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Alternative feedstuffs for broilers in Cameroon

A Teguia and A C Beynen*

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agronomy and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Dschang,
PO Box 70, Dschang, Cameroon
*Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University,
PO Box 80.152, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands

Feed costs amount to about 70% of the total production costs of broiler meat. In
Cameroon, the major ingredients of broiler feeds are maize and imported protein
concentrates based on soybean concentrate, fish and/or animal meals. Over the
past few years the feed costs have increased because the price of locally produced
maize is going up and because the use of animal meals has been prohibited. This
paper describes the use of possible alternative feedstuffs.

It is concluded that there are locally produced, potential alternative feedstuffs, but
in order to sustain broiler production at high inclusion levels, more research is
necessary to characterize these feedstuffs as to their digestibility, amino acid profile
and contents of anti-nutritional factors. In addition, methods applicable on smallholder farms should be developed to properly treat the alternative feedstuffs so as
to improve their nutritional value.
Key words: broilers, Cameroon, feedstuffs, maize, protein concentrates

Commercial broiler feed in Cameroon is expensive and therefore out of the reach of
small-holder farmers. Maize and protein concentrates traditionally comprise up to
80% of farm-made diets. This use of feedstuffs makes the situation of farm-made
diets critical as well. The price of locally produced maize is increasing. Concentrates
containing animal proteins used to be imported. However, as from February 2001
the use of meat meals in livestock feeds, including broilers, has been banned in
Cameroon. Thus, feedstuffs alternative to maize and meat meals should be sought.
Small-holder farmers control up to 72% of the national broiler production (Djoukam
and Teguia 1991), but the efficiency of their production is low (Teguia and Beynen
2004). Thus, it is necessary to look for locally available, cheap, safe and nutritionally
adequate substitutes for maize and meat meals in broiler feeds. Identification of

such feedstuffs would help resource-poor farmers not only to cut down their
production costs, but also to improve the efficiency of their production.

Alternatives to maize in broiler feeds

The rapid development of intensive broiler production in Cameroon has been

accompanied by an increased competition between humans and animals for maize
which is a major staple food in the main poultry production zones of the Centre,
Littoral and West Provinces (Afrique Agriculture 2002). This competition could be
alleviated by replacing maize in poultry feed by locally available agricultural byproducts that are less exploited by humans. Two major agricultural by-products,
cocoa pod husks and mango kernels, i.e. crop residues usually wasted, have been
tested in trials with broilers (Teguia 1995; Teguia et al 2004). Leaves and forages
traditionally used for other purposes or even wasted have also been tested, namely
sweet potato leaves, bitter leaves, perennial peanuts and Desmodium spp. (Teguia
et al 1993; Teguia et al 2002a). In the various studies, the dietary maize component
was replaced on a weight basis. Thus, the nutrient composition and digestibility of
the test diets differed from that of the control diet. Generally, the feedstuffs under
study contained less energy and more protein than did maize. Clearly, the outcome
of the studies cannot be unequivocally interpreted in terms of nutrients affecting
growth performance. However, the results are important from a practical point of

Ground mango kernels (Mangifera indica L) could be used to replace up to 200 g of

maize per kg of broiler starter diet, but with some adverse effect on weight gain and
feed consumption (Teguia 1995). Increasing the amount of mango kernels in the diet
induced a linear depression of feed consumption. Enhanced growth was seen in
birds fed on a grower-finisher diet in which 65 g of maize/kg diet was replaced by
cocoa husks (Teguia 1982). However, inclusion of 195 g cocoa husks/kg diet
depressed performance. High inclusion levels of the two crop residues are
contraindicated by the presence of anti-nutritional substances.

The presence of tannins in mango kernels has been reported by Ghl (1982).
Tannins are responsible for an astringent taste of the feed that induces a lower feed
intake due to reduced palatability (Butler et al 1984; 1986). Tannins may also
combine with proteins, including enzymes in the digestive tract and thereby
negatively affect the digestibility of proteins (Jansman et al 1995) and
carbohydrates, thus reducing the chick's growth rate, the efficiency of feed
utilisation and the availability of metabolisable energy of the diet (Rostango 1972).
As reported by Laroussilhe (1980), boiling, roasting or soaking could eliminate the
astringent taste of mango kernels, thus improving taste and acceptance by the

growing birds. Bressani (1993), El-Tahey Shehata (1992) and Iyer et al(1980) also
reported on the reduced concentration of tannins in grains treated with boiled
water. Thus, it follows that the impact of either cocoa husks or mango kernels
versus maize on growth performance of broilers may become beneficial if these
crop residues are properly pre-treated to eliminate the influence of tannins.

