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Livestock feed

Azolla has enormous potential as a livestock feed due to:

Its high content in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A,

vitamin B12, Beta Carotene), growth promoter intermediaries and

Its ability to proliferate without inorganic nitrogen fertilization.

Its high rate of growth in water without the need to displace existing
crops or natural ecological systems.

It has been used for many years throughout Asia and parts of Africa to feed
pigs, ducks, chickens, cattle, fish, sheep and goats and rabbits.
Click here for details about cultivating Azolla for livestock feed and its
profitability when used as a livestock feed.

Suitability of Azolla as a livestock feed

Green plants have long been recognized as the cheapest and most abundant
potential source of proteins because of their ability to synthesize amino acids
from a wide range of virtually unlimited and readily available primary
materials (Fasuyi & Aletor, 2005)
Azolla is very rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A,
vitamin B12, Beta Carotene), growth promoter intermediaries and minerals
including calcium, phosphorous, potassium, ferrous, copper, magnesium. On
a dry weight basis, Azollahas 25-35% protein content, 10-15% mineral
content, and 7-10% comprising a combination of amino acids, bio-active

substances and biopolymers (Kamalasananaet al.,

2002). Azollas carbohydrate and oil content is very low.
Azolla is also rich in iron (10008600 ppm dry weight), copper (3210 ppm
dry weight) manganese (1202700 ppm dry weight), vitamin A (300600 ppm
dry weight.), vitamin A (300600 ppm dry weigh), chlorophyll and carotenes.
It contains 4.86.7% dry weight crude fat, with 6.17.7% and 12.8 26.4%
total fat for the polyunsaturated acids omega 3 and omega 6 (Paoletti et al.,
Azolla meal contains 25.78% crude protein, 15.71% crude fiber, 3.47% ether
extract, 15.76% ash and 30.08% nitrogen free extract on the air-dry basis
(Basak et al., 2002). In addition, aquatic plant species including Azolla do not
to accumulate secondary plant compounds and therefore has a greater
potential than tree leaves to source protein for monogastric animals.
Becerra et al. (1995), Lumpkin & Plucknett (1982) and Van Hove & Lpez
(1983) all concluded that Azolla is the most promising aquatic plant for
livestock feed due to its ease of cultivation, productivity and nutritive
value. Azollas use as a feed for fish, swine and poultry was also tested and
recommended by Alcantara & Querubin (1985) and Tran & Dao
(1979) reported that one hectare of Azolla can produce 540-720 kg of protein
per month.
Azollas composition therefore makes it one of the most economic and
efficient feed substitutes for livestock, particularly as can be easily digested
by livestock due to its high protein and low lignin content.
Here are some examples.


Chickens enjoying Azolla

Poultry and in particular ducks and chickens can be raised on a diet including
fresh Azolla. It has long been recognized as a feed for wildfowl in the USA and
for domesticated ducks in China and it has been used as a feed to domestic
fowl in Vietnam (Dao & Tran, 1966).
The poultry industry has traditionally been one of the most profitable
businesses in Bangladeshsagriculture, providing nutritious meats and eggs
for human consumption within the shortest possible time.
However, the industry is now threatened by higher prices and the nonavailability of feed ingredients, reflecting feed costs comprising 60-65% of
the total cost of poultry production.
In India, Subudhi & Singh (1978) concluded that fresh Azolla could replace
about 20% of commercial feed in the diet of young chickens. They estimated
that to replace this much commercial feed would require about 9 kg of
fresh Azolla each day for 100 chickens and that this amount could be
produced in a shallow pond 60 m in area.
Alcantara & Querubin (1985) and Querubin et al. (1986) found that the
nutrient digestibility of crude protein, crude fat, and crude fiber were not
affected by the level of Azolla in the ration, and that broilers can readily
digest the crude fiber in Azolla, but not that in rice bran, so that digestibility
is not a limiting factor when Azolla is used. Kamalasanana et
al. (2002) and Prabu (2007) also found that the nutrient constitution
of Azolla is almost identical to that of commercial poultry feed, except
that Azollasprotein content is high and calcium content is slightly low.

