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EFFECT OF EJACULATION FREQUENCY AND MANAGEMENT CONDITIONS ON SEMEN QUALITY, FERTILITY AND HATCHABILITY OF LOCAL TURKEYS IN THE HUMID TROPICS

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CHAPTER ONE

 

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background of the Study

Food insecurity which is felt in most developing nations including Nigeria over the years has accentuated the already critical animal protein deficiency among human populations. High cost of livestock and poultry has limited the capacity of an average Nigerian to consume adequate quantity and quality of animal protein (Hamzat et al., 2003). Emeruwah (1999), and Ojewola, et al. (2004) prescribed massive production of animals with short reproduction cycles such as pigs, rabbits and poultry as the only remedy to the acute animal protein shortage in Nigeria. This however, has undoubtedly spurred research efforts in the direction of these animals that offer the highest turn-over rate and the quickest return on investment. Obviously, rabbit meat is not popular in Nigeria and its commercialization is limited by unknown factors. Pigs on the other hand suffer religious alienation. Thus, poultry has been the animal of choice (Sanni and Ogundipe, 2003). Although, production of local chicken is evident, large scale, medium scale and the back-yard poultry production enterprises are gaining ground in Nigeria as producers now mostly rear more productive exotic broiler and layer types of chicken which have shown considerable levels of adaptation to the prevailing environmental conditions.

Okpeku, et al. (2003) noted that the exotic chickens require expensive inputs as a result of which, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain the poultry industry over the years under a poor economy .The prevalent high exchange rate of the naira to foreign currency needed for importation of parent stock and some feed ingredients not found locally is not helping matters. Onyimonyi and Onukwufor (2003) opined that the ban on importation of poultry meat and egg by Nigerian government may bring to an end the era of egg glut and low market for locally produced poultry meat and above all, encourage local production of chicken. Although, their assumptions appear to be the case, poultry meat and egg are apparently becoming ostentatious. The Smallholder Family Poultry Concept for Food Security and Poverty Alleviation in Nigeria has no doubt shown how other local poultry resources can improve rural livelihood (Sonaiya, 2002b). Therefore, the emphasis on the need to consider other poultry resources while combating animal protein shortage in Nigeria has formed the backbone of this study.

Turkey farming is very popular in the Western countries. The major producing countries are the United States of America, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In 2004, the estimated world turkey meat production was 4.94 million tonnes (Central Poultry Development Organization, 2008). However, Nigeria’s contribution to the above statistic is not known. Commercial breeds and strains of turkeys such as Broad Breasted Bronze, Broad Breasted White, White Nicholas 300, Big-6, Hybrid Large White and a host of others have been developed by University Research Stations and reputable commercial turkey breeding companies in the Western world. Strong preference and elaborate research reports have been focused on these modern turkeys as a result of which they have been highly bred for intensive production. There are however, other types that thrive as scavengers under the extensive system of production practiced in localities of developing countries. They roam about, feeding on fresh grasses, insects, worms and snails. These genetically undeveloped, self-reliant, heat tolerant and rugged types are the least studied of all turkeys. Little effort has so far been directed at improving their productivity under free-range condition (Abeke and Ubani, 2008). Research reports on them are therefore scanty or non-existent (Zahraddeen, et al., 2005).

Commercial turkey production in Nigeria is still rudimentary. The reason for this apparent low production seems to be due to lack of appreciation of its potential role in meat production and national economy or perhaps lack of understanding and knowledge of its management and production requirements (Abeke and Ubani, 2008). In Nigeria, turkey is a premium bird. Both local and exotic breeds are highly valued. Although some level of commercial production is evident, small stock-holder producers dominate the turkey industry. Commercial producers develop their flock structures with prolific exotic “broiler” strain. Back-yard and medium scale farmers operate with local types and exotic broiler strains in small flock units.

