Family poultry studies in KwaZulu-Natal.
This work was in two parts, the first part was an on-farm survey of family poultry production and the second study was on-station research which investigated the replacement of maize by bread waste in layer diets. The on-farm survey was an analysis of family poultry production practices and the socio-economic factors that have an impact on subsistence poultry production under household conditions. This study was designed to make a contribution to the understanding of family poultry production and to assist in improving production levels. This was one way towards assisting the long-term sustainability of subsistence animal production, which contributes to household food security endeavours in South Africa. The on-station trial was conducted in order to determine the biological response and economic advantages of laying birds being fed high levels of bread waste. This study was exploratory in nature and was aimed at providing a viable alternative energy feed ingredient that could contribute to maize replacement in layer diets. Therefore, the study was not intended to compare maize against bread, but rather sought to make a contribution by exploring an alternative energy feed ingredient suitable for use in layer diets under small-scale poultry production scenarios, depending on the extent of damaged or stale bread availability. The study on family poultry was qualitative and involved three main methodologies, participatory rural appraisal (PRA), case study and agro-technical measurements. The results revealed that these fowls were kept primarily for usage during cultural ceremonies. Other secondary roles involved subsistence consumption as meat, eggs and sometimes, these chickens are sold as a source of immediate income. The flock size was considerably influenced by the principal household husbandry practices undertaken. The major husbandry practices included indoor laying, hen tethering (holding) and early chick separation and such family poultry practices were associated with larger flocks. The extent of family poultry husbandry practices indicated that approximately 62% of the households practiced forced in-door hen laying, 50% of the households engaged the hen tethering practices, while only 25% practiced early chick separation. These husbandry practices in the various households make a contribution to family poultry production in terms of flock size. The majority of households fed primarily yellow maize grain and kitchen waste to chickens as a supplement to the range of feed resources obtained through scavenging. The peak breeding and production season for family poultry occurs during the autumn to winter season. Many factors influence the peak production period and they include predation (hawks , dogs and cats), feed availability and weather conditions . Hawk predation tends to be low at this time of the year because the hawk hibernates while undergoing molting. Furthermore, the period coincides with low grass cover, which minimizes the incidence of predation by wild animals, as they become more conspicuous. The incidence of chicken diseases at this time tends to be minimal because of persistent cold weather conditions which do not promote development of most infectious chicken diseases, like Newcastle disease, sores and many of the respiratory diseases. Moreover, feed availability during this period of the season tends to be high and the feed is in the form of post-harvest maize grain waste . Approximately 38% of households treated the most problematic Newcastle disease with traditional herbs as opposed to 13% and 25% who used conventional medication and vaccination practices respectively. In the on-station trial, diets were formulated in such a way that maize was replaced by bread in layer diets at the levels of 0, 20,40, 60, 80 and 100% respectively. The production variables which were measured included egg weight, egg production and feed intake. Egg output, rate of lay and feed conversion efficiency were subsequently derived from the above variables, and used to ascertain the biological response and the economic implications for maize replacement in terms of the cost of the layer diet. This study revealed that layer diets with increasing levels of bread content lead to a linear decline in biological response of cage laying hens. The economic analysis consistently indicated that better marginal returns (Rand) could be obtained at 0 and 20% maize replacement by bread in the diet. However, the use of high levels of bread, greater than 20% leads to unfavourable economic returns due to a decline in most biological variables. In situations where maize is not easily available or excessively expensive, bread waste could serve as an alternative energy source in layer diets.