Testing Protocols

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On-station and On-farm Testing Protocol


This protocol is developed with the idea of outlining detail procedures for performing on-farm and on-station chicken performance testing for the African Chicken Genetic Gains (ACGG) Programme. The ACGG project is being implemented in three countries, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, with a projected participation of 7,500 farmers (2,500 farmers in each country) spread out across 5 sub-national zones per country, 5 districts per sub-national zone, 5 villages per district, and 20 households per village. Data will be collected periodically during the 5 year project period with a number of major data collection periods. There will be intensive data collection throughout the project period to help understand the performance and farmer preference of different chicken strains under on-station and on-farm management conditions. After a thorough study by the ACGG team in the respective countries, the following breeds/strains are agreed upon as potential candidates to be tested: Horro (local control), Fayoumi, Kuroiler, Koekoek and Sasso in Ethiopia; Fulani (local control), Shika Brown, FUNAAB alpha, Fayoumi, and Kuroiler in Nigeria; and Horasi and Australorp (local control), Kuroiler, Fayoumi, and Sasso in Tanzania. A fourth strain is pending for Tanzania and Fayoumi is currently being considered. Depending on the availability of hatching facilities and convenience, fertile eggs or day-old chicks (DOCs) will be imported into the countries. For example, for Ethiopia and Nigeria, fertile eggs will be imported and hatched at facilities available at Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Centre (DZARC) in Ethiopia and FUNAAB in Nigeria. The new hatchery facilities at DZARC and FUNAAB each have a hatching capacity of 100,000 eggs. More than 55,000 DOCs are expected to be hatched for on-farm and on-station testing in each country. Brooding facilities will be identified for each sub-national zone. A combination of contractual arrangements involving public and/or private sector operators will be considered for brooding, including sharecrop agreements and the use of facilities owned by Universities and research and development institutes in each country. Once brooded to 21 days, chicks will be transferred to farming households for on-farm testing.

1. On-farm test plan

1.1.Selection of the households

The selection of households for the on-farm testing will be based on the baseline survey results and made in consultation with agricultural extension personnel and community members and leaders (see the ACGG Framework 1: Site Selection for more details). The baseline survey will help identify appropriate households that are interested in participating in the on-farm chicken performance tests and data collection and are able to provide the recommended level of management for the chickens. The fates of chickens already kept by farmers prior to the experimental phase will be decided later on after having discussion with farm households and all concerned parties.

1.2.Identification of birds:

Birds will be identified using an appropriate identifier (wing or leg bands) for ease of data collection and follow-ups. Birds will be kept in partitioned houses for ease of data collection, but they will be managed by the same person.

1.3.Design of the on farm test:

After discussing with the country project implementation team members, learning from experience, and seeing the pros and cons of each approach, the ACGG team has finalized the protocol for the on-farm testing. The selected strains for testing will be randomly distributed among farmers using a drawing method. All farmers are expected to cover the costs of the construction of a night shelter or a small poultry house with a run. Farmers are also expected to purchase and provide supplementary feed as per the breeder’s recommendation. Farmers may prefer a particular strain based on color, size, anticipated productivity level, etc., but due to the randomization, farmers may not receive the strain they prefer. In the event that farmers receive all low producing strains, they will be compensated with a strain they prefer in the coming production season. The conditions of compensation are stated under Compensation Mechanism.

Option 1. One strain per household

In this option each household would test 20 birds from only one strain. In that case 2,500 households * 20 birds will be tested on-farm per country. The total number of birds to be tested on-farm would be 50,000 per country.

Option 2. All (three strains) per household

In this case, each household would test 10 birds of all the strains identified for testing. If three strains are to be tested, a total of 30 birds will be tested per household and a total of 75,000 birds would be tested on-farm per country. Please see Table 1 below for the pros and cons of this protocol.

Option 3. ¾ of option 1 and ¼ of option 2

In this option 3/4 of the farmers would test only one strain and the remaining farmers (¼) would test all three of the selected strains. Of the 20 household in a village, 15 would test 20 birds of a single strain and the remaining 5 would test all of the available strains. Of the 2,500 households per country, 1,875 households will test a single strain and 625 households will test all of the selected strains. 37,500 birds would be tested using the protocol in option 1 and 18,750 birds using the mixed design outlines in option 2. In total, 55,950 birds would be tested per country. The advantages and disadvantages of the three proposed options are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Advantages and disadvantages of the three options of on-farm testing designs

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
Pros Cons Pros Cons Pros Cons
* Easy and accurate data recording
* Most reliable data regarding the on-farm productivity potential of each strain
* Laying nest management is easy
* Standardizes the testing environment across the selected strains
* Framers may not test the strain they prefer
* Only one strain tested per household
* Difficult to compare the potential of all the strains in a household
* Difficult to obtain farmer preference data across strains
* Able to compare potentials of strains under the same management condition
* More reliable farmer preference data
* Larger numbers of birds can be tested per household
* Farmers are more likely to test a bird they prefer
* Difficulty in data collection
* Bigger night shelters required
* Possibility of preferential treatment
* Difficult to manage laying nests and laying
* Separate egg storage might be needed if eggs are of the same color
* Potential issues with bird ID
* Potential to give farmers too large a flock
* Risk of more aggressive strains outcompeting the others when the management of the birds is sub-optimal
* Able to compare potentials of strains under the same management condition
* Ability to test the productivity potential of the strains while also obtaining comparison data
* Difficulty in data collection
* Due to the mixing of two protocols, smaller data sets for producitivity potential and comparison
* Discontent among farmers regarding the protocol they recieved
* Bigger house needed
* Possible preferential treatment from the farmers
* Separate egg storage needed if eggs are of same color

