A team of Nigerian experts under the auspices of African Chicken Genetic Gains, ACCG, have said they are currently testing six breeds of chickens in five states in the country.
They said a positive outcome will signal a breakthrough in poultry production in Nigeria following the development of disease-resistant breed of chicken with higher egg output.
The principal consultant, ACGG-NG and lecturer in the Department of Animal Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Funso Sonaiya, said this at a press briefing in Lagos recently.
ACCG is an Africa-wide collaboration led by the International Livestock Research Institute that seeks to increase access of poor smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to high-producing, locally adapted and appropriate chicken strains.
According to Mr. Sonaiya, tests were being carried out in the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Fol-Hope Farms, Ibadan as well as in five zones – Kwara, Rivers, Imo, Nasarawa and Kebbi states – involving 2,500 farmers and ‘six genetics’ chromosome.
He said after the tests, the two most preferred breeds would be commercialised by private breeder farms to ensure reliable supply of day-old chicks.
The project intends to test multiple improved breeds/strains of chicken to demonstrate high-production potential under low-input systems. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds the project.
According to Mr. Sonaiya, after employing the science’s ‘six genetics’ over a two-year period, the team developed a new breed of chicken that has a high yield of egg production than the local breed.
He said, “The six genetics produces up to about 200 eggs annually while the local breed produces less than 65 annually. The adult size for a local breed which is what is commonly available in many homes/poultry farms is 1kg at 20 weeks while the new breed of chicken weighs six genetics weighs 3kg at 20 weeks.”
The team listed the identified genetic breeds to include ShikaBrown from Ahmadu Bello University, ABU; Fulani, from Obafemi University, Ile-Ife, Osun State; Alpha, from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Ogun State; Sasso breed from Paris, France and Kuroiler breed from Keg farm in India.
The ACCG-NG team noted that the poultry birds are currently 52 weeks old, adding that the institute has established two systems – On-station and On-farm – to check their day-to-day growth, life span and survival trend.
Mr. Sonaiya also added that the genetic poultry birds have been vaccinated in order to reduce the mortality rate expectancy, adding that test shows only two per cent mortality rate. This he says is a great improvement from what currently obtains nationwide.
The ACCG-NG team also announced that the foundation is using science of genetics to develop tropically adapted breeds that could lay between 150 and 200 eggs annually and sustain food productivity in the country.
“We are particular about genetic chickens because we are convinced beyond doubt that they posses attribute that make them suitable for performance both under stationed or scavenging situations. They are chickens that are driven by science, technology, innovation and industry.’’
Mr. Sonaiya said that in the last two years, the organisation had conducted extensive baseline survey of smallholder poultry farmers in Nigeria and distributed over 65,000 chicks to 2,100 smallholder chicken farmers (65 per cent of which are women) in 60 villages across five main agro-ecological zones.
Speaking at the event, Sam Mbaka, of PICO-EA, Kenya, said the ACGG equally facilitated the delivery of vaccination to smallholder chicken farmers and established a data management system for on-farm and on-station data collection among many other activities.
According to him, the adoption of the ACGG project to transform smallholder chicken production in Nigeria has a multiplier effect in empowering rural women farmers.
The ACCG-NG project was launched in 2015 at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Oyo State by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Following years of research, they have discovered that deploying the use of science for poultry farming had proved to be more productive compared to the conventional method.