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Ethiopian scientists evaluate three chicken breeds in rural and small-scale systems

Investigating on-farm growth and egg production performance of three exotic chicken breeds: Kuroiler, Sasso and Sasso-R.

15 September 2021, at 3:03am

Improving food security around the world means boosting protein production in ways that work best for local farmers. In Ethiopia, the government and outside agencies have promoted exotic, higher-yielding chicken breeds. Unfortunately, most exotic breeds introduced in the country require a level of investment in feed, veterinary support and management that is unrealistic for many rural and small-scale farmers.

So how can producers find the right balance?

In a recent study, a team of Ethiopia-based scientists investigated the on-farm growth and egg production performance of three exotic chicken breeds: Kuroiler, Sasso and Sasso-R. The scientists focused on whether these tropically-adapted breeds could succeed in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, the area of the country with the most tropical climate.

The researchers chose to study Kuroiler, Sasso and Sasso-R because these breeds have been tested in semi-scavenging systems in other parts of the world. For example, Kuroilers are raised in Uganda as a dual-purpose breed and have been found suitable for scavenging management systems.

For the new study, the scientists followed the three breeds for 45 weeks. They evaluated their performance at three different locations, including farms in the Amhara region’s highlands and midlands.

“During the on-farm testing, the chickens were managed under semi-scavenging poultry production system in all locations,” write Kassa et al. “All households constructed night shelters from locally available materials before receiving chicken.”

The scientists found that the Kuroiler and Sasso breeds had a higher body weight, and the Sasso breed was an earlier grower, when raised at mid-altitude. This made sense because chickens need to expend more energy maintaining their body temperature at high altitudes. All three of the test breeds had a higher weight at 12 weeks than nearby Bovans Browns. At 20 weeks, the Kuroilers and Sassos had a higher weight than nearby Rhode Island Reds and Bovans Whites.

The researchers also found that the Kuroilers and Sassos had higher egg production in the midland region, but there was no consistency in half-life egg production performance, hen-day egg production percentage and egg weight across study districts.

Overall, the authors recommend rearing either Kuroiler or Sasso chickens in the study area—and similar environments—to improve growth and egg production. “The current finding indicates that Kuroiler and Sasso in midland and Kuroiler in highland were fast growers and could be the best candidate for promoting to rural smallholders of respective districts and similar areas,” they write.

To further improve poultry production, the scientists now plan to investigate other traits of these breeds and any advantages of crossing them with local chickens.

The new field report, published in The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, was led by scientists at Andassa Livestock Research Center of Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute; Haramaya University College of Agriculture and Environmental Science, Ethiopia; and the International Livestock Research Institute, Ethiopia.

What does this study mean for producers?

  • Breed environment interactions are important. A breed that performs well in midland systems may not succeed in highland systems.
  • Exotic breeds need to be tropically-adapted and may be crossed with local chickens to perform well with lower feed and veterinary demands.
  • Sasso chickens may be available from organizations such as Ethio-Chicken.

The full paper, titled “On-farm comparative evaluation of production performance of tropically adapted exotic chicken breeds in western Amhara, Ethiopia,” can be found in The Journal of Applied Poultry Research and online here.

DOI: 10.1016/j.japr.2021.100194