Livestock Research for Rural Development 12 (4) 2000

Citation of this paper

Traditional poultry production and commercial broiler alternatives for small-holder farmers in Botswana 

A A Aganga, U J Omphile, P Malope, C H  Chabanga, G M Motsamai 
and L G Motsumi

Department of Animal Science and Production, Botswana College of Agriculture  
Private Bag 0027, Gaborone, Botswana
aaganga@temo.bca.bw 

Abstract

Two studies were conducted.  The first study evaluated the production potential of indigenous (Tswana) chickens under an extensive free-range management system in the Gaborone agricultural region of Botswana.  The second study  was a  survey of 25 randomly selected, commercial small-scale broiler farms  in the Southern region of Botswana. Data were obtained using a structured questionnaire, interviews and direct observations of the birds and their management in the two systems. 

Study 1 involved 85 farmers. Ten different common supplementary feeds fed to the free-range chickens together with soil samples from where the chickens roost were collected. The feeds were: sorghum grain (Sorghum bicolor), maize grain (Zea mays), jugo bean, also  known as bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L.) Verda), tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius var. latifolius), millet grain (Pennisetum glaucum), melon seeds (Colocynthis citrullus L), Tswana water melon fruit (whole), sorghum milo, maize bran and sorghum beer residue (moroko). Mean adult body weight of the birds (n=713) was 2.2 and 2.0 kg for cocks and hens respectively. Average egg  weight (n=188) was 48 g with an annual production of 34 eggs laid in 2 to 3 clutches. Production varied little among flocks.  .Sexual maturity was attained at about 6 months for females.  The crude protein content of the feeds (as-fed basis) given as supplements was: maize grain 9.8%, millet 6.5%, sorghum 11.1%, tepary bean 18.5% and jugo bean 15.8%.  All the feeds had a low level of calcium, for example 0.22 % for melon seeds.  The  farmers kept the chickens for home consumption and occasional sales.

In study 2, all the farmers practiced intensive housing on deep litter.  The number and size of the poultry houses ranged from one to eight, with floor area of less than 100m to 1,000m. Numbers of chickens in each batch ranged from less than 1000 to 10,000 with about 4 batches in a year.  The broiler strains were Ross hybrid, Indian River and Cobb with 56% of the farmers keeping Ross hybrid.  Various heating methods were used for brooding with more than 40% using gas as a source of heat.  Vaccinations for either gumboro and / or Newcastle were used by 76% of the farmers. Feed was provided ad libitum in all instances.

Keywords: Village poultry, small-holders, broilers, feeding, management, reproductive traits, Botswana    


Introduction  

In villages in Botswana, poultry keeping is a side- line occupation because of the dominance of the beef cattle industry in the society. However, as poultry production can be increased more rapidly than that of other farm animals, it offers an opportunity for rapid growth in a developing country demanding a higher standard of human nutrition. In Botswana, chicken has only limited religious connotations and is, therefore, widely accepted as food for the human population.

In 1995 the population of chickens in Botswana was reported to be slightly over three million (MoA 1995). Of this number, 2.4 million were managed commercially with the remaining 700 thousand being kept under traditional extensive management.  This paper provides some data on prevailing practices in these two systems.


Materials and methods  

Village chickens

The study was conducted in five villages in the Gaborone agricultural region of Botswana and involved 85 farmers selected at random.  Data were obtained using a structured questionnaire, interviews and direct observations of the birds and their management.  Men, women  and children were  interviewed but the women were the most interested and generally were in charge of  of the poultry. Liveweights were taken of 713 mature birds of both sexes, all of the indigenous (Tswana) breed. Eggs (n=188) were also weighed. A total of 10 feeds commonly used as supplements [sorghum grain (Sorghum bicolor), maize grain (Zea mays), jugo bean, also  known as bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L.) Verda), tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius var. latifolius), millet grain (Pennisetum glaucum, variety Serere 6A), melon seeds (Colocynthis citrullus L), Tswana water melon fruit (whole), sorghum milo, maize bran and sorghum beer residue (moroko)] were analysed for proximate composition (AOAC 1995). Soil samples were taken from the areas where the scavenging chickens roosted and analysed for minerals (AOAC 1995).

Broilers

This study was done in the same area as the one on village chickens and involved 25 randomly selected small-scale broiler farms. The topics covered by the questionnaire and interviews were management practices such as housing, feeding, veterinary services and constraints to production.  The data obtained were subjected to descriptive analysis. Cost  benefit analysis was done for one well-managed small broiler  farm. (AOAC 1995). 


