Namibia: Small Scale Farmers Learn All About the New Rage - Chicken Farming

Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma.

Feeding is the biggest expense for poultry producers. The feed represents around 60 to 70 percent of the production cost. Thus, it is important to make sure that the right feeds are supplied to the right animals at the right time.

This was one of the important messages conveyed by experts during last week's three-day poultry course in Ondangwa, presented by Agra to small-scale farmers.

Poultry farming is fast becoming all the rage as farmers realise the advantages of this type of farming, especially in times of drought. Course leaders explained that chickens can be categorised into layers and broilers. Broilers are produced for meat whilst layers are for table egg production. Feeding for broilers and layers differs. The age of the bird also influences the nutrient requirements: younger chickens need a high protein diet to promote muscle growth and to produce antibodies and enzymes for the body. Thus, chickens have different nutrient requirements according to production purpose and age, and this needs to be taken into account when feeding. Commercial broilers - that were genetically selected for growth- are mostly infertile and will not produce eggs nor will they likely reach the point of lay due to rapid growth.

Broilers reach slaughter weight between 32 to 42 days and it is not advisable to keep them longer due to welfare issues. In contrast, commercial layers are designed for egg production. They need to grow slower than broilers so that the egg organs are able to develop fully.

In both cases, phase feeding is used, which essentially means supplying specific nutrients for that specific age and production status. There are three phases: Starter grower and finisher/layer mash.

Commercial broiler diets for broiler starter is high in protein, low in energy, while broiler grower diets have medium protein and energy, and broiler finisher is low in protein, high in energy.

Commercial layer diets are: Pullet starter: High in protein low in calcium, pullet A: Medium in protein and calcium

And for layer mash: Low in protein and high in calcium.

When it comes to feeding, the following must be considered:

Carbohydrates: They are the energy supply, excess goes to fat formation or egg production

Fats: Present in practically all feed materials, however, excess of fat can lead to digestive upset and crazy chicken disease. Protein: Needed to grow. May come from either plant or animal source. Should not be given in excess.

Minerals: Needed for the wellbeing of poultry as well as egg production and bone formation Vitamins: two types of vitamins. Fat soluble and water soluble. Vitamins are needed for normal growth and egg shell development

Fibre: not fully digestible in poultry however, it is needed for wellbeing and for optimum digestion.

Water: poultry can't live without water. Lack of a constant supply of fresh water hinders their growth.

There are certain foods that should not be given to chickens - due to their toxic nature; the effect they have on eggs or meat; or food that chickens cannot digest: Apple seeds, raw potato or potato peels, avocado pip or skin

chocolate, onions and garlic, citrus, dried rice, dried beans, raw eggs and salt in excess.

Oppose to intensive Broiler and Layer chicken farming where very expensive equipment, specialist housing, feeding and medicine, management, is required for the ordinary farmer to consider alternative breeds which adapt easily to more extensive conditions. Proper hygiene, secure housing and nesting and a little care is all you need to be a successful farmer with the species of hardy chickens in Namibia.

The most popular breeds of chickens in Namibia are Ovambo (Indigenous Namibia breed, tolerant to many diseases), dual-purpose Sussex, Australorp, Rhode Island Red (the most favorite dual-purpose breed), Koekoek (Hardy African dual purpose breed), and Orpington (The breed for all occasions).

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