Diary of a Poultry Farmer: My long search for cheaper source of protein

Friday April 21 2017

Lydia Kanyika holds her chicken in their housing shed.

Lydia Kanyika holds her chicken in their housing shed. When formulating animals' feeds, protein sources include fishmeal and plants sources like soya, sunflower and cottonseed cake. PHOTO | VIVIAN JEBET | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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For a long time, I have been searching locally and abroad for alternative sources of affordable protein for formulating my own chicken feeds.

Protein sources of livestock feeds include animal (mainly fishmeal) and plants sources like soya, sunflower and cottonseed cake.

Last month, I tested a type of fishmeal known as ochonga that I bought from fishmongers in Kisumu and it was as good as omena with a crude protein of 54 per cent (Seeds of Gold, April 15).

In the past, I had been sold poor quality fish meal mixed with sand and when I tested it, the protein content was as low as 10 per cent (Seeds of Gold, January 2, 2016).

I have also been searching outside the country and last week, I got a reply email from Lorita offering me “quality fishmeal at competitive price”. First, I will share my experience searching for ochonga.

By now you know I never use any product until I have done a proximate analysis, which assesses the protein content, ash, moisture and digestibility of a feed.

Very few laboratories in Kenya can undertake the analysis, therefore, I normally send about a kilo of the sample to Kalro laboratories in Naivasha. Each sample costs Sh1,000.

My search for ochonga took me to Kisumu. It was not hard to locate the main market next to the bus terminus.

The Jubilee market (or Chiro Mbero) is a bustle of activity and you will find all kinds of merchandise from cereals, fish, baskets, embroidery and clothing.

I was mainly interested in fish products. “I am looking for ochonga,” I asked a plump lady. She looked at me perplexed. I then added, “The small fish that looks like omena used for making chicken feeds.”

“Ahhh,” her eyes lit up. “You mean o-choo-ngaa. Your pronunciation confused me,” she added.


She led me to a section with sacks full of the feed. The seller, a lady in her 50s, showed me some of the fishmeal packed in gorogoro (2kg) tins.

“This one is Sh30, the other is Sh50 and that one is Sh100.” I opted for the Sh100 gorogoro tin which she packed for me in a plastic bag. Although she equated it to a kilo, when I weighed later, it was about 700g.

Since I was scheduled to depart back to Nairobi the following day, I headed straight to the hotel. Barely 30 minutes after settling in, I could not stand the nasty fishy smell in the room.

I decided to place the kilo of ochonga at the balcony. That brought some relief for the night but when I woke up in the morning, I headed to the balcony only to find the entire fishmeal missing. Apparently, some stray cats had made merry with it leaving for me a torn plastic bag.

I had no option but to go back to the market and buy more, but there was another problem.

With that awful smell, no airline would allow me board the plane with the luggage, which I could not stuff in my suitcase.

Among the list of items completely banned from aircraft are flammables, pressure containers, infectious materials, matches and poisons, you can for sure add fishmeal.

I decided to have it couriered back to my address in Nairobi and later I sent it to Kalro, which returned positive results.
On the other side, Lorita of Bevenovo Co. Ltd, Shandong Province, China, said, “We sell good quality fishmeal with 65 per cent protein and 90 per cent digestibility.”

My research showed the company exports fish meal to other countries like Peru, Korea, Sri Lanka and India. 


In China, fishmeal for animal feeds is made by steaming raw sea fish, drying and grinding it into powder. The fishmeal is then graded according to protein content with Grade A (72 per cent) being the highest and Grade D (60 per cent) the lowest.

Another thing I learnt is that in China, they don’t use the sun to dry the fishmeal. Drying in the sun lowers the quality.

Instead, they use a two-way process called pressing and drying at a high temperature of 500°C. The process removes most of the oil and water and turns it into a solid cake.

The interesting bit about the Chinese offer was a complete quality assessment report, meaning I don’t have to subject the fishmeal to further testing.

I will be sharing more about this new source of fishmeal.


Your questions Answered

Steven Ochieng: My Kienyeji chicks have bird flu that is not responding to medicines.

Get help from a vet and describe the symptoms in more detail.

Benard Wesonga: I am an avid reader of your diary. Share a poultry guide for beginners.

Please send me email for a free copy.

Solomon Oyuke: I read your articles regularly and I have developed an interest in poultry.

Thank you and keep reading.

Damaris Ndegwa: Please share a handout.

In addition to handout on basics, you will need a business plan. Please refer to my articles on February 4 and 11.