Results and discussion  

Village poultry production 

It was observed that the poultry  were  kept in conjunction with other types of animals especially herbivores, with 80% of the families rearing goats, 50% with cattle, 40 % with donkeys and 30% with sheep. In all cases the poultry flock was composed of the local indigenous birds (Tswana). All the farmers also produced crops such as sorghum, cow peas, water melon, millet, maize, bambara ground nuts, tepary beans and  vegetables. On average,  each farm household had 40 to 70 m of land around the homestead and 10 ha for crop  production. The  poultry roamed and scavenged freely  in the area.

At night, the chickens mostly perched in trees behind the  farmers’ homesteads  but  in a few cases they were confined in  locally constructed  metal  cages on raised  platforms, to prevent  access by snakes. It appeared that survival rates  were relatively low, especially following  outbreaks of Newcastle disease as few farmers vaccinated their flocks against the disease. 

The mature liveweight of mature males was on average 2.20 kg (range of 1.0 to 3.9 kg) and of mature females 2.0 kg (range of 1.0 to 3.0 kg). The  Tswana chickens were heavier than the small African local fowl reported by  Kuit et al (1986) in Central Mali.  Egg weight varied from 38 to 60 g. Average flock size was 9 chickens per holding which is similar to the national average reported by MoA (1995). The sex ratio was 1:3.9 (1 cock to about 4 hens) which is lower than the recommended one male to about 15-20  hens in order to optimise the use of the cocks

The data for production potential (Table 1) of the Tswana chickens are similar to the local chickens studied in Burkina Faso by Say (1987). Small egg size is a characteristic of indigenous tropical fowl breeds and that trait may be simply one of  adaptation to the tropical climate (Smith 1974)..

Table 1: Reproduction characteristics of Tswana chickens under extensive management

Reproduction characters

Mean SE

Range

Age at sexual maturity  (months)

  Cocks (males)
  Hens (females)

7.0 0.55
6.0
0.74

5 - 9
5 – 8

Eggs laid per clutch (1st lay)

10.0 0.42

8 – 12

Eggs laid in subsequent clutches

13.0 0.57

10 - 15

Eggs laid / year

34.0 0.36

28 - 38

Clutches / year

3.0 0.00

-

Length of lay per clutch (days)

16.0 0.49

15 – 18

Incubation period  (days)

21.0 0.00

-

Chicks hatched from first incubation

6.0 0.48

3 – 8

Chicks hatched from subsequent incubations

8.0 0.63

5 -13

Average hatching rate (%)

61.8

-

Rearing period (days)

85.0 3.56

80 – 90

Recovery period (days)

19.0 0.64

14 - 21

 

 

Table 2:  Content of dry matter (DM) and (as % of DM) of ash, fat, crude protein (CP) and  crude fibre (CF)

Feed

DM

Ash

Fat

CP

CF

Jugo bean

91.1

4.10

17.0

15.7

5.5

Tepary bean

91.3

11.0

17.3

18.4

2.7

Maize

91.0

10.3

1.78

9.75

2.3

Melon seeds

93.8

8.95

28.9

12.4

26.3

Sorghum grains

90.2

13.3

1.17

11.0

3.03

Sorghum beer residue

44.3

14.8

7.8

9.7

8.2

Millet

89.8

9.90

1.17

6.5

8.9

Tswana water melon fruit

5.17

11.3

28.9

11.2

8.1

Sorghum milo

93.1

2.78

ND

11.1

6.5

Maize bran

93.3

3.05

10.7

10.1

15.5

ND = Not done

 

 

 

 

 

Tables 3 gives the mineral content of some of the feeds.

Table 3: Major mineral levels of some feeds used for scavenging chickens (on % dry matter basis)

Feed

Ca

Mg

P

K

Jugo bean

0.014

0.14

0.21

1.3

Tepary bean

0.38

0.01

0.28

1.16

Maize

0.09

0.14

0.24

0.62

Melon seeds

0.22

0.24

0.40

0.64

Sorghum grains

1.76

0.25

0.33

0.42

Sorghum beer residue

0.01

0.03

0.22

0.08

Millet

0.02

0.15

0.32

0.44

Tswana water melon fruit

0.21

0.19

0.15

3.30

Sorghum milo

0.05

0.21

0.47

0.16

Maize bran

0.07

0.28

0.53

0.35

Melon seeds contain relatively high levels of iron, zinc and manganese (Table 4) while sorghum beer residues (moroko) also have a high iron content.

