healthy eating
Poultry are still kept largely in cages, an unfriendly housing system which in the majority of the more-developed countries will soon be prohibited. Even deep litter systems cause offence since they are conducive to development of respiratory infections, the control of which creates a dependency on feed medication and vaccines. Such a situation is far from sustainable. Future customers, especially in the rich "North", if given the choice may well opt for poultry raised without such continuous medication.
In less developed countries, creating job opportunities for women and children has high priority especially if it can be combined with household and family activities. Modern poultry production fails to qualify on this count also.
In summary, therefore, it can be concluded that there is an urgent need for alternative systems of poultry production which are truly sustainable in all the senses of the term as discussed above.
The first step must be examine the role of poultry in the overall farming system, so that from the beginning the issues of sustainability in its broadest sense are addressed. The following guide lines are proposed:
Sugar cane, besides being the most productive and efficient user of solar energy to synthesise biomass, is also environmentally friendly. It is essentially perennial, with growth cycles of 5 to 7 years before reestablishment. In artisan production systems it is never replanted, since only mature stalks are harvested and any gaps are filled in by transplanted material. All known pests can be, and usually are, controlled biologically and, provided the crop is not burned prior to or after harvest, the leaf litter-soil interface is an excellent medium for fixation of atmospheric nitrogen (Patriquin 1982) and probably for oxidation of methane (Mosier et al 1991; Keller et al 1990). Every hectare of standing biomass is a permanent sink for some 60 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The use of the byproducts derived from industrial sugar production (eg: final molasses) has been practised for many years, although mainly for ruminant feeding (Preston and Leng 1987). Added impetus has been given to this crop as animal feed through the recent development of feeding systems based on the fibre-free cane juice (Preston 1980, 1988). This has led to commercial pig production systems in which all the cereal grain is replaced by the cane juice, in all phases of the production cycle (Sarria et al 1990). Research and development is also well advanced on the partial substitution of conventional protein sources with water plants (Becerra 1991).
Use of the cane juice as a substitute for grain in poultry diets has been less successful due mainly to the physical difficulties experienced by chickens in consuming a low-density liquid diet, and the stress caused by splashing of the sugar-rich juice on the feathers which can lead to cannibalism. Rates of growth and feed conversion have rarely exceeded 60-70% of genetic potential (Rodriguez and Salazar 1991).
Recent developments on the feeding of cane juice to ducks are much more promising (Bui Xuan Men and Vuong Van Su 1992; Becerra and Preston 1992). Ducks are well adapted to consuming liquid diets and, provided they have access to water for swimming, have no problems with the sugar juice falling on their plumage. It appears to be possible to reach at least 80-90% of genetic potential for growth (Bui Xuan Men and Vuong Van Su 1992; Becerra and Preston 1992). As with pigs, the absence of fibre in the cane juice permits partial substitution of conventional protein sources with water plants (Becerra and Preston 1992). There appears to be real potential here to develop low-cost, farm-based commercial feeding systems.
African oil palm
Next to sugar cane, the african oil palm appears to offer most potential as a source of energy for monogastric animal species including poultry. From the environmental viewpoint, the oil palm represents minimal departure from the original tropical rain forest and, if planted as a source of animal feed on farms rather than in plantations, can be associated with other trees and shrubs to increase biological diversity. On-farm opportunity prices (reference is sale price to the oil factory) of the unextracted oil in harvested fruits in Honduras (T R Preston, May 1992, Unpublished data) was US$200.00/tonne of oil which is highly competitive, on an energy basis, with imported cereal grain (about US$150.00/tonne).
Initial research in Colombia focused on the use of factory byproducts as a cereal substitute in pig diets (the oil-press fibre; Ocampo et al 1990). But attention now is being applied to both the crude oil (which with suitable machinery could be extracted on-farm) and the whole fruit as energy sources (Alvaro Ocampo 1992, personal communication). Chickens readily consume the crude oil and there appear to be fewer management constraints with this kind of liquid diet than with cane juice, perhaps because of its very much higher energetic density.
Other tropical non-cereal feed resources
Reject (from human consumption) cassava roots, sweet potato tubers and banana and plantain fruits, have long been fed to poultry managed as scavengers around the farm holding. There appears to be no reported research on the use of these feed resources in intensive on-farm feeding systems. Cassava chips have been produced in several tropical countries, chiefly Thailand, but as this material has been mainly exported to Europe for mixed feed manufacture, rather than for on-farm use, it is excluded from the present discussion. That this usage owes more to the distortions brought about by the subsidies in the European animal feed industry, than to the comparative advantages of this feed resource in its own right, is demonstrated by the lack of impact on livestock feeding systems in farms in the country of origin (T R Preston, 1992, unpublished data).
The potential of non-cereal grain feed resources for poultry production is slowly becoming appreciated. Sugar cane and african oil palm offer most perspectives as the basis for sustainable intensive livestock production. However, the development of feeding systems from these non-conventional feed resources will require an equally non-conventional approach to the design of the production system. It is probable that the most appropriate species of poultry will be ducks and geese and that these should be complemented with ruminant animals in farming systems that integrate crops and livestock with efficient recycling of residues, by-products and wastes.
Becerra Maricel 1991 Azolla anabaena; un recurso valioso para la producción agropecuaria en el trópico. Serie de Manuales Técnicos #1 pp1-53
Becerra Maricel and Preston T R 1992 Developing a duck feeding system using sugar cane juice and water plants. Livestock Research for Rural Development Volume 4, Number 2 (in press)
Bui Xuan Men and Vuong Van Su 1992 Sugar cane juice and "A" molasses as complete replacement for cereal byproducts in diets for ducks. Livestock Research fr Rural Development Volume 4 Number 3 (in press)
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