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Comfrey replaces one-fifth of expensive chicken feed while improving egg, meat quality

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Poultry farmers looking to reduce the exploding cost of store-bought feeds have found a solution in Russian comfrey– a traditional vegetable that can replace one-fifth of poultry feeds– and improve the selling quality of eggs and meat.

Poultry fed on diets with 20 per cent comfrey have shown similar production as those fed on a diet of only store-bought feeds. Additionally, their egg yolks were brighter with a distinct yellow colour that also appeared on their meat increasing their marketability. 

Dry Russian Comfrey leaves (mafaki/mabaki) contain up to 25 per cent protein higher than almost all grasses. In poultry, protein is used for egg production, growth, health maintenance, and healing in case of injury or disease. 

30 to 100 grams of comfrey can be fed to chicken daily–30 to 67 per cent of the daily feed diet of a grown chicken. This can be given whole or chopped in with other feeds.

Comfrey is unique as it is packed with minerals that give poultry birds strong bones, harden eggshells, improve chick health, and reduce chick death during hatching.

“The eggs I am getting now have a deep yellow colour that buyers value. They are much richer than those I used to get two years ago,” beamed Francis Ndemo– a poultry farmer in Kisii who was introduced to the crop by a friend.

From three young cuttings, he was able to start harvesting his comfrey in just three months. While it prefers moist soils, comfrey is a hardy crop that can withstand harsh weather thanks to its deep roots.

Comfrey is high-yielding and can produce up to 40 t/ha of dry matter yearly. Once the plant is established it should be cut severally in the year. Its leaves can reach a height of one meter and overwhelm other plants if left to grow freely. Leaves are ideally harvested when younger than 12 weeks before they are too difficult to cut and have low nutritional value. 

Ndemo says some of his chickens were reluctant to eat the comfrey but ripped it apart once it was wilted. This is because the crop’s leaves have hairs that can be irritating. This also makes it not an ideal feed for chicks less than eight weeks old.

“Now they are so used to it, and eat it fresh without issues,” he said. 

Excess harvested leaves can be dried, stored, and used as later feed. Dried comfrey can also be milled with chicken feed or brewed into tea for sick chickens.

Read more:

Nyamira women make Sh77K a week from spider plants

Comfrey an emerging high-protein napier supplement

Russian comfrey growing in popularity owing to ‘wonder plant’ status 

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