Today experts are meeting in Nairobi to discuss chicken as cheaper food and a much more profitable farming business venture.
Many have said that it is only in Kenya where a chicken meal is more expensive than other alternative sources of protein. The tag of a rich-man's meal has impacted negatively on the development of poultry industry in the country.
The prohibitive cost of chicken meat is due to the high costs of production with up to 70 per cent of the production costs being on feeds. Recently manufacturers have awoken up to the adage that "apart we perish" and have formed an umbrella body called Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers.
One of their key objectives is to come up with standards and policy recommendations for the ministry to implement and enforce to create sanity in the feed milling industry.
With the collapse of cotton and sunflower production, feed millers have had to import some raw materials, exorbitantly, from neighbouring countries. Kenya is still the only country dependent on sardines - locally known as omena, as the main source of essential animal protein in feed production.
This is because of poor protein availability from plants. The availability of sardines is so erratic that the millers never have enough stocks for production. Whatever becomes available is normally of very low quality, adulterated with other things like feathers.
The syndicate involved in sardine business is like a mafia operation. It is, therefore, without doubt that millers would breathe an air of relief if they did not have to use these fish.
The bottom-line is that poultry farmers require a feed, which delivers the final product, affordably, to the market. The feed miller also requires latitude of flexibility in his choice of raw material for making an appropriate feed.
The main interest to the miller is the opportunity to make a low cost feed but an effective one at that. The policy makers and regulators also have a role of protecting the interest of the farmer to remain in business.
This is the only way our poultry industry can remain alive, particularly with opening up of Eastern African borders. The solutions for this quagmire are manifold.
Improvement of feed quality
The feed standards should be improved to be in tandem with International benchmarks. We cannot achieve world standards if our feeds are not.
There is information that some of the feeds in the market, are substandard, but nobody is telling us; even the mandated bodies like Kenya Bureau of Standards.
We should also be seeing the contribution of our Institutions of higher learning. Are they carrying out the right research to help poultry farmers improve? The farmers, being direct sponsors of these universities, should get value for their money.
We know that the countries, which have successful poultry industry, are the ones benefiting from the results of relevant research. We need to see animal feed industry depending more and more on non- human food products, for example less maize should be used.
The story about using enzymes to enhance utilities of various raw materials in feed production is not recent. Many countries in the world have taken into the use of enzyme to extend the choice of raw material for feed production. In Kenya, use of enzymes has not quite taken root.
This is because feed millers see the use of enzymes as an extra cost and that it is a cost to be transferred to the farmer. In the converse, using the appropriate enzyme, the miller will be able to develop a low cost formula, by being able to extend the range of his raw material.
The right enzyme should be multi-phasic, able to handle any possible indigestible plant material. The type of enzymes that we have in this country have been either one or two phase enzyme(s) aimed at handling a specific raw material, for example wheat products.
This type of product cannot give the full benefit in a situation that we have in Kenya, where millers use a myriad of products as raw materials. With proper feeds, Kenya can produce one kilogram of poultry meat after feeding two kilos of feed, as it is in other parts of the world.
This gives a Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) of 2. To date we have a FCR of about 3. (This means that for feeds which cost Sh 1700 a bag of 70Kg Sh73 goes into producing 1Kg of meat).
Fiberase, now available in Kenya, is a multi-functional product, which can enhance the food value of all the available raw material that we use in this country for feed production.
It both handles poly sugars and plant proteins. After many years of research; it is now possible to produce poultry feeds without using the much touted sardines.
The use of fiberase, together with a formulation program, available from suppliers of Fiberase, at no extra cost, the feed millers can now have a sound sleep, even at time when sardines are deficient.
Fiberase means to the feed miller a wide range of raw material, with enzyme handling the problem of indigestible poly sugars and plant protein. The miller now has an eye only on the cost per unit and not any specific raw material. The program for formulation that comes with it, will assist the miller to have an idea on the approximate food values contained in his choice of raw material. The savings that come with this technology will go to the pocket of the poultry meat consumer.
It could be a technology that giant producers of starchy by-products like Kenya Breweries can apply in their barley by products to make a cheap product for local chicken in the rural areas. This will go along way in poverty alleviation. Fiberase, distributed in the country by Nairobi Mega, means to the poultry farmer, an appropriate and affordable feed which will improve the FCR.
The farmer will have a bigger bird within a shorter time. This will be a plus on the bottom-line. The product also has some other tangible benefits namely, low mortality, shorter production cycles, improved litter conditions, less wetness in the litter resulting into less diseases predisposition.