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Developing the use of local feed resources for pigs and poultry in Kiribati

P. Thorne

Peter Thorne's address is Natural Resources Institute, Central A venue, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, UK.

The Republic of Kiribati comprises a number of coral atoll archipelagos spread over 2 000 miles along the equator in the central Pacific Ocean. The total population is small (65 883 in 1985) but is concentrated mainly in the western atolls, particularly on South Tarawa where the population density is 1 354 per km² compared with 86 per km² for the country as a whole (AIDAB, 1989). Livestock husbandry in Kiribati fulfils an important social role as well as contributing to human nutrition. Animals, particularly pigs, represent a valuable capital reserve which is important for fulfilling social obligations at times of births, marriages and deaths. The range of human foods in atoll countries is limited because of poor soils and little variety of ecosystems. Consumption of meat products increases this range and can help to combat malnutrition by providing high-quality protein to supplement the established diet of fish.

The small island nations of the Pacific region face considerable problems in meeting their requirements for livestock feeds of appropriate quality and at acceptable prices. Imported feeds are expensive and shipping difficulties can result in periodic shortages or spoilage in transit. Increasing the use of locally available alternatives is clearly economically desirable but may be constrained by a lack of technical expertise and appropriate processing technology or small quantities of and lack of variety in the local raw material base, the latter being particularly important in atoll countries such as Kiribati.

Traditional extensive livestock production systems make use of feed resources that are available incidentally from other agricultural activities and household wastes. There may be scope, however, to improve resource use by promoting awareness of the nutritional complementarily of different feedstuffs in improving the overall nutritive value of the traditional diet.

Previous studies on the use of locally available feed resources in Kiribati have been reviewed by Pendle (1987). Some experiments, although resulting in acceptable growth performances, could not be recommended because of poor economic returns. However, the results of a trial in which copra meal and fresh fish were used for fattening pigs were more promising (Ochetim and Beia, 1989). Growth rates were comparable with those achieved using imported compound feed but a considerable economic benefit resulted from the use of the local feed.

1. Raw materials with potential for pig and poultry feeding in Kiribati

Matières premières potentiellement intéressantes pour l'alimentation des pores et de la volaille à Kiribati

Materias primas que pueden utilizarse como piensos pare los cerdos y las aves de corral en Kiribati

Raw material

Availability (tonnes/year)


Reject fish


Mainly tuna rejects from commercial fishery. Tilapia in brackish water ponds might also be used as these are considered Unfit for human consumption

Copra meal


From commercial soap producers. Other sources are currently in development

Reef mud

Not estimated but unlikely to be limited

Source of dietary calcium. May be of particular importance for breeding/laying poultry

Green fodder

Not estimated

Little used at present. Could form a valuable source of protein but some fodders may require processing

Fresh coconut

Not estimated but unlikely to be limited

Currently the principal feed resource under extensive conditions

Cytosperma chamissonis1

Not estimated

Peel might be used for livestock, but there is a high human food demand for the roots

Breadfruit, pandanus,2 fruit

Not estimated

Only spoiled or excess fruit could be used. Occasionally spoiled pawpaw or bananas might be available but these are not widely grown

1 Swamp taro known locally as babae.
2 Screw-pine.

A pigsty in Kiribati providing ideal conditions of shade and wallow - Une porcherie à Kiribati: les animaux peuvent patauger à l'ombre dans leur bauge - Establo de cerdos de Kiribati con condiciones ideales de sombra y revolcadero

2. Analysis of fish/copra meal mix used in feeding trials

Analyse du mélange farine de poisson/coprah utilisé en essai d'alimentation

Análisis de una mezcla de harina de pescado y copra utilizada en ensayos de alimentación

Nutritional content


Dry matter


Crude protein


Ether extract


Crude fibre










Methionine + cystine










Tyrosine + phenylalanine






Note: Ingredient composition, dry matter (DM) basis - minced fish, 28 percent; copra meal, 72 percent.

3. Summary of results from a trial to study the use of compound pig feeds in Kiribati

Résultats d'une étude expérimentale de l'utilisation d'aliments composés pour les pores à Kiribati

Resumen de los resultados obtenidos en un ensayo con cerdos pare estudiar el empleo de piensos compuestos en Kiribati


Level of significance






Mean daily liveweight gain (g/day)






Cost of feed ($A/tonne)




Cost kg of liveweight gain ($A)






Return/pig/year ($A)






1 Standard error of mean.

Funded under the technical cooperation programme of the United Kingdom Overseas Development Administration, a series of feeding trials were carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resource Development on the incorporation of locally available feeds into pig and poultry diets. The results were considered in terms of resource availability and current feeding practices.

Feeding systems

Under the traditional systems of livestock production, few cash, labour or management inputs are required. Although productivity is correspondingly low, risk is also minimized, which is an important factor in an economy in which limited amounts of currency circulate. Feeding under village conditions is characterized by considerable variability in the feeds used on a day-to-day basis. This can be beneficial in that certain specific deficiencies may be avoided by the use of a wide range of complementary feeds. However, in practice, protein deficiency usually results, and a greater degree of control therefore needs to be incorporated into these systems if nutrient intake is to be optimized.

