The poultry industry in Kenya relies on cereal grains and grain legumes as ingredients for feed formulation. Cereal grains such as wheat, barley, maize and sorghum are the main sources of energy in poultry feeds while grain legumes like soya, lupins and oil crop such as sunflower and cotton seed cake are the main sources of protein.
However, these ingredients are expensive and their availability is erratic. Moreover, their yields are often affected by rainfall shortage. The use of cereal grains in the biofuel industry in Europe and United States and the recent outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) in some parts of Kenya has prompted a search for alternative feed ingredients in Kenya and beyond.
Cassava is one of the most important food root crops in Kenya. Despite its high production in the coastal and Western regions of Kenya, its use is limited to human consumption. In Kenya, cassava is grown in over 90,000 hectares with an annual production of about 540,000 tonnes.
According to FAO reports, it is estimated that Africa produces about 42 per cent of the total tropical world production of cassava. The crop can grow in marginal lands, requires low input, and is tolerant to pests and drought. Use of cassava roots and other parts of cassava plant as animal feed is traditionally practiced by most farming communities in Africa and Asia. In Thailand, nearly all cassava produced is used for animal feed and starch production.
The starch industry in Thailand produces a fibrous by-product known as cassava pulp, also called tapioca, which is used for feeding cattle and pigs. Unlike Thailand, cassava production is mainly for human consumption in Kenya and most countries in East and West Africa. In Kenya, cassava production has a huge potential in western and coastal regions and the support for cassava production is given priority by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute as a key food security crop.
Recent research in Australia and UK has found cassava pulp to be useful in layer mash. It has also been discovered that instead of using maize, moderate amounts of cassava pulp can be introduced into layer feeds without affecting egg production and egg quality except for the yolk colour, which was paler for diets containing cassava pulp.
Benefits of cassava
Feed products from cassava include root chips and pellets, which are dried and ground. The cassava leaves can also be fed to chicken. These are dried and ground into a meal, which is a good protein and carotene for chicken. Although rich in carbohydrates, cassava root products are low in protein and carotene. This means that the cassava-based diets need to be supplemented with carotene to maintain the egg yolk colour. It may be necessary to give the chicken supplements that have microbial enzymes. This will enable the chicken digest the feed better and absorb the nutrients, it will also improve the yolk colour. Microbial enzymes are are readily available from animal feed ingredient distributors and some agrovet shops in Kenya. Likewise, feed pigments are non nutrient additives incorporated in the feed to enhance egg york color to deep yellow.