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CNR researches viability of local poultry farming

ASCC-CNR Agricultural Extension Agent Amio Mavaega-Luvu inspects some of the Cornish Rock chickens used in a CNR project to test growth rates based on different feeding methods. “The long term goals are to be able to identify a breed of meat chicken that does well in our climate, and to produce a feed locally which will make it profitable to raise meat chickens here,” said CNR Horticulturalist Ian Gurr. [Photo: T. Faalogo/CNR]

Since this past December, the Community & Natural Resources (CNR) division of the American Samoa Community College has conducted a project to examine the viability of raising poultry with locally-produced feed.
 
“One of the difficulties with raising animals in American Samoa is the high cost of imported feed,” said CNR Horticulturalist Ian Gurr. “The project was to test a feed made locally from ingredients found here on island. This allowed us to compare the growth of chickens fed a commercial feed, those fed the locally made feed, and those that were allowed to range free and fed with coconut.”
 
For the project, CNR brought in 100 Cornish Rock chickens as day-old chicks, and monitored their growth over the next two months. To provide a proper living space for the chickens that also fulfilled the requirements of the project, CNR Dean/Director Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga collaborated with Trades and Technology (TTD) Dean Michael Leau, who arranged for the TTD Architecture to draw up the blueprints for the structure under the guidance of instructor Adullum Esera.
 
Gurr and CNR instructor Dr. Otto Hansell used previous research done by the Sea Grant team at ASCC in producing a tilapia feed to produce their own feed which they felt would be more appropriate for broiler chicken production. During the course of the project, Dr. Hansell involved his Agriculture students as an introduction into methods of raising poultry.
 
The Cornish Rock chicken is a broiler chicken commonly raised for meat. They grow very quickly and are ready to eat in six to eight weeks. “We were also interested to see how well this breed of chicken would do in our warm wet climate,” elaborated Gurr.
 
“The long term goals are to be able to identify a breed of meat chicken that does well in our climate, and to produce a feed locally which will make it profitable to raise meat chickens here. as well as egg-laying chickens,” he said.
 
Another aspect of the project was to collect and compost the chicken manure for use as a soil fertilizer and amendment, and to use it to make a growing medium similar to potting soil for vegetable seedling transplants.”
 
As the test progressed, Gurr and Hansell noted that the chickens given the locally produced feed reached an appropriate cooking size in approximately seven weeks, which is almost as fast as the chickens eating imported feed.
 
“The commercial feed still was better than the locally produced feed,” said Gurr, “but this was just our first trial. We will be continuing trials to try to improve the local feed.”
 
The good news however, is that the chickens given the locally produced feed showed no compromise in flavor. “We had a taste test and found them to be good tasting and very tender,” confirmed Gurr of the chickens raised on the locally produced feed.
 
“I don't think we are at the point of producing meat chickens for the same cost as an imported chicken yet, if fed imported commercial feed,” reflected Gurr, “but the development of a locally produced feed which saves farmers the cost of imports has the potential to turn poultry farming into a viable economic alternative.”
 
The ongoing project is partially funded by the US Department of Agriculture – Western Sustainable Agriculture and Education.



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