We need to approach mitigating climate change in poultry production from many different angles.

Mitigation refers to reducing climate change. We do this by reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We also enhance the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases, such as the oceans, forests and our soil.

Reducing greenhouse emissions in poultry production

What can we do to cut down on the emission of greenhouse gases in our poultry production?

Consider your on-farm energy consumption. We need some form of energy for lighting, ventilation, heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. Many smallholders are turning to solar power to meet some of these needs.

There are also carbon emissions in the slaughtering process. The transportation of chicken products – already burning fossil fuels – might also involve refrigeration, which increases the effects. This is most noticeable where chicken is exported overseas. South Africa is a popular destination for international producers.

mitigating climate change in poultry production
Poultry production requires a great deal of electricity.

Interestingly, most of the greenhouse gases (GHG) generated by the poultry industry is from feed production. CO2 is produced when fossil fuels are used to make fertiliser for crops. Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is also produced in the production of chicken feed.

Studies show that enteric fermentation accounts for 44% of the total poultry sector’s emissions. Enteric fermentation is a digestive process by which microorganisms break down carbohydrates into simple molecules for absorption into the bloodstream of the chicken. Methane is a by-product of this fermentation.

Poultry producers find that high quality fodder, increasing feed protein content and introducing supplements, including probiotics and prebiotics help to decrease methane emissions.

Poultry litter management

Chicken litter is a mix of chicken manure, spilled feed, water, feathers and bedding material. Traditionally smallholders spread it on fields as fertiliser. However, the amount of waste is so large that the land cannot absorb it all. Instead, it runs off fields and into streams and rivers. This causes many problems.

Chicken producers are in an ideal position to use this litter to produce biogas.  In this way they are producing energy to carry out the production process.

Genetic selection strategies

SA Smallholder has already highlighted the dangers of heat stress in poultry.  Climate-smart breeding programs look at heat stress-tolerant chicken breeds. Often it is the indigenous chickens which are hardier and able to cope with higher temperatures.  They do not need as much ventilation and cooling. Commercial breeders are considering using these positive traits in their breeding programmes.

Indigenous chickens are not as productive as most commercial breeds, but can play a valuable role in mitigating climate change in poultry production.

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Featured image from Estancia Poultry Farm.

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