One of the major challenges facing turkey production in Nigeria and other developing countries is the low capability of the species to reproduce by natural mating. Breeders who rely on natural mating procedures often encounter poor results due to the clumsy nature of the toms as a reproductive partner. Modern turkey hens throughout the world are bred by artificial insemination. This is not because of the genetic merit to be gained, but primarily because the size and conformation of the male in terms of the extensive development of pectoral muscles arrived at during genetic selection for weight gain, culminated in diminished libido and reduced ability to perform during natural mating (Sexton, 1982; Burke, 1984). Burke (1984) further observed that modern toms lack the coordination and dexterity to accomplish sufficient mating to assure high fertility. Partial completion of the mating act even without transfer of semen to the female results in variable periods of sexual refractoriness during which time hens normally will not re -mate. The development of artificial insemination technology over the past decades has resulted in some significant advances in poultry breeding. The objective of artificial insemination programme is however not just to produce fertile eggs but to produce viable poults (Bakst, 1993). The US turkey industry relies on artificial insemination for the production of 300 million turkeys annually. Therefore, breeder fertility has been implicated to be of utmost importance to the overall success of the turkey industry. This is based on the realization that even the best incubators and hatchery management procedures cannot produce chicks from infertile eggs (Keith, 2008). In Nigeria, breeder flock produces high percentage of infertile eggs even with the recommended mating ratio of 1:16 adopted by farmer.

This study has therefore been designed to determine the effects of ejaculation frequency and management conditions on semen quality, fertility and hatchability of local turkey eggs in a humid tropical environment.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

(i) Amidst fertility problems experienced in turkey production, artificial insemination has not been reported to be in use in turkey reproduction in Nigeria. Turkey production is a specialized enterprise and lack of sound research information on their reproductive requirements has led to the apparent little flock size and poor output of turkey meat in the country.

(ii) The practice of selecting breeder toms based on appealing phenotypic characteristics without recourse to their inherent breeding value appears to be responsible for the apparent small poult hatch at the end of the laying cycle. This has however continued to wreak monumental economic havoc in both small and large scale turkey farms in Nigeria.

(iii) Characterization of the local turkey semen for the two major systems of production adopted by farmers in the humid tropics of Nigeria has not been done. This has led to the lack of information on the fertilizing ability of these turkeys for on-farm artificial insemination programmes. Research into the techniques of assessing the reproductive capacity of breeder toms through semen quality indices evaluation and the application of artificial insemination has become imperative in order to break the jinx of infertility in our local turkey breeder flock.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

This study seeks to:

  1. determine the effects of ejaculation frequency on the basic physical characteristics of local tom semen.
  2. evaluate and compare the semen quality indices of local toms under two management systems (intensive and semi-intensive systems).
  3. determine the fertility of semen and hatchability of local turkey eggs through artificial insemination as affected by ejaculation frequency and management systems.
  4. to determine the best ejaculation frequency and management system for optimum fertility of local turkeys.

1.4       Justification of the Study

Turkeys occupy an important position next to chicken in augmenting the economic and nutritional status in various human populations. Turkey meat has both nutritional and sensorial properties which make it ideal raw material for rational and curative nutrition. People prefer turkey meat because of its lean nature. The protein, fat and energy values of turkey meat are 24%, 6.6% and 162 calories per gram of meat respectively. Minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc and sodium are present. It is also rich in essential amino acids and vitamins like niacin, vitamin B6 and B12. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and essential fatty acids and low in cholesterol (Central Poultry Development Organization, 2008). The future of the Nigerian turkey industry is bright. Despite the high cost of turkey meat, consumers have continued to pay high prices for both imported and local turkey meat (Abeke and Ubani, 2008). This is no doubt, a clear indication of the wide potential roles of turkey as source of meat and income to the producers. However, due to the growing interest in turkey production in recent times, turkeys are making considerable in-road into the peri-urban and urban markets in Nigeria. The introduction of the Broad-Breasted strains of turkeys from the western world is already creating viable grounds for the production of hybrid turkeys with improved productivity. Improved housing, nutrition, management and advancement in medical care have resulted in the adoption of intensive management system in addition to the free range and semi-intensive management systems of production in many localities. These have led to marked increase in feed utilization, faster growth and control of several diseases. The application of artificial insemination on a wide scale to the Nigerian Turkey industry will boost interest in the production of turkeys which will further bridge the gap in animal protein supply in the country.

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