Demand for maize continues to grow. Not only is it an important source of food for man and poultry, but it is increasingly becoming a source of fuel.

It is, perhaps, not surprising, that attention is being focused on investment and commercial production of other food substances whose viability as poultry feed have already been proven. Beyond securing the future of the poultry industry at home, West Africa could become a major exporter of alternative poultry feed as it offers a number of alternative feed ingredients.

Cocoa pod husk

Cocoa pod husk offers interesting prospects, and researchers have shown that it is a viable source of poultry feed.

Nigeria’s Animal Research Institute has established that 10 percent dietary inclusion of cocoa husk meal is optimal in starter diets and similar results have been obtained in Cameroon. In Ghana, the Animal Research Institute and Cocoa Research Institute (CRI) have also recommended maximum inclusion levels of 10 percent in poultry diets. The CRI produces commercial quantities of cocoa husk meal on demand.

Almost all West African nations produce large quantities of cocoa. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are the worlds first- and second-largest producers of cocoa, respectively. Once the cocoa beans are extracted, dried and exported, there is currently little use for the by-product except for small amounts used in soap and compost production in Ghana and Nigeria. There are, as a consequence, large, and readily available, supplies of cocoa pods across West Africa that could be put to commercial use.

Palm kernel cake

Palm kernel cake (PKC) is another ingredient in plentiful supply in West Africa and is the byproduct of extracting palm oil from the palm fruit.

Removal of the fruit exposes the hard nut, which is cracked to expose the kernel. Once the oil has been extracted there is the “waste” cake, which is a valuable source of both protein and carbohydrate and has the additional benefit of being aflatoxin-free.

Demand for palm oil is growing worldwide and production in West Africa is increasing as a consequence. Given that PKC is not used in human nutrition or as an industrial raw material, the region’s commercial producers have significant supplies. In Ghana, the President’s Special Initiative on Oil Palm is further encouraging the industry.

A number of research initiatives into use of PKC as a feed ingredient, however, may have held back its commercial use. For example, in Ghana, it was reported that its high fibre content precluded its optimum use as poultry feed. It was also found that, due to its grittiness, it would require grinding before compounding. It was also reported that PKC produced by the “cottage-type” process had a strong odour, which could hinder feed intake.

In Nigeria, researchers reported that PKC had a high percentage of B-mannan, a powerful anti-nutritive factor which could reduce feed conversion ratio and reduce weight gain. They also reported that local processing methods were far from optimal.

Yet, other experts believe that these problems can be easily dealt with, arguing that modern processing methods and enzyme supplements effectively address most of these problems. Studies have shown that broilers could tolerate up to 30 percent PKC.

Cassava

Cassava is another local root crop with potential to become a good source of poultry feed. It is an important source of energy, with a starch content of between 60 and 70 percent.

In West Africa it is already well known as a viable poultry feed ingredient, but the level of utilization has been low, mainly because crop harvests have repeatedly suffered massive damage from the cassava mealy bug and cassava green mite.

In Cameroon, its inclusion has reached 10 percent, however in Ghana, Chad, and Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Nigeria use has not passed 5 percent.

Studies have found that satisfactory growth can be achieved with various levels of cassava root meal inclusion in the diets of chicks, growers, broilers and layers. In Ghana, the Food Research Institute obtained satisfactory results with the inclusion of cassava meal up to a maximum of 20 percent. In Nigeria, interesting results have been obtained in the detoxification of the cyanide content in cassava by fermentation, acid hydrolysis and a mixture of both.

Supplies of cassava in West Africa continue to increase. Nigeria is currently the world’s leading producer of the crop, thanks to the introduction of improved varieties and the successful bio-control of pests.

The plentiful supplies of alternative ingredients in West Africa, improved cultivation methods and processing technologies, together with increased demand for traditional feed ingredients, mean that a variety of crops currently grown in the region could be worth further examination.