The rising utilization of environmentally friendly processes in closing the feed resource supply gap and also in addressing the competitiveness in the supply of conventional feeds in the Nigerian poultry industry has remained a major focus of research (Ari et al.,2016). Melon Husk and Rumen liquor are common environmental nuisances especially in the North Central States of Nigeria where there is high production of melon and number of abattoirs and slaughter slaps. These two by-products have shown potentials for utilization as unconventional feed resource (Abiola et al., 2002 and Ogbe et al., 2013) and enhancer of feeding values of agricultural wastes materials for monogastric animal nutrition (Darwazeh, 2010; and Adesua and Onibi, 2014).
Akinfemi (2010) reported that the husks of melon are gotten after shelling the Melon (Citrullus vulgaris) seeds which are usually discarded and burnt resulting in polluted environment. This large quantities of the melon husks thrown as waste could be recycled by environmentally friendly methods into livestock feeds thereby reducing the threat of acute shortage of conventional feed ingredients to the Nigerian poultry industry.
Various methods (physical, chemical and biological) of processing agricultural waste have been reported (Adeyemi et al., 2008; Akinfemi, 2010; Ogbe et al., 2013; Ari and Ayanwale, 2012; Ari et al., 2012; and Ari, 2014). The use of mechanical processes in reducing the particle size of agricultural waste, nixtamalization by soaking in water and alkali as well as fermentation using rumen filtrate, white rot fungi of the genus pleurotus (mushroom) among others, offers good opportunity for improving the nutritional values and utilization of agricultural waste as livestock feeds.
The basic assumption in the current study was that utilization of melon husk in poultry diets will differ depending on the method used in processing the melon husk prior to incorporation. The objective of this study is therefore to evaluate the effect of inclusion of differently treated melon (Citrullus vulgaris) husk on the performance, carcass characteristics and serum profile of broilers.
Materials and Methods
The experiment was carried out at the Poultry Unit of the Teaching and Research Farm, Faculty of Agriculture, Nasarawa State University Keffi, Shabu -Lafia ampus, Nasarawa State located along Latitude 08035’N and Longitude 08033’E in the Guinea savanna zone of North Central Nigeria.
Management of experimental birds
A total of one hundred and eighty (180) day - old marshal chicks were used for the experiment. The chicks were individually weighed and randomly assigned in a Completely Randomized design to three (3) dietary treatments of three (3) replicates each. Each replicate had twenty (20) birds. The birds were reared on deep litter in an open sided well-ventilated poultry house. Routine management practices and routine administration of vaccines against Infectious Bursal Disease and New Castle Disease were undertaken and the birds were fed ad libitum and had access to clean water.
Dried melon husks were collected from the rural women in Tudun Gwandara, Lafia Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. These women are engaged in the processing of melon seeds for commercial purpose (also called “egusi”). The melon husks were further subjected to three (3) processing methods viz: mechanical grinding using hammer mill (sieve size of 3mm); soaking in warm water at the rate of 50litres /100kg of melon husk for 30 minutes before sun drying; and Fermentation with Rumen Liquor Rumen filtrates collected from local abattoir, sieved and sprayed on tempered melon husk at the rate of 50kg of melon husk using 10 litres of rumen liquor. Fermentation process lasted for 72 hours at room temperature.
The experimental feeds were formulated using least cost feed formulation software Feedwin to provide 3,000 Kcal, 24% CP at starter stage and 3,100 Kcal, 22% at finisher level (Table 1)
The three (3) dietary treatments are as thus:
I. Dietary treatment 1 (MTMH) – 15% inclusion of Mechanically Treated Melon Husk in the diet.
II. Dietary treatment 2 (SMH) – 15% inclusion of Soaked Melon Husk Melon Husk in the diet.
III. Dietary treatment 3 (FMH) – 15% inclusion of Rumen Liquor Fermented Melon Husk in the diet
The starter diets were fed for four (4) weeks (1- 28 d) during the brooding phase and the finisher diets were fed for two (2) weeks (29- 43d). All necessary vaccination, heat supply and preventive medications were appropriately provided.
Table 1: Chemical composition of the experimental Diets
The following parameters were measured and computed from the data generated from daily and weekly recordings during the feeding trials: feed intake, body weight, bodyweight gain, feed conversion ratio (feed: gain), mortality and survival percentages according to the methods adopted by Ari et al. (2014)
A total of 5 birds were randomly selected from each of the replicate groups and fasted (no limitation of water access) for 8 h prior to complete carcass evaluation according to the methods adopted by Ari et al.(2013). The selected birds from each replicate group were weighed and each selected bird was slaughtered by cutting the jugular vein with a sharp knife. The weights of the slaughtered birds, dressed birds, and cut up parts were recorded and expressed as percentage of their respective plucked weights.
At the end of the feeding trial, Blood samples were obtained from five (5) birds in each of the experimental replicate groups. Packed Cell Volume (PCV), the hemoglobin content and cholesterol were determined by the methods of Green (1976) and Aletor and Ogunyemi (1988).
Chemical compositions of each of the experimental diets were determined following standard methods (AOAC 2006).
