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Diseases, Low-Quality Feed and poor Marketing Skills impediments to realization of economic benefits of Free-Range Poultry in Kenya

14 mars 2016

According to research conducted by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), there are about 22 million indigenous chickens kept in the rural areas of Kenya under the free-range system. Indigenous chickens constitute an estimated 76 % of total poultry population and produce about 55% and 47% of total meat and eggs respectively underpinning the importance of the sub-sector. However, while free range poultry farming is considered simple and economical, the feeding program followed under this system often compromises on the quality of nutrients sufficient to support growth and eggs production. In fact, scavenging diets contain only 11.2% of mean Crude Protein (CP) too little to promote growth and egg production for a successful commercial venture. To put this situation to focus, egg production of indigenous chicken raised under free range system is about 40-100 compared to 150 eggs per year under improved housing, disease-control and feed supplementation. This is despite existence of feed supplements in the market such as fish meal, cotton seed, sunflower cake, maize germ, bone meal and oyster shells which are sold in smaller packs, therefore, affordable to rural farmers. Exacerbating the problem is existence of diseases which cause an average of 40-60% mortality rate in chicks in their first eight weeks against the backdrop of unaffordable vaccines. The research recommends that one way of farmers bringing the vaccine costs lower is by pooling together to form clusters that will enable them procure the drugs - and even feeds in bulk.

Housing under free-range production is also underdeveloped in rural areas. An ideal poultry house should be comfortable, not crowded and protective of weather extremities, predators and diseases. In addition, in-breeding of free-range poultry among rural farmers is also a menace that contributes to low stock productivity. It was thus recommended that farmers of free-range poultry replace breeding stocks every year by introducing cocks from distant villages. To realize full economic benefits of free-range chicken, farmers should supplement traditional word of mouth marketing with other means such as social media marketing.



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