Table 4: Trace mineral composition of some feeds used for scavenging chickens (in parts per million on dry matter basis )

Feed

Cu

Fe

Mn

Zn

Jugo bean

16.0

41.9

15.4

37.7

Tepary bean

20.0

83.9

30.8

42.1

Maize

9.0

32.0

9.8

47.8

Melon seeds

21.0

817

37.1

40.8

Sorghum grains

10.0

243

60.8

37.3

Sorghum beer residue

10.0

574

8.4

22.4

Millet

19.0

88.3

16.1

31.1

Tswana water melon fruit

14.0

122

19.6

73.6

Sorghum milo

7.0

202

34.5

67.0

Maize bran

14.0

38.0

36.5

116.0

Average composition of the soils analysed was pH 7, K 1 m-equiv/100g soil , Na (below detectable level), Ca  5.67 m-equiv/100g soil, Mg  2 m-equiv/100g soil, C 1 % of soil by weight, P 8.21 ppm and cation  exchange capacity  of 3.8 m-equiv/100g soil .  Scavenging chickens peck the top soil to supplement the minerals they obtain from feeds.  The soil samples from the study areas are low in carbon, sodium and potassium.  The small stones or hard particles (grit) obtained from pecking the soil aid the chickens in grinding ingested seeds and grains.

Commercial broilers

Small- holder farmers involved in commercial broiler production use concrete and corrugated iron sheets in construction of all the broiler farm structures within the study area with absolutely none using locally available material such as mud and thatch.  However, the structures were properly constructed and thus allowed for adequate ventilation which is important in all phases of broiler production for it allows for air renewal,  supply of oxygen and removal of products of metabolism such as ammonia and carbon dioxide. Broiler house building costs ranged from 8 to 12 Pulas (Botswana currency)  per m.

The results summarised in Table 5 show that the farmers are faced with limitations in regard to stocking density and this is directly dictated by the size of the farm, total housing area and partitioning of the houses. Production capacities were low owing to the fact that the country depends on the importation of broiler stock and chicken feed from neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe. Results from the survey show usage of a variety of heat sources for brooding within the study area, ranging from wood, charcoal, gas heaters, electric brooders and charcoal to infra red light.  Chick behaviour was used as a guide to the correct combination of temperatures. 

Table 5: Characteristics of broiler farms surveyed

Items

Frequency,%

Number of poultry buildings

1 – 2

52

3 – 4

20

5 – 6

16

7 – 8

12

Total housing area in m 

Less than 100

20

101 – 200

32

201 – 300

8

301 – 400

-

401 – 500

8

501 – 600

8

601 – 700

4

701 – 800

-

801 – 900

4

901 – 1000

16

Stocking capacity

1 – 1000

40

1001 – 2000

8

2001 – 3000

8

3001 – 4000

4

4001 – 5000

-

5001 – 6000

8

6001 – 7000

-

7001 – 8000

-

8000 – 9000

-

9001 – 10000

32

Number of houses partitioned/farm

1 – 2

52

3 – 4

20

5 – 6

16

Commercial strains used

Ross hybrid

40

Indian River

4

Indian River & Ross

-

Cobb

20

Cobb & Ross

32

Cobb & Indian Ross

4

The strains of broilers included Ross hybrid, Cobb and Indian River with as many as 40% of the farms raising Ross hybrids owing to the ease of acquisition and availability in the market of this strain as compared to others.  The stocking  rate commonly used is 10 birds per m. It is expected that on average a bird will consume 4kg of feed from day old to slaughter weight and that 30% of this will be broiler starter, with the remaining 70% being finisher mash, the change in feed type being made in the 4th week. 

Feed was provided ad libitum in all instances with the aim of maximising feed consumption.  Table 6 reveals that different chicken feeds were provided for different age categories as constituted by the difference in protein and calcium content and their requirements at the different stages of growth. 

Table 6: Feeding and management of broiler farms

Broiler feed 

Number of farms

% frequency

Starter mash

 

 

Day 1 – 3 weeks

11

44

Day 1 – 4 weeks

14

56

Broiler finisher

 

 

3 weeks – 6 weeks

3

12

3 weeks – 7 weeks

6

24

3 weeks – 8 weeks

2

8

4 weeks – 6 weeks

7

28

4 weeks – 7 weeks

4

16

4 weeks – 8 weeks

3

12

Stress pack usage

 

 

Administered

15

60

Not used

10

40

Say (1987) emphasised disease prevention through regular vaccination and avoidance of stressful conditions rather than curative intervention, in order to minimise economic losses.  However, the data in Table 7 shows that 24% of the respondent farmers did not vaccinate at all and, consequently, disease outbreaks were experienced in 56% of the farms.  However, it is necessary to state that 32% provided some form of medication and 76% vaccinated their flock against Newcastle disease and/or Gumboro.  Only 24% of farmers applied medication mainly as oxytetracycline. 

