Utilization of the Tilapia Invasive Species as a Low-Cost Protein Feed to Improve Egg Production

Final Report for FW09-312

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $29,892.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Federated States of Micronesia
Principal Investigator:
Steven Young-Uhk
College of Micronesia
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Project Information

Abstract:

In poultry farming, the major challenge is to find cheaper, readily available and suitable feedstuff that improves egg and meat production. For egg production, the problem of chicken feed could be resolved by utilizing local feeding materials in a simple and low cost production system. Three farmers conducted feeding trials on laying chickens by using a simple feed mixture consisting of copra, tilapia and land crabs. This project also encourages the use of the tilapia, an invasive alien species that has infested most mangrove systems in Yap Islands, as a source of protein in chicken feed. In comparing the local feed mixture with commercial laying feed, egg production was recorded and analyzed for eight months. On average, each chicken fed with the local feed mixture produced 15 dozen eggs while each commercially-fed chicken produced 17 dozen eggs.

Considering the high cost of commercial feed, the farmers found a higher return using the local feed mixture. The materials needed in processing the feed are abundant, although capturing tilapia can be challenging. Using a water pump to drain out pools proved effective but only in certain areas and conditions. Processing and preparing the feed is simple, consisting of grinding fresh copra and cooked land crabs and tilapia and mixing them at 55, 22 and 23 percent respectively to provide a crude protein content of 18%. The three farmers acquired skills in chicken farming, including caring for growing chicks, basic nutritional and housing requirements, record keeping and simple marketing. An outreach program conducted through demonstrations, site visits, technical information and assistance, and educational materials was successful in increasing interest and potential in local egg production.

Introduction

The major challenge to successful egg production is to find cheaper, readily available and suitable feedstuff that can be processed and formulated to meet the nutritional requirement of laying chickens. The problem of chicken feed could be resolved by utilizing local feeding materials in a simple and low cost production system (Photo 1). Three farmers conducted feeding trials on laying chickens by using a simple feed mixture consisting of copra, tilapia and land crabs. This project also encourages the use of the tilapia, an invasive alien species that has infested most mangrove systems in Yap Islands, as a source of protein in chicken feed.

The Mozambique tilapia (Photo 2) is a pest and is abundant in mangroves and freshwater ponds around Yap Islands. Since its introduction in the 1970s, this aggressive fish has become dominant in mangrove estuaries. This can be seen by their large numbers and groups of various ages and sizes in the mangroves and adjacent freshwater holes, swamps and taro patches (Photo 3). Chemical and biological methods to eradicate them would be extremely difficult, highly expensive and environmentally unsound because this species has already been established not only in their usual freshwater habitats but also in mangrove and brackishwater areas. Thus, cultural methods such as capture and removal may be a simple, safe and cheap (though labor intensive) way of addressing this invasive pest.

Tilapia may have already reached a population level that would make it difficult for many native fish species, including important fishery species, to survive. Competition for food and space with tilapia and the added pressures of regular fishing has resulted in an obvious reduction in several fisheries resources. More importantly, tilapia is not eaten locally because it is commonly viewed as a freshwater species and as such, undesirable for consumption.

Consequently, this invasive species could provide an excellent and stable source of protein for farmers in Yap Islands to increase their livestock production. This would reduce the high cost of and reliance on importing commercial feed for egg production. According to nutritional information on the three feed ingredients (copra, tilapia and land crabs), their nutritional value is sufficient to supply the major nutrient requirement for body growth and maintenance and egg production (Photo 4). The flesh of mature coconut is an excellent source of energy with estimated energy level of 698 kcal/100 g. The crude protein content of land crabs and tilapia are high at up to 33% and 47%, respectively.

The high interest among farmers, communities and individuals generated by this project indicated positive support and demand for this type of agricultural development. An increasing number of farmers are becoming involved in raising chickens, and the demand for local fresh eggs is rising rapidly.

Project Objectives:
  • 1. Conduct feeding trials on laying chickens by using a local feed mixture consisting of tilapia, land crab and copra. This is a comparative study of the local feed mixture against commercial layer feed, and a combination of both commercial feed and the local feed mixture.

    2. Identify sources and fishing methods for capturing tilapia in mangroves.

    3. Develop educational materials and train farmers in simple feed production and processing using locally available materials.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Andy Falfen
  • Regina Imith
  • Bridget Mangyor

Research

Materials and methods:

Three farmers participated in the project where they each conducted the same feeding trial. Thirty layers were divided into three pens and provided three different diets; commercial feed, local feed and a combination of both commercial feed and local feed. The three pens were fed three pounds commercial feed, three pounds local feed and 1.5 pounds of commercial feed with 1.5 pounds of local feed. Eggs were collected daily, and production records were kept by the farmers. Data collected for eight months of production were analyzed (Table 1).

Each farmer built three simple movable pens to house 10 laying hens in each pen. The pens were constructed using bamboo stems (Photo 1) and security wire mesh with a tarp to cover the roof. The size of each pen was 8’ X 8’, providing an area of 64 square feet per 10 chickens. The feeding troughs were made also of bamboo stems that were split in half. Two nesting boxes (1’ X 1’) made of wood were placed inside each pen (Photo 2). Fresh or dried grass clippings were used for the bedding materials.

