The lack of regional small-scale feed manufacturing plants, high cost of imported feed and cheap imports are holding back the development of the smallholder poultry sector in Pacific countries. As there are adequate supplies in some regions of locally produced feed ingredients (cassava, sweet potato, coconut, maize), the prospect for alternative feedstuffs is in the semi-commercial or family poultry units. For these sectors, profitability rather than maximum production is the objective, and alternative feedstuffs can make a useful contribution in poultry feeding.In his article, Glatz examines four feeding strategies to produce effective poultry rations that are in line with the regional availability of feed resources. With a complete ration formulation using local ingredients, egg production was significantly lower in birds fed the local mix ration compared to the commercial ration. Testing free-choice feeding, the birds showed the capacity to regulate their intake according to their physiological requirements, provided that the three food groups were readily available. Using a mix of concentrate with local ingredients, birds fed a 50/50 sweet potato / low-energy concentrate or a 50/50 cassava / high-energy concentrate diets were able to reach market weight in due time. A 70/30 sweet potato / low-energy concentrate diet was effective only in the more suitable environment of the Western Province of PNG. Diluting commercial broiler finisher with 20-40% copra meal resulted in similar growth as the 100% broiler finisher control diet (inclusion of 60% copra meal resulted in somewhat less acceptable growth). Poultry farming in the Pacific using local feeds can be competitive and achieve 30% feed cost savings when mini-mill equipment is readily available and small-scale regional feed manufacturing centres (producing 5-10 tonnes/week) are built where local feed supply is plentiful.
Scientific innovations and appropriate regulation in the family poultry value chain, even in their simplest form, would bring significant benefit to the producers and their flock. Essential to raising the output of family poultry production systems is the recognition of who owns and takes care of the birds. It is also important to understand flock size as a balance between local feed resources, household subsistence needs and disease prevalence.To achieve a positive outcome and secure production, science and policy must thus facilitate the regional production of appropriate poultry feed from locally available resources, the identification of helpful traits in indigenous breeds (for disease resistance in particular) and, the valorisation of ecosystems services that birds provide at the village scale.Successful scientific and regulatory innovations in biosecurity practices, preservation of fresh eggs, cold storage of meat, vaccination campaigns and participatory epidemiology are making their way to small producers but are still not widespread. Radio, mobile phone and branding of indigenous poultry products are marketing tools that will help the family poultry value chain. Still, structural hurdles remain considerable, at the traders’ level; namely ethnic affinities and networks, transport routes, cage sanitation or within the country’s legal and institutional framework e.g. extension and advisory services and livestock census forms. These issues must be tackled by scientists and policy-makers. (Photo: Guy et Monique Laurent 2005)