The quest for the betterment of livestock production has made an erudite scholar Professor Olufunmilayo Adebambo, of Animal Breeding and Genetics in the College of Animal Science and Livestock Production (COLANIM), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), alongside her poultry-breeding team, developed a new breed of chicken in the University; it was named after the university, FUNAAB-Alpha. This project started over 20 years ago, precisely 1994, with unrelenting and in-depth research; as the professor recounted.
According to Professor Adebambo, the first generation of the chickens were collected randomly all over South West, Nigeria; she further explained that the different types of local chickens (Normal Feathered, Frizzle Feathered, and Naked Necks), were collected all over Nigeria by the students of her department, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics (COLANIM). The collected chickens were screened for conservation and multiplication by her first Ph.D. student, late Dr. (Mrs.) Josephine Adenowo, during which, eggs were taken to Oyo town, Oyo State, for hatching, she said.
Professor Adebambo further disclosed that after stringent screening and selection of the 1,000 birds, only 27 made their way into the cage; these were the second generation of the birds. She explained that this stringent scrutiny was done to screen against diseases. The caged birds, 27, were further screened against brooding. Brooding is an inherent characteristic of local chickens, but very detrimental to commercial poultry production. From the second screening, only 17 non-broody birds formed the foundation stock in the cage.
In her words;
“From these 17, we started multiplication, cross-breeding, back-crossing, and crisscrossing, which brought us to where we are today”. We presently have a Gene Pool of seven lines from which the Alpha lines were generated. The birds are presently on test across the country, by rural farmers, as we are in the process of registering the breeds as FUNAAB-Alpha, the first indigenous chicken for Nigeria and which was developed by Nigerian scientists from the local scavenging chickens, viz: FUNAAB-Alpha indigenous birds (FIn-Alpha Birds). The FIn-Alpha birds comprise FIn-α Pullets and FIn-α broilers, selected over 12 and six generations, respectively. The FIn-αP is the dual purpose chickens, meant for meat and egg production, while the FIn-α B and the broilers are the meat type only”
“the two postgraduate students had to work critically on the genomics aspect, which could aid selection, using the blood group and genetic polymorphisms, to select for higher body weight in the birds. The result is that with the six generations of selection, the broiler line attains the 1.5 kg weight at eight weeks”.
Professor Adebambo likened birds to human beings as she related the success story; she said “while human beings have A, B, and O blood groups, chickens have A to Z blood groups, as well as the immune response genes used in selection for disease resistance/tolerance”
She further explained
“Presently, the chickens are being tested, all over Nigeria on our linkage with the African Chicken Genetic Gain (ACGG), sponsored under the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Ethiopia. The Bill & Melinda Gates’ Foundation-sponsored Pearl Project, has been linked to the ACGG, which is operating in three countries within Sub-Saharan Africa, namely: Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Nigeria. The ACGG is testing five other chicken breeds along with the FUNAAB-Alpha all-over Nigeria, under the Rural Household Economic Empowerment Scheme. This is to enable the farmers to decide on the two most preferred breeds under rural scavenging conditions. With the African Chicken Genetic Gain project, our birds are presently distributed across the five agro-ecological zones of the country. They are being reared by farmers in Rivers, Imo, Kwara, Nasarawa, and Kebbi states by 2,500 rural farmers.”
“At the last Science and Technology Expo in Abuja, all the birds were showcased and since then, request for FIn-α birds had been pouring in from all over the country. The FUNAAB-Alpha birds are also available in Osun, Lagos, Abuja, Ogun and Oyo states. After the 5th generation of selection, the improved indigenous chicken was initially showcased at the National Universities Commission’s Universities Research Fairs in 2004 and 2005, where the research won awards for indigenous chicken development in the country.”
Professor Adebambo disclosed the breeds of chickens that were used in the test, she said that Sasso chicken was imported from France, Kuroiler chicken from Uganda, Shika Brown, the chicken breed developed by the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the Fulani chickens are from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; all were evaluated alongside the FUNAAB Alpha and some of the results were generated.
Professor Adebambo disclosed that results generated from the research indicated that FUNAAB Alpha almost has the same production potential with the imported Sasso and Kuroiler and much better than the two indigenous breeds, Fulani and the Shika brown, according to the result generated by ACGG.
In her words
“The cocks, at 20 weeks of age, had a body weight of 1.3kg for Fulani cocks; FUNAAB-Alpha, 2.6; Shika Brown, 1.9; Kuroiler 2.9 and Sasso, 3.0., while for the hens, the body weight was 1.0, 1.9, 1.6, 2.3, and 2.2, respectively. The data also indicated that the age at first lay for Fulani chicken was 18 weeks; FUNAAB Alpha, 17 weeks; Shika Brown, 17 weeks; Kuroiler 18 weeks and Sasso, 19 weeks while the average egg weight per gram was 42, 51, 54, 55, and 55, respectively. The fertility percentage data also indicated 82 percent for Fulani chicken, 68 percent for FUNAAB Alpha, 89 percent for Shika Brown, 86 percent for Kuroiler and 89 percent for Sasso, while the hatchability percent was distributed as 60, 55, 74, 81 and 85, respectively. Mortality of the FUNAAB-Alpha recorded on our station was less than three percent at the brooding phase, two percent at the growing phase and 3.5 percent at the laying phase”
Professor Adebambo further disclosed the most fascinating characteristic of the birds; she said that they could be raised in cages or left to scavenge around homesteads, just like normal local chickens.
On a final note, Professor Adebambo implored the University Management, to partner with the research team on the PEARL project, for continuity and sustainability.
She said :
“If the University becomes one of the major shareholders, as the project is sited on FUNAAB ground, it would be a great thing, as this would then enable us to expand. We are presently into hatching and sale of day-old chicks, of the pullet and broiler lines as well as the Parent Stocks. If the University partners with us, not only would the project not die prematurely, we intend to establish the meat processing line, so that retailers and consumers can buy improved indigenous processed chicken, as at when required, at the farm gate for consumption and at our retailers for big occasions”. These birds are currently 50 to 62.5 percent indigenous with the local chicken blood. This is to assure our people that they are not chemically-generated and processed chickens. Speaking on plans for knowledge transfer, she disclosed that the 2,000 birds that are currently on ground were products of the students of the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics. “We have undergraduates, Master’s and Ph.D. students, whom we train annually on the project. We have Ph.D students working on the genomics selection, general animal breeding and artificial insemination and a Ph.D. student from the Department of Animal Nutrition (ANN), who is looking at the feed component by designing new feed that is suitable and cheaper as well as supplementation with local preventive condiments against diseases”.
This is indeed a great and laudable development in the poultry production industry. With this bold step, poultry farmers would earn more and the business would be more profitable. We applaud the great professor and her breeding team; they have contributed greatly to the development of livestock production.
More success results are what Nigerian farmers anticipate; it high time we looked inward to maximize production. Kudos for the great work done by the great people, Professor Olufunmilayo Adebambo and her poultry-breeding team!
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