Times change and even the atoll nations are experiencing the march of urbanization, which results in increasingly concentrated areas of demand for crop and livestock products. Such products can probably only be supplied by intensifying livestock production. In Kiribati, where small commercial producers in the main urban centre of South Tarawa already use imported pig, broiler and layer feeds, it should be seen as a matter of priority to substitute cheaper, local alternatives based on agricultural or fishery by-products where possible.


Locally available feed resources in Kiribati that have potential for feeding livestock are summarized in Table 1.

It would be misleading to suggest that Kiribati has sufficient local resources to solve all its problems of feed supply. The only materials currently available in any quantity are fish rejects as well as various products and byproducts of the coconut palm. However, research results suggest that these feedstuffs, if used efficiently and in a planned manner, could make a considerable contribution to the feed requirements of local livestock producers.

Protein is generally severely limited in livestock feeds of local origin. To improve these resources, therefore, priority was given to finding an appropriate method for using reject fish. Fish silage has been tested in Kiribati (Pendle, 1987) but, from the beginning of these studies, it was apparent that the high cost of additives necessary for fish silage production would render the process uneconomical.

A simpler and cheaper method was adopted in which minced reject fish was mixed in 1:2 volumetric proportions with copra meal and then sun-dried. The added copra meal absorbed much of the moisture from the minced fish, thereby facilitating a more even drying process and reducing fly attacks. The result of this process was a concentrate (Table 2) with a crude protein content of about 30 percent. This fish/copra meal mix, which was palatable and appeared to store well, was used as the major local ingredient in a series of trials with pigs as well as broiler chickens and laying hens.

Trials with pigs

A trial was conducted with 24 growing pigs of a domestically produced cross incorporating Yorkshire, Tamworth and local genes in uncertain proportions. The pigs were of 25 to 65 kg in liveweight. An imported compound diet was compared with two locally produced diets in which the fish/copra meal mix was used:

· Local. In combination with pulverized rotted coconut log and a supplementary mineral/vitamin mix. Chemical analysis of this material was not possible. Analyses of other woody materials (Gohl, 1981) would suggest that a crude fibre content below 50 to 60 percent would be unlikely. Most of the balance would comprise nitrogen-free extract with crude protein and fat contents below 2 percent. Such a composition would suggest a very low digestibility coefficient in the pig.

· Local/imported. In combination with imported maize and mill run (a mixed wheat bran fraction) and a supplementary mineral/vitamin mix.

The use of coconut log may seem unusual as this material will contribute little if anything to the nutritive value of the diet. It was included as a diluent since the levels of protein and energy in the straight fish/copra meal mix are well above those required by the pig, and dilution allowed the more valuable ingredients to be extended further. In view of the lack of locally available raw materials, this proved to be the only way that a compound diet in which all the major ingredients were of local origin could be formulated practically. A peripheral advantage of the use of coconut log was the interest generated among local farmers who seemed to think that anything so unusual must be worth some attention!

Growth rates observed in animals fed with the local diet were somewhat slower than those obtained with the imported or local/imported compound feeds (Table 3). However, this was compensated for by the low cost of the local feed which consequently allowed the cheapest production of pig-meat. The most important conclusion to be drawn is that a flexible production system based on local feeds is quite capable of ensuring adequate productivity and a good economic return.

In another trial, a pig feeding system based on the use of fresh raw materials was evaluated, using 16 pigs of between 25 and 55 kg in liveweight. Such a system may be less flexible depending on the frequency with which feeds must be gathered and the time taken for collection. However, the labour and energy costs of processing are avoided.

This on-farm approach was studied using fresh fish, fresh coconut, rejected fruit (breadfruit, pandanus) and/or green fodder in a comparison with an imported pig fattening diet. The local materials were intended to represent feeds that are readily available to farmers throughout Kiribati and not just those in the main population centre of South Tarawa. They are essentially "free" feeds but some effort is required in gathering them. In this trial, combinations of raw materials were based on simple proportions that could be easily managed by the smallholder livestock producer.

Black Australorps under intensive rearing conditions in Kiribati. In view of the limited feed resource base, there are doubts as to the applicability of this system - Elevage intensif d'australorps à Kiribati. Etant donné la pénurie d'aliments pour animaux, ce système n'est peut-être pas praticable - Gallinas Australorp en condiciones de cría intensiva en Kiribati. A la vista de las limitaciones en cuanto a los recursos de piensos, es discutible la aplicabilidad de este sistema

Tilapia may be harvested from brackish water ponds. Although considered unfit for human consumption, they have been used successfully to produce a sun-dried fish/copra protein supplement - Le tilapia que l'on pêche en eau saumâtre n'est pas comestible. Il sert à produire un complément protéique à base de farine de coprah et de poisson séché - La tilapia se puede pescar en los estanques de agua salobre, pero no se considera idónea pare el consumo humano. Se ha utilizado con éxito pare obtener harina de pescado y de copra secada al sol, que se emplea como suplemento proteico

The results of the trial (Table 4) illustrate that growth rates acceptable to "commercial" producers may be achieved with very simple combinations of locally available resources. The cost of feeding is low and potential returns should constitute a reasonable incentive to smallholders. It should be stressed, however, that other constraints do apply:

· The collection of raw materials, particularly fish; on a day-today basis represents a commitment that may interfere with the smallholder's other activities.

