Role of Backyard Poultry in Sustainable Rural Livelihood under Indian Perspectives

Backyard poultry. Credit: pixabay.com

It is fact that people are becoming much health conscious and they are incorporating more animal protein in their diet due to its beneficial effects. In addition to it, it’s a well noticeable point that as per a survey by comptroller general of India, over 75% of Indian youths from 15 to 35 yrs of age are non vegetarians. It displays tremendous scope of poultry industry in India. Backyard poultry farming has been the integral part of Indian farming since long time.

It has been aiding into additional income over the gains through selling of crops and dairy products. In backyard poultry production system, generally, birds are kept loose to find and select their food items from an enclosed area mostly by scavenging. A small area, small house, is provided adjacently with their feeding area where they return back to rest mostly after sunset and receive small supplemental feed with a provision of water facility.

They sometime feed on domestic/kitchen wastes. Studies suggest that they hardly receive any health facilities. Mortality of chicks is high generally. Birds used in this venture are generally of local breed type and they are mostly of colored type. They are hardy with rough climatic conditions and considerably disease resistant. Backyard poultry production has been termed as poor return providing activity, however, now it has changed a lot. Recent studies suggest that with an improved husbandry practices and availability of improved Germplasm, quicker and promising benefits may be achieved. The present per capita availability of eggs and meat is 79 and 2.96 kg per annum respectively which is lesser than the recommendation of ICMR, the nutritional advisory committee,  i.e. 180 eggs and 10.8 kg poultry meat per annum which is much less as compared to that of western countries. For instance, USA, China, EU, and Brazil consume chicken meat as much as 2-3 times to that of what Indian consumption is. However, Indian broiler meat industry is growing by more than 7%. Latest census of livestock reveals that poultry population of India is 851.81 Million in 2019, which was increased by 16.8% over previous Census. In which, the total Backyard Poultry in the country was 317.07 Million in 2019, increased by 45.8% over previous Census. Whereas, on the other hand, the commercial poultry was 534.74 Million in 2019 which was increased by 4.5% over previous census. The statistical data itself suggested that backyard poultry sector has a tremendous growth. It is growing at a much faster rate as compared to commercial poultry production. However, it is noticeable thing that Indian commercial poultry sector has attained much infrastructure than backyard poultry production.

Recent government statistics data (20th livestock census) revealed tremendous growth potential of backyard poultry production in the country. However, certain constrains have to be dealt to make it a more profitable venture to go into that. This article discusses about the characteristics of Indian backyard poultry farming, its role in helping the livelihood of farming communities, and future strategies for the improvement of backyard poultry production.

It can be well observed that Chicken is the key player in poultry industry followed by duck. Whereas, other birds such as Turkey, Emu, Guinea fowl, Quails, etc. are still very behind in terms of population and familiarity with the consumers.

 

Importance of backyard poultry under Indian scenario

Starting a backyard poultry farm is much easier than going into a commercial broiler or layer project. It requires low investments and quick outcomes can be obtained with proper management conditions. It is helpful in poverty alleviation of rural people. It may well provide them a cheap and good source of high quality animal protein in terms of eggs and meat. Food security can be well maintained through this production system. Most of the breeds used for backyard type are of dual purpose breeds. They can lay eggs and produce considerable amount of high quality meat. Reports suggest that local breeds hardly produced 60-80 eggs annually and weighed around 1.2 to 1.3 kg in 12 months in this system of rearing. However, it is an appreciable point to note that some improved breeds of backyard poultry birds such as Gramapriya, Gramalakshmi, Nandhini, Krishipriya, etc. are able to produce 120-150 on similar management practices and some may lay well up to 200-220 eggs annually for instance Gramapriya can produce 220 eggs annually with good management conditions among other improved breeds with quicker laying age and may weigh up to 1.25 kg within 3-4 months. Meat quality of such breeds is well accepted by the consumers of India and fetches more money as compared to broilers; however, they take more time to produce when compared to broilers.