It would thus appear that boiling of mango kernels and cocoa husks is a good
method to get rid of tannins. However, cooking in water may denature protein thus
making it unavailable, and may induce losses of vitamins and minerals as has been
reported for legume grains (Augustin et al 1981; Bressani 1993). The major difficulty
seems to be mastering the cooking conditions under farm conditions in order to
obtain the most favourable effects on the animal.

Theobromin present in cocoa husks could be responsible for the declining growth
rate of broiler chickens when the husks are fed at high inclusion levels.
Alternatively, increasing the proportion of cocoa husks may result in deterioration of
the amino acid profile of the diet. Indeed, adding synthetic amino acids to diets
containing cocoa husks improved animal production efficiency (Branckaert et al
1967; 1973). The negative effect of cocoa husks on poultry growth may also be
explained by the high fibre content of the diets when it has a high inclusion level. An
increase in dietary fibre lowers the metabolisable energy content of the diet and
may depress the efficiency of feed utilisation. More feed is then required to cover
the energy requirement of the bird, thus increasing the cost of feeding.

In general, the replacement of maize with leaves or forages has been more
successful in grower-finisher diets of broiler chickens than in the starter phase
(Teguia et al 1993; 1996; 2002a). The substitution rate in grower-finisher diets
varied from 100 to 300 g/kg diet for Desmodium spp, sweet potato
and Vernonia spp leaves, respectively. However, up to 60 g maize/ kg starter diet
could be replaced byDesmodium leaves without a significant, detrimental effect on
weight gain, feed consumption and feed conversion ratio (Teguia et al 2002a). The
major negative factor in these plants was the high fibre content associated with a
lower metabolisable energy concentration. On the other hand, the diets containing
the leaf meals had a higher protein content. The high fibre level will have induced a
poor digestibility of the diets associated with a higher feed consumption and poorer
efficiency of feed utilisation. The use of young leaves could alleviate the negative
effect of fibre and allow higher inclusion levels. It would therefore be important to
determine the optimum harvesting time for each of the leaves so as to obtain
optimum nutritional characteristics. This also holds for the tannin content of bitter
leaves (Vernonia spp) which is known to affect protein digestion in chickens
(Rostango 1972). It may be noted that in addition to its potential as feedstuff for
broilers, Desmodium leaves meal may also influence carcass quality. The feeding
of Desmodium leaves instead of maize induced a lower amount of abdominal fat,
but the effect was not statistically significant (Teguia et al 2002a).

Alternatives to animal protein sources in broiler feeds

Broiler production in Cameroon has always been dependent on imported sources of

protein such as fish meal, soybean meal and animal protein concentrates. These
feedstuffs represented a considerable proportion of the production costs, which in
turn keeps chicken meat out of the reach of the average consumer. Now, it is
prohibited to incorporate animal meals into broiler feeds. Thus, finding locally
available protein sources for broilers will contribute to cut down import expenditure
at the national level and to deal with legislation.

House fly maggot meal was successfully used to replace up to 6.75 g fish meal/kg
starter diet and 20 g/kg grower-finisher diet (Teguia et al 2002b). Maggot meal
improved the growth rate and feed consumption of broilers. The overall positive
effect of maggot meal on production variables could be due to improved availability
of nutrients, possibly essential amino acids. In any event, published feeding studies
have shown that dried larvae, which are rich in protein (Sheppard 2002) are a good
substitute for soybean or meat meal in the diet of poultry (Calvert et al 1969),
swine, and fish (Teotia and Miller 1974 as cited by Sheppard 2002; Gawaad and
Brune 1979 and Poluektova et al 1980). The cost of producing broiler meat using a
diet containing maggot meal was on average lower than when the diet contained
fish meal (Teguia et al 2002b). This result is consistent with reports by Sheppard
(2002) and Sheppard and Newton (1999). It should be noted however that so far
maggot production was only done under experimental conditions.

In chickens fed on maggot-meal diets there was increase in liver and gizzard size,
but no signs of toxicity were observed (Teguia et al 2002b). Indeed, none of the
numerous studies on maggots as animal feed has revealed any health problems
(Sheppard and Newton 1999). Carcass quality of birds fed maggot meal was similar
to that of the controls (Teguia et al 2002b). It can be concluded that maggot meal
has potential as a protein source in broiler production, but further research is
necessary, including the production of maggots on a large scale.

