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Family poultry for the development of NEH region

ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region,Umiam, Barapani, Meghalaya
Email: [email protected]



Livestock and poultry sector plays a significant role in India’s economy. Out of the total country’s economy of 480 billion USD, agriculture sector’s contribution is 120 billion USD of which the contribution of livestock sector is 41 billion USD i.e around 34% of the agrarian economy and 8.5% of the total economy.

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Poultry sector with its contribution of 7 % to the overall livestock economy employs 3.5 million people. Poultry sector also produces 1.4 million ton broiler valued at 1.6 billion USD and 41 billion eggs valued at 1.2 billion USD. With this production, per capita poultry meat availability is 1.4 kg against 131.4 kg in Thailand and 34 –40 kg in other developed countries. Similarly per capita egg availability is 40 per annum against WHO recommendation of 180 eggs.

The above deficiency scenario is mainly because of the fact that bulk of the poultry farming is under extensive production (backyard) system. Roughly around 1 lakh farm with a flock size ranging from 25-250 birds are reared across the country under this system with little or no investment. These free roaming indigenous birds have low production potential with only 40-80 eggs per year. The advantages of these birds are that they are less susceptible to most of the common diseases requiring less veterinary care. Due to their poor production, 60% of poultry meat and 56% of eggs are produced under intensive system. The country has roughly around 60,000 poultry farms under intensive system some of which have a flock size of over 1 lakh. In order to meet the deficiency gap in both poultry meat and egg sectors, adequate and sustained efforts will have to be made to improve the production efficiency of the rural poultry which has been responsible to produce 40% of meat and 44% of egg requirement in the country.

Rural poultry scenario in the Northeast

NE region has total eight states (Ar. Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura) with 27 million ha area and 3.97 crore population representing 8% of area and 3.9% of population of the country. Though the region is characterized by fragility, marginality and inaccessibility, it is one of the mega bio-diversity hot spot zones. The society is predominantly agrarian with around 80% of them living in rural areas.

The farmers practice complex, diverse and resource poor (CDR) agriculture under mixed family concept where agriculture and animal husbandry practices are not competitive but complementary to each other. No farming operation is complete without animal husbandry as a component.

The indigenous people of the region, by and large are non-vegetarian for which meat and meat products plays a significant role in their food habits. Almost every household rears 2-3 pigs and few poultry birds for family consumption as well as for sale.

Out of the reporting area of 27 million ha, approximately 52.54 % is classified as forest under the control of state department and 28.20 % under pasture (and to some extent forest) under the control of Panchayats (communities). In this 80.74 % (52.54 + 28.20) area, grasses, bushes and forest trees grow in various proportions. Hill farmers integrate crop farming with a large number of livestock and this system supports 11.54 cattle, 0.91 Buffalo, 0.17sheep, 4.10 goat, 0.05 horse and pony, 3.06 pig, 32 poultry, 0.15 mithun and 0.021 Yak, respectively (In million).

The Northeastern region is considered as one of the original areas in Asia for the development of modern poultry from the red jungle fowl, which is still found in the forest of Northeast India. Apart from this, Miri, Doathirgir and Nakedneck frizzle fowl breeds are also reared as family poultry in the region under backyard system. Although the region contributed towards the development of improved poultry breeds, it lagged behind in terms of production and productivity partly because of the extensive system of rearing. With the production system, the region contributes only 1.5% and 4 % respectively towards national broiler and egg production. Average productivity from around 75% of the indigenous poultry population is 60-70 eggs per year per bird. The distribution of desi birds per square km is 71 with an average holding of 2.59 indigenous birds per family i.e. a production of 2.59 X 65 eggs = 168 per family per year. With an average family size of 5.5 in the region and projected requirement of 90 eggs per person per annum (50% of WHO recommendation), the requirement per family is 5.5 x 90= 495 i.e. a deficiency of 327 eggs per family. In order to meet the present availability of 41 eggs per person per annum, the region roughly imports 200 million eggs from outside sources. Similarly, in case of broiler the region procures roughly around 11 lakh broiler chicks from outside to make available 1.4 kg poultry meat per person per annum. For the development of the region through family poultry, the need therefore is to increase the production potential of the indigenous birds through improvement measures like:

  • Sound and systematic breeding programs with improved breeds developed for backyard purposes


  • Slow but steady replacement of the existing indigenous birds with lower production potential with improved breeds like Vanaraja/ Giriraja.

Since the second option is time consuming, emphasis needs to be laid on the first option. Inorder to resort to this option following steps are suggested:

  • Initial establishment of 1000 parent stock farms preferably with Vanaraja/ Giriraja in each district headquarter so as to produce 54000 additional eggs and around 1.08-lakh kg poultry meat per district. For 74 districts, total availability of egg and poultry meat would thus be 4 million eggs and 8 million kg of meat in the first year itself.
  • Parent stock units so established in the district headquarter shall function as medium level egg/chick production industry and shall encourage tertiary producers at block/village level to increase the number by subsequent years of the operation to around 200 million numbers of eggs and 11 lakh kg of poultry meat thus making the region self sufficient in egg and meat at present level of availability.
  • From the third/forth year onwards these units shall be further strengthened to meet the requirement of meat and egg as indicated earlier.
  • Inorder to make this happen, the region would need additional hatchery of around 400 numbers with a capacity of 10,000 per hatching.
  • Support services like quality protein maize as well as veterinary health cover measures for these birds shall have to be provided.
  • Poultry farmers’ associations/ SHG’s for each district shall be formed.
  • Research - Development Department – Financial – Marketing – NGO - Farmers interface and collaborations / partnership needs to be explored and mobilized.

Since unemployment is an inherent problem in the Northeast, such a venture would open up further avenues for poultry based agribusiness to allure even the insurgent groups coming over ground to earn a decent living.

Improvement measures initiated

Performance of improved birds like Vanaraja has already been evaluated in the region under NATP on household food and nutritional security through improved poultry. The project implemented in the states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland in addition to the project at Tripura has already indicated the superiority of Vanaraja over indigenous birds of the region. Data recorded on hatchability (55.2%), body weight at 6 th / 18 th weeks of age (0.74 / 2.4 kg) and mortality up to 6 th weeks (12.7%) indicated the adoptability of the birds in the region.

Other poultry germplasm resources of the region

So far the discussion has centered around chicken production. In addition to this, the region has a repository of other germplasm too.

Duck: The population of ducks in the region is around 70 lakh out of which 23% is of the improved type (Table 1). The production potentiality of Desi ducks commonly reared as family poultry are poor and ranges between 60-120 eggs per bird per year, however they are good foragers, hardy with higher survivability in rural condition of the region. Few breeds include Sylhet mete, Nageswari, Muscovi, Pati Hanh etc.

Geese: Very negligible families of the region rear geese as a family poultry, which are meant for meat purposes only. They are seasonal layers and lay 30-60 eggs per year. Brown back and white geese are also found in the region.

Pigeon: Pigeon is another poultry species commonly reared as family poultry by the people of NE region. On an average every household of the region particularly in Assam rears 3-4 pairs of pigeon to partly fulfill their required level of animal protein for the family.

Strategies to utilize these resources through family poultry production programmes are being framed.

Table 1. The population of poultry in NEH Region (In , 000)

NE State

Total Fowl

Total Ducks etc.

Total Poultry

Ar. Pradesh
































Total NEH




% of India




Total India




Source: 17 th Livestock census, 2003; Govt. of India


Source : IPSACON-2005