The poultry industry is very important to the Nigerian economy because it provides a good source of animal protein in eggs and meat. Protein plays important roles in the formation of a balanced human diet which is essential for the good health, vigor and productivity capacity of the people (Abdullahi, Maqbool & Bukhsh, 2007). Protein is also important in the building and repair of body tissues; a low intake of protein hinders the development of the brain, reduces the skillfulness of the young and retards the growth rate and resistance to infections (Ogidan, 2002). Animal protein sources include fish, eggs, poultry meat, beef, milk, bacon, pork and mutton. In Nigeria, the three most popular are frozen fish, beef, poultry egg and meat (Apantaku, 2006).
The usefulness of any food for body building depends on the amount of protein it contains. The poultry egg industry, apart from providing employment and livelihood to thousands of people in Nigeria, also provides high quality, nutritious food. The poultry egg is a complete protein with excellent quality; one egg will give 6g of protein and egg-white protein has a biological value of 100, the highest biological value of any single protein (FAO, 2005).
Tijani, Alimi and Adesiyan, (2006) reported that eggs have a number of uses apart from domestic consumption in households; they are used in confectionary bakery products, ice creams and cosmetics. Egg shell is a good source of calcium, the nutritional status of many Nigerians is characterized by low calorie and protein intakes and Nigerians’ greatest problem is that of inadequate animal protein in their diets (Iyangbe & Orewa, 2009).
However, Adepoju (2008) reported that the average per capital protein intake in Nigeria was 51.7g of which only 6.8g came from animal sources but in developed countries, the average per capita protein intake was over 90g with more than 65g of animal protein. Thus, widespread malnutrition will become more evident in the country if there is no substantial improvement in poultry production as a major source of protein. Egg production in Nigeria has been troubled by unstable trends in the economy. The problems of the industry make it very difficult for expansion and new producers find it hard to start a business. Such problems include the high cost of feed, outbreaks of diseases, and marketing problems. This situation has forced many small scale poultry farms to close down and those still managing to survive are producing at very high cost with serious input limitations (Adebiyi 2000). In Nigeria despite growth in the egg production industry since 2000, local demand has not been matched by local supply with reported egg imports of 730 million in 2000, which was down slightly from 732 million eggs imported in 1999 (United States Department of Agriculture, 2001).
Socio-economic Characteristics of Egg Farmers
The socio-economic characteristics of farmers have been widely considered important in agricultural production studies because of their influence on farmers output as they affect decision making. According to Adebayo and Onu (1999) some socio-economic characteristics of farmers which may affect the performance are: age, educational level, marital status, land ownership, access to credit facilities etc.
A study conducted by Achoja, et al (2006) on economic analysis of layer production in Imo State, Nigeria revealed that the mean age of male is 49 years while that of the female is 45 years. More than 50 percent of the farmers (male and female) constitute of those that have attained the age of 41 years and above. This shows that those engaged in poultry keeping in the zone are mainly adults.
According to FAO (2005) and IFAD (2007) report shows that most women farmers have small farm sizes due to their ignorant of some of the available sources of credit needed to increase their farm sizes and this was further attributed to their level of exposure and poor knowledge of loan transaction procedures. Accordingly this study revealed that the mean number of birds kept by male farmers were four hundred (400) birds while the mean size of female poultry farmers were two hundred and fifty (250) birds. Most (54%) of the male farmers had farm size of 300 to 900 birds, while majority (72%) of the female farmers had farms size of 100 to 700 birds.
Effong (2005) and Idiong (2005) reported that relatively large household size enhances the availability of labour, although, large household size may rob a farmer the opportunity of obtaining financial help in form of credit as this credit maybe directed to some other family matters.
This findings revealed that majority (44%) of the male farmers had household sizes of 7 to 9 persons, while most (40%) of the female poultry farmers had household size of 7 to 9 persons. Onyenucheya and Ukoha (2007) on economic analysis of layer production found that majority (71%) of male farmers and most (75%) of the female farmers have primary and secondary education respectively. Only 17.8% of the male attained higher school level, while that of female were 14.4%.
They further state that high level of education is an added advantage in term of borrowing especially in formal financial institutions. Again educated farmers are expected to be more responsive to improve training techniques while farmers with low level of education are likely to be less responsive to improved techniques, (Okoye et al, 2002; Ajibefun and Aderinola, 2004).
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