At 4.5 months old, the layers were distributed to the farmers, and the feeding trials began. Each farmer was given 30 chickens. The local feed mixture was formulated at 18% crude protein content comprised of 22% land crabs, 23% tilapia and 55% fresh copra. Tilapia was caught in mangrove areas and freshwater taro patches in southern Yap Islands. There were many types of fishing methods used. However, a water pump was especially effective in capturing tilapia. At low-tide, tilapias collected at water holes in mangrove areas were targeted. The water pump was used to reduce the amount of water before capturing them with a scoop net or “butterfly” net. Land crabs were collected alongside the roads at night and kept in a holding pen and fed with copra and green leaves.

It was found that a meat grinder is sufficient in grinding all the ingredients. Tilapia and land crabs were cooked in a pot over an open fire. After boiling, these were removed from the pot and spread over a flat area so excess water would drain out. Tilapia (Photo 3) and land crabs (Photo 4) were grinded, separated and weighed. After grinding the copra (Photo 5), a simple manual extractor was used to remove excess coconut milk. The farmers used the coconut milk to make body oil. The ingredients were weighed to correct proportions and hand-mixed (Photo 6). The feed was divided into smaller bags of three lbs, sealed and stored in a freezer (Photo 7). Each bag was thawed out overnight and fed to the chickens in the morning. A hundred pounds of feed prepared would make 33 bags of feeds ready for feeding.

Research results and discussion:

In comparing the local feed mixture with commercial laying feed, egg production for eight months was recorded and analyzed. On average, each chicken fed with the local feed mixture produced 15 dozen eggs while each commercially-fed chicken produced 17 dozen eggs. Chickens fed a combination of feed produced an average of 14.6 dozen eggs. The three farmers found that using the local feed mixture is much cheaper and convenient than using commercial feed but also produce acceptable result in egg production. Through this project an additional farmer has become involved in raising chickens and is using the local feed.
The results of the project indicated that local egg production is possible and has increased interest in many farmers. For the duration of the project, the number of people who obtained chickens increased from three to more than fifty, with the number of chickens per person ranging from two to forty-five chickens. Fifteen individuals have requested assistance in starting a small chicken farm based on the project.

Interest in tilapia has greatly increased now that there is a use for the invasive species. The local feed has been demonstrated to be simple to be processed, easily stored, readily available and relatively cost effective.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Outreach and educational activities were successful and widely achieved during this project. They included public demonstration (Photo 1), group presentation (Document3), farm demonstration (Photo 2), individual consultation and information and publication (Document 1 & 2). During the 2010 World Food Day, live tilapia were displayed in a water tank, and a demonstration of the feed processing was done. A presentation was given to a group of farmers. A brochure was developed and distributed through electronic and hard copies (500 each) to relevant audiences. An information leaflet about the tilapia invasive species was distributed. Four farm demonstrations were established to show housing, feeding and water, bedding, egg laying nests and caring of the layers.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Three farmers conducted three feeding trials testing the local feed mixture against commercial feed. Simple cheap chicken housing was demonstration using bamboo poles for frames, minimal wire mesh for fencing and tarp for roofing. Bedding materials, watering and nesting box were also displayed.

A survey of where tilapia was commonly found was also conducted. Various methods to capture tilapia were explored, including fishing lines, nets, night fishing, spears and traps. Due to the survey of their habitat and available fishing techniques, it was found that using a water pump and scoop net proved most effective.

The three farmers acquired skills in chicken farming, including caring for growing chicks, basic nutritional and housing requirements, record keeping and simple marketing. An outreach program conducted through demonstrations, site visits, technical information and assistance, and educational materials was successful in increasing interest and potential in local egg production.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Local egg production is becoming promising and profitable with an effective feeding method. Demonstrations and technical site-specific information is contributing to increasing knowledge and practical skills of farmers in poultry farming. This project encourages a diversified agricultural production system on family farms. The integration of egg production in island farming will increase overall farm outputs and satisfy local demands for a wide range of fresh quality products. This will lead to improving income and livelihood. The local production of eggs to compete with import will contribute to local economy. A use for the invasive tilapia species is being developed which can contribute to the control of their populations. Additionally educational materials developed from this project will be used as reference and enable better training and technical assistance for future potential poultry farmers.

Future Recommendations

Although the impact of this project was positive and encouraging, there is also the need to improve. The next steps are to analyze the feed for nutrient composition and nutritive limitations and to improve on the processing technique of the feed such as drying (Photo 1). Further feeding trials with improved experimental design should be conducted. Other alternative local sources of feeding materials should also be explored that could substitute or supplement the local feed ingredients.

Local production of fresh eggs is feasible and can be profitable with a simple cost-effective feeding scheme. To meet demand, a group of small farmers should work together to ensure that the materials needed in the feed is readily available for processing.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.