Could the humble chicken be the solution to sustainable food security in Africa?
This was one of the fundamental questions posed at the recent official opening of the Poultry Nutrition and Management Research Facility on the University's Experimental Farm. This facility was upgraded to the amount of R2 million, with a major part of the cost being covered through collaboration with generous sponsors from the poultry industry.
Dr Christine Jansen van Rensburg, Head of the Research Facility, said: 'Through this Research Facility we will re-organise poultry research to align with the University's vision and support poultry production in Africa as being the solution to improve protein nutrition and food security in Africa.'
'We are also forging strategic collaborations with key international poultry science research centres and will maintain close relations with the South African poultry industry. We strive for excellence in incubation, nutrition, and broiler management research. Furthermore, by developing knowledge and new talent in poultry science we strive to contribute to the future success of our industry,' she said.
The Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Prof Jean Lubuma, also emphasised how this facility will assist in positioning the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences as a leading research intensive faculty in Africa. He also highlighted the importance of the University's partnerships with industry in helping to advance scientific research while being beneficial to both academic and commercial interests.
Some of the research objectives of the incubation research unit facility include studying the effects of incubation temperature on embryonic development and subsequent broiler performance, providing chicks for broiler research trials, and to breed 'challenged chicks' in terms of gut development, physiological maturity, and susceptibility to metabolic diseases, often seen in commercial settings. From there, further studies would be conducted to examine the nutritional and management strategies needed to successfully rear the 'challenged chicks' in order to improve chicken health and performance.
The broiler section of the Poultry Nutrition and Management Research Facility will focus on determining digestible nutrient content of local feed ingredients. It will optimise feed recommendations for peak broiler performance and economic return under South African conditions. This will improve chicken health by reducing metabolic related mortality and leg culls, as well as investigate various feed additives and antibiotic replacement strategies (enzymes, probiotics, organic acids) to maximise chicken performance.
Overall, the renovations at the Poultry Nutrition and Management Research Facility promises to conduct new, cutting edge research in line with the University's vision, while also providing solutions for the future of food security in Africa.