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Poultry Breeding Centre (PBC)
The PBC is the oldest and longest-running station of the Animal Production Division, having started its operation in the 1960s.
Some historical facts
During the fifties the demand for poultry products, more particularly eggs, was greater than the supply. The country was importing table eggs to meet the demand of the population. To ensure the smooth and sound expansion of the poultry industry, to cut down imports and diminish the risks of disease introduction into the country, the Government decided to set up the Poultry Breeding Centre (PBC) at Reduit in 1959.Dr. J.D. Shuja was actively involved in the implementation of the PBC project.The chief aim of the Centre was to provide an incentive to the development of the poultry industry in Mauritius by providing day-old chicks at an affordable price to the farming community.
The PBC started to function early in 1960.Progeny tests were initiated with a view to selecting the best breed for the supply of good quality day old chicks to local poultry keepers. The nucleus stock comprised of White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red chicks imported from Hawkesbury Agricultural College in Australia. Later Light Sussex pullets were imported from the United Kingdom. In 1962 the hybrids “404” were introduced by importing Parent stock from Thornber Brothers in the United Kingdom.
The PBC did not confine its activities sole to the production of day old chicks. Trials were also conducted to assess various breeds and crosses in parallel with trial on feeds.In 1960, 45000 table eggs and 1,500 kg poultry meat were put on the market.The first day old chicks were supplied to the public from the PBC in May 1961. Since then chick production by the PBC has gone on increasing to reach a regular production of around 600,000 chicks (broilers and layers) annually as from 1988. This production has been maintained until 2012.
In 1957 the country imported 1,194,935 dozens of table eggs. Following the setting up of the PBC, which resulted in an increase in our local production, importation was reduced to 313,020 in 1966.
Afterward, Mauritius became self-sufficient in egg production.
The year 1968 marked the entrance of the private sector in the poultry industry. They took over broiler production in early 70’s.
To-day with a population of about 1.3 million inhabitants and receiving about a million tourists annually, the country is self-sufficient in both poultry eggs and poultry meat. We can without any doubt affirm that the PBC pioneered the success of the poultry industry in Mauritius.
Since 2002, PBC extended its activities to the production of ducklings with the help of the Chinese Agricultural Technical Team under the 14
Cooperation Protocol. A Duck Unit consisting of a farm at Albion, and a hatchery at PBC in Reduit has been created with the following objectives:
To develop high yielding meat strains through selection and breeding;
To supply day old ducklings to the farming community;
To serve as a training centre in duck production and management; and
To conduct research on duck nutrition.
Fifty ducks of
breed were selected from different parts of the island and used as the starting parent stock for the project. The first batch of ducklings (36) was hatched in October 2003 and they were sold to the public in the same month. Over the years, with the promotional campaign, availability of ducklings at PBC and training of farmers in duck production at Albion (with the collaboration of FAREI) and at FAREI Model Farms and Demonstration Centres where duck units have been set up, members of the public have shown great interest in duck rearing. Accordingly, PBC took measures to increase capacity of production to give them satisfaction as follows:
Construction of Duck Experimental Pens at Albion in July 2006 for conducting research on duck nutrition. The experimental pens covered an area of 62.5m
and consisted of 10 pens of 6m
Setting up of an air-conditioned egg holding room at Albion to improve egg storage conditions and increase hatchability on 04 December 2006.
Purchase of duck incubator of setting capacity 8000 eggs and hatching capacity 2000 eggs. The incubator entered into operation in 2007.
With these new facilities, production of ducklings increased more than ten folds.
Today, the PBC produces about 400 ducklings per week which it sells to168 registered duck farmers.
The Turkey Project was initiated in 2010 with a feasibility study to determine likely demand and status of production in Mauritius. From the conclusions of the study, it became clear that (i) consumption of meat was low because the product is largely unknown to the public (ii) demand from hotels was relatively high and (iii) lack of a stable and cheap source of turkey poults was a major constraint in the development of this subsector. To encourage more farmers into the business therefore, the Animal Production Division proposed a project to import parent stock from abroad and produce poults for sale to the farming community.
Approval for the project was obtained in September 2012. Necessary infrastructural works were carried out at Belle Vue ES. 514 day-old poults of the breed Orlopp Bronze Broad Breasted Turkey were imported from France (Grelier, a subsidiary of Hendrix International) on 18 October 2013. The choice of this breed was made in order to facilitate integration of the new birds with the flock of existing farmers. More improved breeds such as Broad Breasted White usually are unable to mate by themselves (requiring AI at 100%) and will thus be unable to breed with local females. However, for the further development of the turkey industry, the importation of more improved breeds might become necessary in the future.
This first importation was a very important test case to determine the adaptability of the birds to local conditions and for our staff to learn the intricacies of turkey production. The poults were initially housed at the Poultry Quarantine Unit (PQU) at Curepipe. They were later transferred to Poultry Breeding Centre at Reduit to continue their brooding. Turkeys normally have a lower growth rate than other poultry species. However, considerable improvement in the genetics has greatly improved growth rates. The average growth rate for Orlopp Bronze was 344g/week over 8 weeks. The growth pattern is very close to the norm as shown in figure below.
These results indicated that imported turkey did not have significant adaptability issues to the local climate.
However, other management issues became apparent when rearing the stock for production of local poults. Low egg fertility was a major problem. This is a natural phenomenon in turkeys. Despite choosing a medium breed, fertility remained very low (about 30%). Under a normal parent stock production farm, this would be countered through artificial insemination. The staff of the Animal Production Division did not have sufficient expertise in turkey AI at that time. Consequently, the project was put on hold pending a solution to the fertility problem.
In 2015, the Ministry decided to bypass the fertility problem by importing fattening stock for direct sale to farmers (instead of keeping parent stock and producing poults locally). This simplified the process considerably. In view thereof, a new Turkey Quarantine Unit was set up at the cost of Rs 12M to keep imported poults during the quarantine period. The Turkey Quarantine Unit became operational on 06 December 2018 with the arrival of the first batch of commercial turkey poults from France.
Link to video: Turkey poults at the Turkey Quarantine Unit
Picture: New Turkey Quarantine Unit at PlaineMagnien (Panoramic view)