1.4 Number to be tested: The number of chicken to be tested at the household level will not exceed the maximum number of chickens that each household can manage. The statistical design will be worked-out in consultation with appropriate persons. However, CRD design will be considered for the on-station testing and Split plot design for the on-farm.

1.5Feeding and Health Management:

Farmers will be informed about the importance of supplementation for better performance of the chickens. They will be informed to provide a daily supplementation of 35 gm (about 30% of their daily requirement) of feed per bird per day. The supplementation will be composed of locally available energy and protein source feed ingredients. Standard vaccine regimes during brooding and beyond will be followed. A booster dose for NCD will be given later through local providers.

1.6. Shades/ houses for On-farm Testing:

Poultry shade or night shelter will be constructed by the household. For proper data collection, a small house constructed using locally available materials with a run will be used. The findings of the baseline study will be used to make decisions regarding the type of housing system that should be used in the study.

1.7. Data Collection:

Enumerators involved in baseline survey will be involved in data collection. Appropriate data will be collected.

1.8. Compensation Mechanism:

It is believed that farmers would benefit from the chickens they will receive for testing. However, due to variation in genetic makeup, not all of the strains will perform equally. For example, an indigenous chicken will likely have lower productivity than an exotic bird. Additionally, farmers may not prefer or favor a particular strain for an unanticipated reason (s). Therefore, farmers will be compensated in the coming production season with a breed they prefer. However, there are the following conditions for compensation:

  1. 1. Farmers need to properly manage any breed they receive; and
  2. 2. Farmers should manage all of the breeds ( in case of option 2 and option 3) similarly.

2. On-station Testing

2.1. Testing at Poultry Research Facilities:

The on-station testing will be conducted in a minimum of two separate locations in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria. The chicks will be identified with wing and leg bands. The chicks will be grown together till 6 weeks of age on ad lib feeding. 10% more feeders and drinkers than standard will be provided to the birds to avoid competition for feed and water. Afterwards the females will be transferred to the experimental pens. Chicks will be kept in a large (30*10 m) poultry house during the brooding and growing period. The males will be kept in the brooding house, 100 males will be weighed up to 20 weeks of age every two weeks until 20 weeks of age. Females will be managed following breeders’ recommendation. Body weight of females will be measured at age at first egg (5 % are in lay) and when they reach 50 % egg production. Feed intake (group; weekly by weight), egg production (group-house performance) and age at highest egg production will be recorded. Group body weight will be measured every two weeks starting from six weeks of age Measurements will be taken at 8, 12, 16, 18 and 20 weeks of age. Egg production to 78 weeks of age will be considered. The second on-station site will be decided in consultation with sub-national stakeholders. The protocol will be replicated at the second on-station site. For example in Ethiopia, two poultry houses with 6 pens/house and 12 pens are available. The area of each pen will be 5 m*3.3 m. A total of 198 km2 area (16.5 m2 * 6 * 2 houses) will be available. 275 chicks per strain or breed will be housed, which will be 225 chicks per strain to be distributed into 3 pens (135 per pen at the age of transfer).

2.2. Health management:

The health management includes a standard vaccination program and biosecurity measures.

2.3. Feeding management:

The standard feeding management for imported breeds and recommended practices for indigenous chickens will be followed closely.

2.4. Human power:

Feeding, cleaning, weighing will be routine activities during the on-station testing. One person per strain will be assigned to take care of activities. During weighing of the chickens, an additional work force will be used.

3. Responsibilities at various levels

Local strains will be procured by the NPC (National Project Coordinator) and PIT (Project Implementation Team) as per the guidance given by the PI (Principal Investigator) and the Co-PI (Co-Principal Investigator). Importation of fertile eggs will be done by the PI, co-PI and NPC in consultation with the ILRI ACGG team. The Baseline survey planning and execution will be led by the PIT, SNC (Sub-National Coordinators) and NPC with a guidance from the PI and co-PI. The on-station testing will be the responsibility of the PIT, PI, co-PI and NPC. The on-farm testing will be led by the PC, PIT, and SNCs. Launching of the program will be led by the PIT, PI, Co-PI, PC. * The ACGG team at ILRI will provide technical backstopping and management support. Apart from this, in Ethiopia, a Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) is expected to be signed between the EIAR (Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research) and the Regional Agricultural Research Institutes (RARIs) in Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, Southern, and Addis Ababa National Regional States. This MoU will detail specific responsibilities. The MoU is also expected to be worked out and agreed-upon between On-station Testing Centers and Universities in Nigeria.