Table 7: Health management

Items

Frequency, %

Type of vaccine administered

 

Gumboro & Newcastle disease

60

Newcastle disease only

12

Gumboro  only

4

No vaccination

24

Medication

 

Oxytetracycline

24

Aloe extracts

8

None

68

Cleaning of broiler  houses

 

Water  and  detergent

16

Water, detergent and disinfectant

68

Fumigation of broiler units

16

Diseases

 

Experienced outbreaks

56

No outbreak

44

The results in Table 7 also highlight the fact that the broiler houses were scrupulously cleaned and disinfected after each cycle/batch and allowed to dry before fresh litter was laid down.  Wood shavings were used for the deep litter in all farms. 

The information obtained  in this study shows that 44% of the respondent farmers have very unstable marketing arrangements.  They experienced marketing problems thus they practised door to door and direct marketing of broiler meat to consumers.  The data in Table 8 shows lack of capital  investment in  mechanised feeders, drinkers and processing equipment and that 72% of the farmers employed manual labour in meat processing activities. There would appear to be a need for organised market outlets of local  broiler products, since there is a huge deficit of broiler product requirement which is currently met by importation from the Republic of South Africa.

Table 8: Broiler meat processing and marketing

Items

Frequency, %

Broiler sales

 

Live birds

8

Dressed

28

Live  birds and dressed

64

Dressing  method

 

Manual

72

Mechanical

28

Packaging

 

Plastic bags

88

Disposable trays and/cartoons

12

From Table 9, it can be seen that the major costs are for feed,  representing an average of about 60% of the total costs.  In the calculation of gross margin, casual labour was not included although it forms part of the variable costs.  The reason for this is that no proper records were kept.  While this might overstate the gross margin, it would not overstate the net farm income or profit because an estimate of labour costs was been included in the fixed costs.

Table 9:  Cost-benefit analysis of a small scale broiler production

Items

Pula

Sales revenue
Variable Costs:
Chicks
Heating
Vet. medicines
Feed
Water
Transport
Other

Total variable costs
Gross margin
Gross margin per bird

Fixed Costs:
Rent
Labour
Total fixed costs

4365

572
57.6
77.8
1468
33.0
15.0
3.8
2228
2137
5.6
 
25.0
582
607

Net farm income
Net farm income per bird

1530
4.0

NB: 1 Pula (P1) Botswana’s currency is approximately equivalent to 0.20 US$.

The labour cost was estimated using the hourly rate obtained from the minimum wage paid by government.  It was felt that this would approximate the hourly rate of the farmers involved in the small-scale poultry production since they have similar educational levels as the labourers in government.  It was then assumed that the farmers spend approximately four hours each day in broiler production.  After obtaining the daily rate, this was then multiplied by the number of days of the production cycle to arrive at the total labour cost.  While this estimate might not be precise, it is better than assuming that the labour cost is zero, since the labour does not have zero opportunity cost. Both the gross margin and the net farm income are positive indicating that broiler production is a profitable undertaking for small holders. 

It is recommended that in order to farmers to increase their total profits they need to increase the size of their operation because this will spread the fixed costs over a larger number of birds.  


Conclusions

This study shows that village poultry production serves as source of protein to many rural households, since the farmers often slaughter the chickens for home consumption. Scavenging poultry obtain some of their nutrient requirements from the local supplementary feeds provided by the farmers. Also scavenging  chickens  obtain  some  minerals through pecking of top soils. 

Small-scale broiler farming is on the increase in the Southern Region of Botswana because the majority of the farmers interviewed (75%) started production in the last five years. Production capacity ranged from a few hundreds to 10,000  broiler chickens. One of the major constraints faced by respondent broiler farmers was capital. 

This study shows that broiler production is a good  alternative for small-holders which can help to alleviate poverty and generate income for the families.


References

AOAC 1995 Official methods of analysis (16th ed). Association of Official Analytical Chemists.  Arlington, Virginia 

Kuit H G, Traore A and Wilson R T 1986 Livestock production in Central Mali : Ownership, management and productivity of  poultry in the  traditional sector.  Tropical Animal Health and Production 18 : 222-231.

MoA 1995  Botswana Agricultural Survey Report.  Division of Agricultural Planning and Statistics.  Ministry of Agriculture, Central Statistics Office.  pp 22 

Oluyemi J A,  Fetuga B L and Endeley H N L 1976 The metabolisable energy value of some feed ingredients for young chicks.  Poultry Science 55: 611–618 

Say R R 1987 Manual of poultry production in the tropics.  CTA. Published by CAB International 

Smith A J 1974 Changes in the average weight and shell thickness of eggs produced by hens exposed to high environmental temperatures. A review. Tropical Animal Health and Production 6: 237 –244

Received 13 June 2000

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