Agriculture / DFATD / East Africa / Ethiopia / Feeds / ILRI / Poultry / Tigray

An emerging chick distribution model helps smallholder poultry farmers in Tigray

Abrehet Tareke  with her hens in Centeral Tigray zone (Photo: ILRI\Yayneshet Tesfay)

Poultry production is knowledge and skill intensive; it requires immediate responses when management appears suboptimal. The consequences of delayed actions include high morbidity and mortality of chicks, substantial economic losses, and total disinterest in poultry production.

Due to the delicacy of day old chicks, rural poultry in the Central Zone of Tigray is organized around the work of trained chick distributors. These distributors assume diverse roles as growers, marketers, trainers, and input suppliers. They help overcome an important knowledge and skill gaps that ordinary farmers face when they try to engage in market-oriented poultry production. Girum Asfiha and Nega Abraha are chick distributors operating in the Central Zone of Tigray. Both participated at the recent zonal workshop organized by the LIVES project.

They have created formal and informal links with day-old chick suppliers in Mekelle, Kombolcha and Debre Zeit. They buy the chicks for 29 Birr/chick  and sell them for 54 Birr/chick after feeding and managing them for 30-40 days. During this critical stage, they provide starter and grower feeds and apply scheduled vaccinations against major viral and bacterial outbreaks. The combination of improved management with timely vaccination has dramatically changed rural poultry intervention in Central Tigray. This once slow and often neglected activity has become an enterprise that contributes to the livelihoods of rural households.

The major customers of Girum and Nega are smallholder farmers in Laelai Maichew and Adwa. Sometimes they expand outside their local areas to meet market demands. In the past two and a half years, they have sold more than 100,000 chicks.

For Girum and Nega, getting hold of inputs is a major challenge. They have had to buy veterinary medicines from as far as Addis Ababa. Now days,  they are considering how they themselves could become intermediary traders by  linking smallholder poultry producers to large input suppliers.

As well as growing and selling chicks, Girum and Nega also train their clients in ration formulation and regular mass vaccination. They formulate and sell poultry rations from ingredients purchased locally. Maize, wheat bran and middling, cakes from noug, peanut and sesame, dried whole fish (captured from local rivers), alfalfa, limestone, bone and meat meals, premixes, and other antibiotics are their ingredients. For ingredients not available locally,  they get supplies from large feed ingredient suppliers in Mekelle and Addis Ababa (GASCO Trading PLC and Slaughterhouse). They charge 850 Birr for a pack of formulated chick food.

Alfa alfa farm of Abrehet in Central Tigray zone (Photo:ILRI\Yayneshet Tesfay)

Abrehet Tareke is a woman farmer who lives near Axum. She was trained about chick management by Girum. After her training, she bought 100 Bovan Brown chicks and started her farm. She is also a member of the poultry platform that LIVES established in Laelai Maichew . After joining the platform discussion in July 2013, she expanded her poultry farm and planted alfa alfa as a feed source for her layer hens.

Abrehet’s hens started laying eggs in their 24th week and she now collect some 25 eggs a day, selling them each for 2.5 ETB in Axum city. She also sells fertile eggs to other farmers who incubate the eggs under natural setting. Now that she has new skills and knowledge, her immediate plan is to grow her flock size to 500 birds and build a truly market-oriented poultry farm. She plans to realize her vision by establishing a marketing group in her village with other interested farmers.

The recognition given to chick distributors and the training support has moved poultry interventions to a new phase and is contributing to the rapid adoption of improved poultry in rural areas. The distributors have assumed many roles along the poultry value chain and are filling in important knowledge and skill gaps faced by ordinary farmers. More efforts are needed to create links between distributors and private/public vaccine providers throughout the egg production life of layers. They also need to engage more youth, especially women, in market-oriented poultry production, which in turn attracts other value chain actors.

Contributed by Yayneshet Tesfay (LIVES regional expert, Tigray) and Haile Tilahun (LIVES zonal coordinator, Central Tigray Zone)

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6 thoughts on “An emerging chick distribution model helps smallholder poultry farmers in Tigray

  1. Having innovation to the smallholder farmers is a good activity but we have to care of that about the profitability. Regardless of the death rate calculation and other risk factors, according to the report we can see that there is a deficient of 10 birr per day. For instance, the price of feed is 850 birr per quintal, and a hen should be given 100 gm per day at the minimum. Hence, 100 hens will eat 10000 gm or 10 kgm which costs about 85 birr per day. But she collects only 25 eggs per day which will earn 75 birr per day. Then profit is simply calculated as income minus cost (75-85) and it gives negative ten birr (-10 birr). On top of this, if you take labor, water, medicament and other miscellaneous costs in to account, the cost increases and the profit will increases. Therefore, the project should work intensively on how to minimize the feed cost and how to increase the laying rate about 65 % and above.

    • In principle, feeding a commercial ration for 100 birds with less than 25 eggs/day would not justify all the costs incurred in a smallholder poultry production like this-that is why the lady underscored the need to expand the flock size to more than 500 birds. In this specific case, there could be many reasons for sustaining such small flock production. One apparent reason is that she was able to get income from the sale of 25 culled matured males, each for 120 Birr. I also suspect that the reduction in egg laying is attributed to the occasional shift to predominantly low quality inexpensive grains that potentially reduce egg production.

  2. Feed is one of the important factors to be considered in poultry farming. Good nutritional value of the feed keeps chickens healthy.Chickens being omnivorous,
    can be fed with grain based diet, vegetables, fruits, fish, meat meal or worms.Poultry feeds are also available as bulk and bagged mixes.

  3. Yes, it makes sense that the feed offered for smallholder poultry should not necessarily be a formulated expensive commercial ration, although the inclusion of commercially available essential nutrients is mandatory for realizing the birds’ potential. What we are lacking is developing the real interest in making efficient use of the many potential local feed diversities that can be reached by most poor rural poultry farmers. That is why ILRI’s Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Smallholder Farmers (LIVES) project is closely working with partners to integrate local feed resources into market oriented poultry feeding systems using the value chain approach.

  4. it is good,but ther is not enough & good suply of egg hen in mekele.and ther is no enough animal farmasy,ther are some and they did not have good knowledge about it.

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