Backyard poultry farming - a boon to alleviate protein hunger in rural India
Dr. S.V. Rama Rao M.V.Sc, Ph.D
The present high yielding poultry germplasm of both broilers and layers available in the world have been evolved from "Indian Red Jungle Fowl" (Galus galus) and Indian Game Bird "Aseel", which is known for its fighting nature. Both these birds are native of rural India . The present poultry industry is concentrating on high yielding germplasm for egg and poultry meat and catering the needs of urbanites and semiurbanites. At times, these products are available to the rural people at much higher price (about 10 to 40 %) than prevailing market price of these products. Interestingly the modern poultry industry is mostly depend on rural India for its feed ingredient requirements. The prices of these feed ingredients are much lower in rural segments of India compared to urban areas.
The large expansion of commercial poultry farming in urban areas have created a wider gap in the availability of highly nutritious egg and chicken meat between urbanites and illiterate, malnourished rural / tribal people. Protein deficiency is a common phenomenon in the diets of rural peoples as their diets are predominantly based on cereals which contains high energy and low protein. By adopting the rural poultry farming, we can obviate the high incidence of protein hunger in the rural populations particularly in pregnant and feeding women and growing kids. The backyard poultry farming is more beneficial to small, marginal farmers, land less labourers, tribal and backward class peoples. Backyard poultry farming will generate petty cash for house hold requirement in addition to providing a balanced food with minimum inputs available in the rural areas. Feeding of the backyard poultry is made easy by using household wastes, farm products and green vegetation, besides free scavenging for waste grains and insects.
The high yielding birds are naturally lack of immunocompetence against the common poultry diseases, as much of the nutrients are diverted for growth and less is available for immunity. The intensive poultry population concentrated in relatively small area is always a constant threat for disease outbreaks quite often. Concentration of heavy poultry populations in a small area also causes environmental pollution. There are serious arguments for the large scale intensification of poultry rearing from the economical and environmental point of view.
The eggs and meat of birds reared in the backyard farming fetches higher premium due to high consumer acceptability even in the urban sectors where plenty of eggs and poultry meat from commercial units are available. In addition to the stable supply of high-quality animal food, backyard poultry production promotes income opportunities particularly for the weaker sections in the rural areas. The backyard farming will certainly improve the economic status of a majority of rural / tribal families from lower socio-economic groups in the rural / tribal areas. Backyard farming fulfill a wide range of functions - e.g. the provision of meat and eggs, food for special festivals, chicken for traditional ceremonies, pest control and petty cash, utilizing minimum inputs, minimum human attention, and causing less environmental pollution.
Having realized its potential a long term integrated research programme was initiated at several research centers of ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) including State Agricultural Universities to develop suitable germplasm for backyard / free range farming in these areas. This integrated programme includes breeding, nutrition and health management. Colored population with optimum body weight and reasonably good egg production was used as female line. The male line was developed with long shank length and higher immunity against sheep red blood cells. Sustainability of production under simulated conditions of backyard farming was studied with locally available feed ingredient. For attractiveness and easy acceptance in the rural / tribal areas, emphasis have been given to have a blend of various color combinations of plumage, which is observed in most of the native birds to ensure greater resemblance. Naked neck gene is also introduced in the commercial germplasm for easy adaptability in the coastal belt where these birds are exposed to high environmental temperature with high humidity. Under this programme few multicoloured germplasms (“Vanaraja”, “Giriraja”, “Gramapriya”, “Krishna J”) have been developed which can quickly adopt and thrive well in the backyard farming. The crosses are well received by the rural farmers and the production and survivability is highly satisfactory. The general immune status of the bird and indicators of stress (heterophyll : lymphocytes ratio) revealed that these birds are having high immunity and are less prone to environmental stress. The architecture of the bird along with high immune competence against common poultry diseases, makes these germplasm best suitable for backyard farming in rural / tribal areas. Due to its relatively lightweight and long shanks these birds are able to protect themselves from predators, which is otherwise a major threat to the birds in backyards.
The germplasm developed for backyard farming has the following features
The major reason for failure of earlier
programmes on backyard farming is higher early chick mortality.
Brooding and imminization programmes could not be adopted
during earlier programme. Due to lack of facilities for scientific
management of the chicks during the initial 4 to 5 weeks
in the village conditions is the major hurdle for success
of the backyard farming. Though these birds have better general
immune competence they need to be protected against Newcastle
disease. The earlier reports also indicated that the most
of the early chick mortality was due to Newcastle disease
(Bell, 1996; Rangnekar and Rangneker, 1996). Protecting the
chicks with inactivated vaccine is the effective way to the
control the disease in rural poultry production ( Bell ,1996).
Realizing the importance of initial brooding and vaccination,
the Project Directorate on Poultry (ICAR) has take initiative
to supply the grown up chicks (about 4 to 6 weeks of age)
to the rural / tribal populations either directly or through
any non-govt. of govt. agencies after protecting the chicks
with Marek’s and Newcastle diseases. This resulted
in higher survivability up to 97 to 98 % under field conditions.
In addition to following the prescribed vaccination schedule
the farmers are advised to practice routine deworming of
the birds at every 35 to 40 d interval.
Backyard germplasm can scavenge well for
its feed in the fields. During the process of scavenging
on grass fields these birds will have an access to insects,
white ants, green grass, grass seeds, waste grains etc.,
thereby the supplemental feed requirement is much less than
those reared under intensive poultry farming. Feed supplementation
in the form of scratch usually given in the morning / or
evening to develop habit to reach owner’s place for
laying eggs and for night shelter. Depending on the availability
of free range area and also the intensity of vegetative growth,
the requirement of supplemental feed vary between 25 to 50
g / bird / day. These birds can also perform well on whole
grain feeding under scavenging conditions. However, for better
shell quality, shell grit or marble stone chips needs to
be supplemented @ 5 - 7 g / bird / day during laying period.