Agriculture in Zambia 9:Broiler growers, whether big or small, have a responsibility to deliver a healthy, tasty chicken to the customer. But do they? And what about the stock feed manufacturers? Do growers know what they feed their chickens?
Text by Bert Witkamp
Version: 22 February 2015
1) Until recently I thought that factory stock feed finisher was free of pharmaceuticals so as to ensure that the human chicken consumer would not be treated with coccidiostats, antibiotics and possibly hormones. But then I came across the term “withdrawal finisher” in the Ross and Cobb broiler manuals (freely downloadable from their websites; thanks!). Withdrawal finisher is finisher without medication and should be provided to broilers for as long as it takes to flush out the medication/growth promoters that have been added to factory stock feed as of day 1. The withdrawal period is 7 to 10 days. Choma Milling does not put antibiotics in the finisher, most brands do and you have to order from these major stock feed producers the special “withdrawal finisher” that in fact should be the normal finisher if you don’t want to administer harmful antibiotics to the customer that provides you with income. Novatek produces withdrawal feed as part of their regular package; Nutri Feed is willing to do so on request. I don’t know the National Milling situation – they don’t have a useful website with an e-mail link. This account confirms my earlier notion that stock feed must be labeled and the label must provide a full account of all pharmaceutical additives. It would appear that the Poultry Association of Zambia (linked to ZNFU) has some work to do in this regard.
2) When I tried to find out if it was possible to make a combined withdrawal feed order with fellow local broiler growers it appeared that most growers don’t use finisher at all but finish their chickens on grower – the reasoning being its presumed higher nutritional value for 4-7 week old broilers than the standard finisher. ARE THESE FARMERS AWARE THAT THEIR BROILERS AT THE TIME OF CONSUMPTION BY HUMANS ARE CONTAMINATED WITH ANTIBIOTICS? Do they know that this practice of permanent administration of medication results in the development of new strains of bacteria that are increasingly harder to combat?
3) Concerning the sense of replacing finisher by grower because of presumed nutritional advantages: starter, grower and finisher feed composition is based on the different nutritional requirements of the broiler in its short, over-speeded, living trajectory. In this trajectory the nutrient focus shifts gradually from “growth and little energy for body maintenance” to “much energy for maintenance and little for growth.” For this reason the amount of maize in feed should increase as the birds grow. If commercial finisher contains 20% crude protein (CP) as recommended by standard manuals I would say that replacing finisher by grower on nutritional grounds is senseless, and even counterproductive. Unfortunately commercial Zambian finisher is likely to contain only 17% crude protein, but this may not be true for all brands. Grower has a higher % of crude protein than finisher (Nutri Feed grower for example has 18.5%) and therefore comes closer to handbook standards for finisher. Farmers should check on their stock feed suppliers so as to make an informed nutrition feed choice. They should, in any case, provide withdrawal finisher for at least a week before slaughter. Ten days is better.
4) The matter of pharmaceuticals added to feed is aggravated by the tendency of many farmers to treat broilers automatically with antibiotics whenever there is trouble (and trouble there often is – broilers are bred and reared for trouble; developing meat on the highway while the remainder of the body is at pedestrian speed); by the unwarranted addition of often unspecified boosters that may contain more pharmaceuticals on top of those already in the stock feed and by shopkeepers that supply clients as a matter of routine vitamin packages combined with antibiotics. Your chicken by such careless administration of a cocktail of medicines now is an experimental laboratory for the development of new strains of bacteria resistant to conventional medicine. And so are you!