Their feeding trials showed that 2025% of commercial feed could be

replaced by supplementing it with fresh Azolla, with the addition
of Azolla feed also having a variety of benefits:

Birds with 75% of the regular feed and 12.5% in the form of Azolla had
an almost equal weight to birds with 100% regular feed.

Furthermore, birds receiving normal feed with 5% extra in the form

of Azollagrew faster than the birds with 100% feed alone and had a 10
12% increase in the total body weight.

The number of eggs laid per bird and the quality of eggs (the yellow
yolk portion of egg being more prominent and yellowish) was better
than in birds not fed onAzolla.

Basak et al. (2002) investigated the use of Azolla pinnata meal as a 5%

supplementary feed for commercial broiler chicks in Bangladesh. Based on
their investigations, they concluded that:

Live weight, production number and protein efficiency were

significantly improved.

Feed conversion ratio and energy efficiency were significantly


The total broiler was cost significantly lower with the Azolla meal.

Dressing and giblet percentages was significantly increased on diet

with 5%Azolla meal.

Azolla meal had no deleterious effect on the palatability of the broiler


The addition of Azolla meal has no deleterious effect on palatability of

the diets.

Egg-type chicks
As in Bangladesh and India, the poultry industry as one of the most profitable
business of agriculture in Nigeria, providing nutritious meats and eggs for
human consumption within the shortest possible time, but the availability of
quality feed at a reasonable cost is a key to successful poultry operation.
The Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Ibadan, Ibadan in
Nigeriaconducted a program to increase the feed base production systems to
locally available feed resources in developing countries. Alalade & Iyayis

(2006) study at the Faculty determined the chemical composition

of Azolla meal and assessed its feeding value for egg-type chicks. They
reached the following conclusions that supported those of Basak et
al. (2002):

The chemical score index showed the potential of Azolla meal to be a

good source of protein. Leucine, lysine, arginine and valine were the
predominant essential amino acids while tryptophan and the sulphurcontaining amino acids were deficient.

Azolla meal has a potential as a feed for chicks. The inclusion

of Azolla meal up to 10% improved performance of chicks.

Rice-Duck-Azolla-Loach cultivation

Co-culture of Azolla-rice-duck

The Japanese farmer Dr Takao Furuno has developed rice-duck-Azolla-loach

cultivation as an integrated biosystem which eliminates the need for
fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides by incorporating duck-raising into
organic rice cultivation. The approach is now being replicated with
substantial success all over south-east Asia as an effective way to boost
farmers incomes, reduce environmental impact and improve food security.
Read more about the excellent and sustainable methods developed by Dr
Furono here.

Azolla as a feed for Mallards

Azollas potential as a feed for Mallard (egg production) and Muscovy (meat
production) ducks has also been investigated in Vietnam. Becerra et
al. (1995)conducted feeding trials to determine the effect of feeding Azolla
microphylla as partial replacement of the protein in boiled soya bean in diets
based on sugar cane juice for meat ducks.
Fresh Azolla was offered ad libitum three, four or five times per day, at a rate
of 1 kg fresh weight per pen at each feeding and the times increased with the
age of the birds to minimize losses. The rations were fed from the age of one
month to 70 days old.
Daily boiled soya bean allowances were calculated so that Azolla offered ad
libitumwould supply approximately 0 (control), 15, 30, 45 or 60% of the daily
crude protein intake. A vitamin-mineral premix (0.5% of the diet) and
common salt (0.25% of the diet) were mixed with the whole boiled soybeans.
The results showed no significant differences between the dietary treatments
containing 0, 20, 30 and 40% Azolla replacing corresponding levels of PSS,
both for Mallard (egg production) and Muscovy (meat production) ducks.
Becerra et al. (1995) concluded that fresh Azolla can partially replace whole
soya beans up to a level of about 20% of the total crude protein in diets of
fattening ducks based on sugar cane juice, without any problems or no
adverse effects to growth rate or health. Cost of feed per kg gain was the
lowest, and net profit per bird highest for this treatment.