Would you please share your own experience of how the scenario of Indian Poultry and Livestock sector has changed during the course of your career extending over more than 18 years?
I can not comment much about what is happening in the dairy sector. However, being involved with the poultry sector in quite a deep way for the last one decade or say, I have observed some major changes which may be summarised as follows:
- Poultry meat is increasingly seen as less of a luxury product and more as a daily staple. Further with changing food habits and increasing exposure to global cuisines, the Indian population, across the ages, is increasingly becoming fond of menus which invariably contain chicken as one of the ingredients. Poultry meat is preferred over other meat products as it is available across the country at relatively lesser prices than fish and mutton. The growth in poultry meat consumption in the last 5 years is approximately 30% which is a substantial one. Though it is always debatable if the poultry entrepreneurs are always making profit out of this growth or not, the jump in production has definitely contributed in the growth of Indian economy, albeit distributed both in the organized and unorganized sectors thus keeping its impact subtle.
- Paradigm shift in the nature of productivity of broiler and laying hens has become discernible. Getting 2 kg live weight with a feed conversion ratio of just 1.50 in 35 days is quite common nowadays and this was not possible a decade ago. If the laying hens are kept up to 100 weeks, they are capable of giving eggs and this shows how prolific these breeds have become…thanks to the genetic engineers.
- A large automation in different parts of the operations is the other advancement during this period of time. These automations are available in feed milling, in general operating procedures like feeding of birds, egg collection, sanitation and cleaning of houses, abattoir processes and the list is long. With the advent of profits entrepreneurs got exposure to the modern farming systems and have become more interested in automation which has led to machine manufacturers in India and abroad to invest more in this segment.
- Another development in this segment is of course the progress in aqua feed. It was really not there some time back but a good part of the animal feed manufacturers are either involved in aqua feed making or are seriously considering venturing into this segment. Substantial increase in shrimp feed production may be observed and with a huge export potential, and it is quite likely that this segment will experience further growth.
On the basis of your vast experience in the national and international market, would you please share with our readers the similarities and differences between Poultry industry in India and its neighbouring countries?
Poultry industry is a very generalised terminology. Rather we should describe this as poultry sector which comes under general agriculture of a country. However, different opinions ought to be there. The sector is a typical example of demand-based market where prices of the finished goods, the meat, depends on the pull from the market. In India and Bangladesh, the market is a “wet” one and the same is in Nepal. Interestingly, unlike India, Bangladesh and Nepal, the market in Bhutan is not a “wet” one and the birds are not slaughtered openly. Bhutan is a country where people consume a lot of dairy products and hence the dairy sector is quite important in that country.
Would you please give a comparative statement of changing feed economics in broiler and layer industry during the last decade? Also, out of mash or pellet, which one is a better feed for layers as per Indian conditions?
Feed economics is totally dependent on the prices of raw materials. Nutrient requirements of birds remain constant and only small manoeuvre can be done if the productivity is to be maintained. The changes in feed prices thus can be attributed to a couple of factors: (a) the change in nutrient requirements of the birds which is inevitable owing to the introduction of newer breeds with modified nutrient requirement and (b) change in raw material prices. The second factor being not under the control of the feed formulators has contributed the most in changing the prices of feed as always.
The superiority of pellets has been established in broilers though with layers it is debatable. Generally, feeding mash always has the advantage of keeping the hens on feed for longer periods of time thus maintaining a sustainable supply of nutrients especially the calcium to the intestine. Feeding pellets may snatch this advantage. Also, through mash it is possible to supply the hens with calcium grits which are of immense importance is supplying the desired calcium for synthesis of eggshell. This may not be possible when pellets are given. However, it is not that the pellets are not at all fed to laying hens and substantially good results are also achieved with pelleted feed as well.
What kind of scope do you see in the Indian market for the alternative feed resources vis a vis the traditional raw materials (corn and soybean), on which the feed industry in India is still heavily dependent?
To be precise, there is no such alternatives to corn and soybean as of now in India. The alternatives to corn, for example, wheat, is not available for livestock feeding. Some other alternatives, like rice too is not available and if available then the quality may not be consistent enough to sustain productivity of animals. In the protein meal segment, a good number of ingredients have been tried for example, gluten from corn and rice, guar meal, cottonseed meal and so on… corn gluten is an excellent protein source, but the price is too high. Other substitutes like the animal protein meals are either not available or they are not cost effective. The scope of adulteration of animal protein is high and this is the other factor that the nutritionists remain scared of.
How do you see the future of phytogenic feed additives as are placement for antibiotic growth promoters in commercial poultry production?
Once the antibiotics as growth promoters in feed are completely banned, phytogenic feed additives will be one of the strategies for growth promotion programs in chicken production. This has happened in many parts of the world where antibiotics are withdrawn from the feeding regimen. However, it should be noted here that phytogenic feed additives alone may not be capable of providing a one stop solution to the versatile disease scenario prevailing in India and it may need support from its colleagues like organic acids, probiotics and prebiotics.
Worldwide, various countries have now started using Insect Protein as a feed ingredient. Could you please update on its usage in India and also the future scope in the country?
Research in this area has demonstrated that a number of insect taxa including silkworms, locusts, fly larvae, crickets and grasshoppers can be safely fed to chickens without compromising the quality and palatability of the meat. In fact, swapping soybean meal with insect meal may provide sustainability in profit for the meat producers. However, this requires the knowledge of insect rearing, feeding and production methods and I am not sure how far we have progressed in these fields. The topic has vast financial implication though its application needs a lot more homework.
Food safety of animal originated food starts right from feed safety, what are your views on changing regulations to ensure safe feed production?
The regulations being imposed nowadays with regard to the restriction in using antibiotics in any food animals will surely ensure a lot of safeguard before the product reaches to the consumers. However, stricter regulations with regard to disposal of dead animals, proper handling of sick animals to prevent their entry into food chain, stricter quarantine measures, and more hygienic slaughter techniques should be the next steps.