There has always been interest in legume grains as protein source for broilers as an
alternative to soybean meal which traditionally is the staple protein source in
poultry diets (Robinson and Singh 2001). As mentioned above, in Cameroon the use
of meat meals in animal feeds has been banned recently. Thus, there now is even
more interest in legume grains. The replacement of meat meal in the starter diet of
broiler chickens by meals of common black bean (Phaseolusvulgaris), Bambara
groundnut (Voandzeia subterranean) and/or cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) induced
deteriorating effects on growth rate. Only the birds fed on diets with small-grained

cowpea (Vignaunguiculata) meal recorded growth rates and feed consumption that
were comparable to those of the control group of birds (Teguia et al 2003). During
the finishing period however, the groups of broiler birds fed either Bambara
groundnut or a 1:1 mixture of Bambara groundnut and large-grained
cowpea(Vignaunguiculata L Walp) meal had growth rates comparable to those of
the controls, but the control birds consumed significantly more feed than did the
groups fed legume grain meal. No significant differences were detected among the
treatment groups at the finishing stage with respect to the cost of producing 1 kg of
live broiler, whereas during the starter phase, cowpea and a 1:1 mixture of cowpea
and common black bean produced significantly cheaper meat than did meat meal
(Teguia et al 2003).

In our studies only up to 6% of either cowpea or Bambara groundnut was included

in the broiler diets (Teguia et al 2003). Higher inclusion levels would limit the
utilisation of legume grains due to the presence of anti-nutritional factors. This
statement is supported by previous reports showing that legume seeds may contain
variable amounts of the protease inhibitors, trypsin, chymotrypsin and
phytohaemagglutinins (D'Mello 1995; Wiseman 1995). The presence of protease
inhibitors could be responsible for the depression in growth as reported by Teguia et
al (2003) as they interfere with the digestion of proteins. Body weight depression
has been also reported in growing pullets and laying hens fed on diets containing
untreated grain legumes, although bird performance other than body weight was
unrelated to anti-nutritional factors in the grains (Robinson and Singh 2001).
Furthermore, many legume seeds are deficient in sulphur containing amino acids.
The feeding of diets with legume seeds without added synthetic methionine may
further depress growth. Next to methionine, tryptophan is most limiting amino acid
in legume grains and its supply deserves attention as well. Enzyme supplements
that hydrolyse non-starch polysaccharides increase the metabolisable energy value
of grain legumes (Wiryawan and Dingle 1999). It is thus important to assess the
feasibility of using enzyme preparations under practical conditions in Cameroon.

All birds fed on diets with legume grains meal consumed significantly less feed than
did the control birds (Teguia et al 2003). This could be related to the presence in the
grains of condensed tannins (Butler et al 1984), which are known to give an
astringent taste to the feed, thus negatively affecting its palatability. Robinson and
Singh (2001) reported high levels of condensed tannins in cowpeas, faba beans and
norbon beans whereas tannins were not detected in chickpeas or lablab. In addition
to diminishing feed palatability, tannins also induce poor feed digestibility because
they bind to proteins and reduce the utilisation of carbohydrates (Rostango 1972).
Indeed, tannins and protease inhibitors usually raise the feed conversion ratio
(Rostango 1972; Butler et al 1984).

To increase utilisation of legume grains by chickens, Robinson and Singh (2001)

suggested that the grains should undergo treatment such as dehulling or

supplementation of the diet with enzymes. Bressani (2002) reported that dehulling
improved protein quality and digestibility of Phaseolus vulgaris and suggested that
this could be due to the removal of the seed coat tannins which may cause
decreased protein digestibility. Cooking and soaking methods have also been used
and the stability of anti-nutritional factors could be reduced by up to 15% (Bressani
2002). Heat treatment has been widely used to improve the nutritional quality of
grain legumes, but the major difficulty remains the choice of the type of heat,
temperature and environmental conditions. The effect of heat may be specific for
each legume and may depend on the concentration and location of the different
heat-labile anti-nutritional factors. Thus, research should be carried out to define the
proper treatment to enhance the nutritional value of specified legume grains for
their use in broiler nutrition on small-holder farms.


It is clear that there are potential alternative feedstuffs to maize, soybean

concentrate and animal proteins in broiler nutrition. It is also clear that the
use of the alternatives does not optimally sustain broiler production.

More research is necessary to characterize the alternative feedstuffs with

regard to their digestibility, amino acid profile and content of anti-nutritional

Research under local conditions is required to determine the most economical

methods for handling the alternative feedstuffs in other to improve their
nutritional quality and allow high inclusion levels in broiler chicken diets.

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Received 28 June 2004; Accepted 23 December 2004; Published 1 March 2005