Data collected were subjected to one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), Means were separated where there were significant differences using Duncan’s Multiple Range Test (Duncan 1955).
Results and Discussion
The composition and determined values of the starter and finisher diets presented in Table 1 showed that the formulated starter and finisher experimental feeds meet the recommended nutritional requirements values for broilers (NRC 1995).
Performance characteristics of birds fed the experimental diets
The effects of melon husk treatment diets on the performance of broilers are shown in Table 2. Birds on diets 3 (FMH) and 2 (SMH) had higher weight gain and better FCR values than birds on diet 1 (MTMH) in the starter phase. The results are slightly different with diets 2 (SMH) having higher weight gain at the finisher phase. The values for survival percentage (%), initial body weight, final body weight and weight gain at starter phase were highly significant (p<0.05) in diet 3. An increase in broiler chickens fed with fermented melon husk meal with rumen liquor was recorded when compared to broilers fed with raw melon husks and soaked in watermelon husks.
These results are consistent with the findings of Bolu, et al. (2011) who reported poor FCR, weight gain for broilers fed fibrous melon based diets. Similarly, the poor performance values observed for untreated Melon husk based dietary group supports the work of Ogbe and George (2012) who associated higher levels of tannin in untreated melon husk, as dietary tannins are reported to negatively influence feed efficiency and weight gain of broilers.
Thus, the better performance of birds fed rumen liquor fermented melon husk based diets were accounted for by an increase in protein through microbial protein formation and reduction in tannin as a product of rumen liquor fermentation processes as observed by Abdulrazak et al. (2014). The finding of Akinfemi (2010) on the increase in the crude protein value for fermented melon husk is in agreement with the results obtained from this study.
Table 2: Effects of melon husk treatment diet on the performance of broilers
The results of carcass evaluation (table 3) showed that average live weight, dressed weight, thigh/drumstick, wings, breast bone, were significantly (P< 0.05) affected by feed treatment methods. The highest average body weight (2.23kg), dressed weight (2.03kg), and thigh/drumstick (0.60kg), wings (0.30kg), breast bone (0.53 kg), rib cage (0.23kg), back (0.33kg) were observed in D3group.
These results are also supported by Ogbe et al. (2013) who observed that treated melon husk based group have better carcass values and attributed these outcomes to the low levels of anti-nutrients (tannins, phytates, oxalates, trypsin inhibitors and saponins). Abiola et al. (2002) similarly reported significant variations in the carcass values of birds fed differently treated melon husk based diets.
Table 3: Effects of melon husk treated based diets on the carcass characteristics of broilers
The results of serum biochemistry of the experimental broilers (table 4) showed that the pack cell volume (PCV %) in D3 (39.00%) was significantly higher (P< 0.05) than other treatments. PCV in D2 (36.00%) and D1 (35.00%) were however observed to be similar without following no trend and white blood cell (WBC x10/l) in D2 was significantly higher (p<0.05) than D1 and D3 at starter and finisher phases.
Haemoglobin (Hb) concentration in D3 (13.10 /dl) was significantly (p<0.05) higher than any other treatment, while D1 (12.60 /dl) and D2 (12.40 /dl) at both starter and finisher are similar. Red blood cell (RBC x 10 12/l) concentration in D1 (12.30 x 10 12/l) was significantly (P<0.05) higher than D2 (3.16 x 10 12/l) and D3 (4.07 x 10 12/l). Albumen in D1 (20.00 Mmol/l) was significantly (P<0.05) higher than D2 (18.00 Mmol/l ) and D3 (19.00 Mmol/l). Urea in D3 (3.00 Mmol/l) was significantly (P<0.05) higher than other urea in D1 (2.70 Mmol/l) and D2 (2.40 Mmol/l) were similar trend was established. Creatinine values in D1 (42.00 Mmol/l) was significantly (P<0.05) higher than those of D2 (41.00 Mmol/l) and D3 (25.00). Calcium (Ca) in D1 (1.50 Mmol/l) was also significantly (p<0.05) higher than D2 (1.30 Mmol/l) and D3 (1.20 Mmol/l), while Potassium (K+) in D1 (3.1 Mmol/l) was significantly (p<0.05) higher than others.
The hematological values obtained for birds fed experimental diets were similar to standard values of MVM (1986). However, differences observed between treatment groups are indicators of differences in rates of nutrient uptake through the portal systems of the experimental birds and are also related to their survival percentage. It should be noted that (Bolu et al. (2011) also reported that hematological values apply as diagnostic tools for domestic animals.
Table 4: Effects of melon husk treatment diet on the serum biochemistry of broilers
In conclusion, the finding of this experiment has justified the use of melon husk as a feed ingredient for broilers. However, potentials of melon husk in broiler feed will better be achieved through the process of nutrient improvement and digestive enhancement of the melon husk by fermenting with microbial substrates that are found in rumen fluid.
The authors gratefully acknowledge Mr. N.A. Tsaku and Mrs Ramatu Aliyu (Laboratory Technologists), as well as staff of the Livestock Research and Demonstration Farm of the Faculty of Agriculture, Nasarawa State University, Keffi for their technical assistance during the course of this research work.
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