Commercial and smallholder poultry enterprises are growing, increasing the demand for poultry feed. Soya bean and fishmeal have traditionally been the main protein sources in poultry feed, but are failing to meet increasing demand due to both sector and population growth.
Rising prices suggest that these protein sources will become less accessible, making the use of alternative protein sources feasible where they are locally and easily available most of the year, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation.
In addition, considering the ban of meatmeal and bonemeal in poultry feeds, a bigger market for alternative protein feed sources could open up.
“Research shows that there are many plant resources that can partially replace soya beans in poultry diets. There is also a vast base of alternative animal protein sources that can replace fishmeal at different inclusion levels in poultry diets,” says Prince Chisoro, an animal science student at the University of Fort Hare.
A product qualifies as an adequate alternative protein substitute if it is in good supply, readily available and has proper nutrient levels.
“Some of these alternative protein sources, especially plant sources, contain compounds such as tannins and enzyme inhibitors at high levels that severely affect growth in poultry,” Chisoro says.
“However, with some processing, these plant sources may become usable ingredients in feeds.”
Preparing animal source meals may also require processes to inactivate bacteria and make them edible to poultry and ensure consumer safety. “The costs and effectiveness of these processes have to be considered, and the exploitation of such feedstuffs demands a good knowledge of the nutrient composition as well as appropriate inclusion levels,” explains Chisoro.
Alternative protein sources could play a role in areas where conventional sources are scarce and expensive. Smallholder poultry producers can take advantage of these alternatives and formulate suitable poultry diets in a way that reduces costs.
Some alternative protein sources that have been tested with varying degrees of success include rape seed, pigeon pea, poultry waste, moringa, hemp seed cake, castor cake, vetch seed meal, duckweed, cassava foliage, and dried sweet potato foliage.
In addition, according to Chisoro, research suggests that alternative protein sources could come from organisms that are pests or a nuisance to humans. These include maggot meal, snail meal and grasshopper meal.
Email Prince Chisoro at [email protected].