Backyard Vs Private sector

Various reports suggest that considerable improvement is made in Germplasm, feeds, utensils, husbandry practices and marketing systems of backyard poultry production, however, it is not easy to compare backyard poultry with corporate poultry industry. They are very different. There production systems are very contrast to each other. Backyard poultry farming basically aims at small farmers who has small backyard where they may keep some birds for their home consumption and some occasional selling. Whereas, corporate sector aims at producing huge number of birds within limited period of time. Reports suggest that more than 95% poultry market is captured by corporate sectors. Nonetheless, backyard system of poultry production has remarkably helped poor farmers.

Contract farming is in much focus of private sector poultry production, wherein giant companies of poultry industry contracts legally with farmers. In such farming, farmer is expected to provide building, utensils, and watering facilities along with labour and company provides timely Germplasm, feeds, health care facilities, expert supervision and marketing facilities. Farmers usually receive income in form of some money for growing per kg body weight of birds. Some people acclaim that such big companies make huge profits out of such business and the farmers receive lesser returns, however, this may be a researchable and debatable issue. But, on the other hand, it cannot be denied that this system has provided benefits to bigger farmers in long run. Table 1 provides a brief descriptive difference among backyard and private sector poultry production.

Table 1: A brief descriptive differences between backyard and private sector poultry production system

Parameters

Backyard type

Private sector

Type of birds

Mostly local breeds

Highly specialized breeds

Selling age of meat birds

Nearly they take 12 months to reach 1.2 kg

Broilers may well be marketed at 30 days weighing 1.3kg

Production

Lower

High production capacity

Housing

Poor/ just life sustaining

Highly controlled as per production needs

Feeding

Mostly by scavenging, some kitchen waste, occasional feed supplementation

Specific feeding to meet production and body demands.

Automation

Negligible

High automation

Health facilities

Negligible

Proper and scheduled health measures

Income generation

Lower

Higher

Investment

Lower

High investment needed

Farmers

Mostly poor and small farmers

Big farmers who have large land areas

Food safety

Considerable

In question

Market infrastructure

Unorganized

Organized

Government policies

Many government agencies and NGO’s are coming to help rural youths to train them, provide various facilities to start backyard poultry venture so that they may generate considerable income out of it. Chicks, feeds, some medicines along with some utensils are also occasionally and freely provided to economically poor people of India through various programmes and schemes. For instance, government of India helped as much as 6.13 lakhs Below Poverty Line (BPL) people of under a scheme named rural backyard poultry development program as per the annual reports of DAHD 2013-2014. This may sound little but has a huge impact in farming community of India. Through similar policies and programmes, various poor rural people are benefited to develop their own economic and social status.   

Constraints of backyard poultry farming

On drawing inference based idea from referring different studies, it was found that, not necessarily in ascending or descending order, disease outbreak in backyard flock (poor health care facilities), poor production performance of native breeds, low hatchability of eggs, early chick mortality, poor availability of Germplasm, lack of funding sources, lack of technical knowledge, high feed costs, poor market structure, and predator attacks are major constraints among others. In addition to it, socio-economic status of people also affects the backyard poultry production. Furthermore, educational background and trainings received also have impact on adoptability and proliferation of backyard poultry production in different regions of the country.

Future strategies for improved backyard poultry

Single plan for improved backyard poultry farming may not be suitable. It needs a working of all components of farming in proper and synergistic manner. For this, each and every aspect of backyard poultry production has to be done in a strategic manner. Following improvements, also shown in figure 2, may be helpful to enhance the performances of birds-

  • Developing a chain of trained people groups for different areas who have primary knowledge of health care maintenance may be a first step.
  • Introduction of superior Germplasm and their availability in different places
  • Government or NGO’s role as funding sources at nominal interest rates
  • Establishments of small scale hatcheries meant for small but chained area
  • Training for technical knowledge dissemination
  • A chained and common feed milling facility at specific regions
  • Developing a market infrastructure for backyard poultry products
  • Improved husbandry practices including housing, feeding, fencing, etc.

Figure 2: Possible strategies to improve backyard poultry production

Conclusions

Backyard poultry farming has been playing an indispensible role in rural development. Improved husbandry practices are likely to enhance the performances of the backyard poultry birds. Main constraints include poor availability of good germplasm, poor health facilities, poor housing and high early chick mortality. Combating such constraints up to a satisfactory level may enhance farmer’s income. Enhanced backyard poultry production is suggested to help small and marginal farmers with quality food, considerable income generation, and food security for their sustainable development.

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