By Daniel Muraria
Kenya as a tropical country has high temperatures for poultry production, giving rise to incidents of heat stress in birds. This is further complicated by the open-ventilation housing systems that mainly rely on natural airing for heat dissipation.
Installation of roof insulation panels to reduce the infrared radiation from sunrays, especially where iron sheets are used for roofing, is an immediate intervention against the detrimental effects of high ambient temperatures in poultry units. The modern, environment-controlled (EC) house system that uses negative pressure during the fan powered ventilation needs significant capital investments. The majority of small- to medium-sized poultry producers in Kenya do not have easy access to heavy financing. For large-scale poultry producers in Kenya’s regions with extremely high ambient temperatures, these EC houses can have contemporary pad cooling systems that offer the finest indoor climate for the birds.
According to projections, Kenya’s population could expand from the 47.6 million people counted in 2019 (the most recent census) to 70.2 million by 2045. Animal products are projected to be in high demand as a result of the need to feed this population.
In the face of unfavourable climate patterns, a lack of consistent quality raw materials, volatile end product prices, and concerns about food safety, antibiotic resistance, and animal welfare, animal production systems – with Kenyan poultry production systems as the primary example – should become more effective and sustainable. With timely innovative solutions and acceptance around poultry biology, poultry farm management practices, and the environment by the makers of poultry products and the entire supply chain, a seamless transition to sustainable food production will be achievable.
Amongst the poultry, chicken rearing has the potential to provide meat and eggs that supplies the required demand for nutrients in the growing Kenyan population.
Integrated poultry production systems in Kenya have reputable genetic lines and supplies F1 generation day-old chicks for hybrid broilers, hybrid layers, and dual purpose traditional chicken locally referred to as improved Kienyeji.
Adoption of unique and desirable genetic lines like heat tolerance, and especially in fast-growing broilers, can genetically be achieved by having low feather coverage like the naked neck lines with limitations on compromising on their growth rates. This attribute can ensure a good physiology for an efficiently producing bird.
To lessen the negative effects of excessive metabolic heat created in birds, it is crucial to apply precise nutrition interventions in poultry diet formulations that can be calculated using oil-based ingredients and specialty feed additives as done by reputable feed millers.
Poultry welfare and farm management practices
An essential component of the poultry production system, which is governed by legislation, industry standards, and codes of behaviour, is the welfare of the birds. These constantly changing policies are mostly driven by consumer preferences and animal rights advocates. A sustainable operation that complies with established industry standards is one where chickens have access to a decent house, feed, and water, as well as the ability to walk around and behave naturally and receive prompt medical attention for illnesses and injuries.
Continuous learning that prioritises farm fundamentals before adopting cutting-edge technologies in poultry production systems will help overcome the current gaps in management practices in Kenyan poultry farms.
Daniel Muraria is the Technical Advisor, Poultry, at Unga Farm Care (EA) Ltd ([email protected])