· In the outer islands of Kiribati, this extra effort would probably be considered worthwhile only where a reliable market exists for the extra pigs produced and such markets are far from widespread.

Trials with poultry

Experiments conducted in Kiribati with broiler chickens and laying hens have so far produced disappointing results compared with the pig trials (Table 5). It would appear that the range of ingredients available, while adequate for the production of pig feeds, is insufficient to meet the more rigorous nutrient specifications demanded by poultry, as the data were characterized by poor growth rates, egg production and low economic returns.

These results were, however, obtained with imported strains (Black Australorp, Shaver 579) in which the effects of suboptimal nutrition are likely to have been particularly serious. Further studies on the use of local feed resources with the local or crossbred chicken under existing production systems may be of value.

Matching feed demand with raw material supply

Trials which demonstrate the technical feasibility of using locally produced feeds in livestock diets cannot be used alone when formulating policies and strategies for meeting farmers' demand for feed. The total amounts of raw materials available in a country may be limited and there may also be irregularities in supply. Table 6 illustrates the extent of this problem in Kiribati.

Enough copra meal is produced in the country to support a small-scale feed production operation using diets of the kind tested in the trials. There is, however, an existing demand for copra meal to supplement the household waste normally fed to backyard pigs, and it would be unfortunate if this valid option were compromised by the incorporation of all available copra meal into compound feeds.

The most serious limitation is likely to be the supply of reject fish. The figure of 40 tonnes for annual availability is at best a very rough estimate. The bulk of this resource arises from spoilage of parts of Kiribati's commercial tuna catch and it is clearly in the fishing industry's interests to minimize such losses. To use this resource effectively, the feed producer must be able to handle relatively large quantities when available and store the processed feed for use in times of shortage.

4. Summary of results obtained with pigs fed simple combinations of locally available feeds

Résultats obtenus en nourrissant des porcs avec des mélanges simples d'aliments locaux

Resumen de los resultados obtenidos en cerdos alimentados con combinaciones sencillas de piensos disponibles localmente


Level of significance





Mean daily liveweight gain (g/day)





Cost of feed ($A/tonne)



Cost/kg of liveweight gain ($A)





Return/pig/year ($A)





1 Based on a selling price for copra of $A 0.29 per kg.
2 Standard error of mean.

5. Comparative summary of the use of locally produced and imported feeds in poultry production systems

Utilisation d'aliments locaux et d'aliments importés en aviculture: chiffres comparatifs

Resumen comparativo de la utilización de piensos de producción local e importados en sistemas de producción avícola





Days to slaughter



Feed conversion ratio



Return/100 birds/year ($A)




Mean percent of lay



Return/50 layers/year ($A)


3 694.40

6. Estimated demand and supply of raw materials for compound livestock feeds in Kiribati

Estimations de la demande d'aliments composés pour animaux et des disponibilités en matières premières à Kiribati

Oferta estimada y demanda de materias primas pare piensos compuestos en Kiribati

Class of feed

Current demand

Copra meal required

Reject fish required

Reject fish available

Copra meal available


Pig starter






Pig grower






Pig breeder






Broiler starter






Broiler finisher






Layer mash






Tilapia are found throughout the islands of Kiribati but are probably not concentrated enough in any one place to support a central compound feed processing operation, even on the small scale suggested in Table 6. The formulation of strategies for making immediate local use of this resource could be considered a priority.

In conclusion, it is suggested that, despite limited availability of livestock feedstuffs in Kiribati, various possibilities exist for optimizing the use of those that are available. In view of the small quantities involved and irregularities in supply, a flexible and opportunistic approach to the management of feed resources would appear to be the most suitable option.


AIDAB. 1989. Country paper - Kiribati. Canberra, Australian International Development Assistance Bureau.

FAO. 1981. Tropical feeds. Rome, FAO.

Ochetim, S. & Beia, T. 1989. Utilisation of local feed resources in pig feeding: the Kiribati experience. In Proc. Regional Workshop on Effective Utilisation of Locally Available Feed Resources in the Feeding of Pigs and Poultry in the South Pacific, 5-9 September 1988 (USP/IRETA/CTA), p. 39-43. Koronivia, Fiji, Fiji College of Agriculture.

Pendle, D. 1987. History of commercial livestock in Kiribati. Bikenibeu, Kiribati, Ministry of Natural Ressource Development, Division of Agriculture.

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