Guinea fowl may be one of the solutions when it comes to dealing with the onslaught of the Giant African Snail (GAS) in Trinidad and Tobago, which is being seriously considered.
Guinea fowl originate in Africa and are voracious eaters that consume ticks, snails, slugs, snakes, small rodents and other vermin that lurk in the back yard.
One of the drawbacks of keeping Guinea fowl was the cost. One bird would usually cost around $200. However, that has changed in the last few months as the operators of the St Mary’s Hatchery Limited at Moruga began hatching the birds locally, rather than importing eggs or birds.
Speaking with Guardian Media, Operations Manager at St Mary’s Hatchery, Vijay Bhagwat, revealed he operates the only commercial Guinea fowl hatchery in this country.
Bhagwat said the Hatchery is now able to produce 2,000 birds a month and retail each bird at $25. He said the birds have a double benefit in so far as they not only serve as a form of pest control, but also serve as an excellent source of meat and eggs. He explained they also are very low maintenance given that 50-90 percent of their feeding cost is derived from foraging out in the open throughout yards and farms.
“They are very good for pest control, so snails, slugs, ticks, snakes—pretty much any pest out there—they would control it,” he said.
According to Vijay Bhagwat, six Guinea fowl would be enough to rid an average yard of pests. This means there is no need to use harmful pesticides around people’s homes, which can endanger the health of both humans and pets.
Operations Manager of St Marys Hatchery Ltd. in Moruga, Vijay Bhagwat, holds up a 3-week-old Guinea fowl. (Image by SHASTRI BOODAN)
Bhagwat said he is also trying to promote Guineas as a viable alternate meat source to broilers, also commonly known as white fowl. He said there is a shortage of imported broiler chicks because of the global demand. Bhagwat said the price of broilers would continue to rise, and he suggested that persons with the space around their homes should start rearing Guineas.
“We saw a cheap viable alternative meat source,” he noted. “We looked at the feasibility and we said let’s get into Guinea production.”
The St Mary’s Hatchery boss said the eggs are almost 75 percent the size of a chicken egg and contain twice the protein and additional nutrients when compared to chicken eggs. He said the birds can grow to as much as seven or eight pounds and produce eggs year round.
Bhagwat said come 2023, he would be importing the French Guinea variety (also known as Jumbo Guinea fowl), the largest commercial guinea variety that would grow to as much as 12 to 14 pounds.
Bhagwat said the hatchery expects to ramp up production to 8,000 birds monthly by 2023, and even more, once the demand is there.
“We at St. Mary's Hatchery Ltd are willing to work with the Ministry of Agriculture to reduce the price of birds for customers through any incentive programme they may have,” Bhagwat said.
Meanwhile, president of the Agricultural Society of T&T (ASTT), Darryl Rampersad, said Guinea fowl may be the way to go, given the shortage of broilers on the market and the rising cost of feed.
Rampersad said the $300 million Agricultural Stimulus Package is underutilized and believes monies from the package should go into areas of research for the production of feeds and biological control of pests.
The Agricultural Society president said research facilities at the Sugar Cane Feeds Centre in Centeno and Mon Jaloux are being underutilized and bringing no real benefits to farmers.