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Impact of Azolla (Azolla pinnata) as a Feed Ingredient in Commercial Broiler Production

Mahanthesh M. T. Aparna Hebbar H. Kotresh Prasad C. Deepandita Barman Badariprasad P. R. Narappa G. Pradeep Nag B. S.
Vol 8(4), 212-218

The study was conducted during summer season in a private owned organized poultry farm having broiler stock of 4400 one-day-old male vencobb broiler chicks. The experiment comprised of two treatments, wherein birds of first treatment were fed with commercial broiler feed and the birds in second treatment were fed with 70% commercial broiler feed and 30% azolla on W/w basis. Parameters such as average body weight gain (AWG), Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) and mortality rate were studied up to 45 days. The increase in 7.1% of AWG in azolla fed birds against the birds fed with 100% commercial feed was observed. Similarly, bird mortality was reduced by 3% in azolla fed birds compared to 100% commercial feed birds. There was a significant increase in FCR in azolla fed birds (1:1.14) against (1:2.14) in 100% commercial feed birds. The total cost of production was also reduced by 25.34% in azolla fed batch against 100% commercial fed birds. The carcass efficiency percentage and chicken taste was good as per consumer opinion. Off smell in and around the poultry farm was almost reduced and the house flies population hardly seen. Hence, high feed cost, high bird mortality rate during summer, off smell and house fly menace can be reduced by cultivation of Azolla in and around poultry farm and fed to the poultry birds.

Keywords : Azolla Meal Broiler Body Weight Feed Conversion Ratio


Feed is the single largest item of expenditure in any rearing system accounting to nearly two third of the total cost of production.  Therefore, formulation of an economic concentrate ration can considerably reduce the cost of production (Prasad et al., 2015). The Indian poultry industry has a significant effect on national economy; it is a popular industry for the landless farmers, small holders as well as to the marginal land holders with tremendous contribution to GDP and employment creation. Poultry feed costs more than 70% of the total cost of broiler production and also the fluctuating market price leading to the further reduction in income (Parthasarathy et al., 2002). Therefore, it is inevitable to practice the efficient feed formulation strategy for sustaining the poultry industry. The main objective of this study is to formulate the poultry feed using locally available feed ingredients such as Azolla and to reduce the cost of feeding in poultry. Therefore, to reduce the problem of high cost feed, Azolla has been introduced as an alternate feed ingredient in broiler poultry feed ratio. Azolla in dried form is not preferred by the birds and hence the use of fresh biomass is an excellent poultry feed with no side effects, about 20-25% of commercial feed can be replaced by the incorporation of fresh Azolla biomass (Subhudi and Singh, 1978).  Due to ease of cultivation, high productivity and good nutritive value it is used as a beneficial fodder supplement by various researchers (Singh & Subudhi, 1978; Prabha & Kumar, 2010).

Azolla is very rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A, B12 and β-Carotene), growth promoter intermediaries and minerals like calcium, phosphorous, potassium, ferrous, copper, magnesium etc. Crude Protein 26.4%, Ether extract 3.42%, Crude fibre 15.96%, Nitrogen free extract 41.06%, Total ash 14.86%. The carbohydrate and fat content of Azolla is very low. Its nutrient composition makes it a highly efficient and effective feed for livestock as per the report of Natural Resources Development Project Vivekananda Kendra, Tamil Nadu (Pillai et al., 2005) and the cultivation of Azolla is very simple and productivity is also good (Prabha and Kumar, 2010). The protein composition of Azolla varies from 25-35% on dry matter basis which is easily digested by poultry (Parashuramulu et al., 2013). Azolla pinnata is used as a feed for broiler chicken (Basak et al., 2002; Alalade & Iyayi, 2006), ducks (Becerra et al., 1995), fish (Nwanna and Falaye, 1997), pigs  (Becerra et al., 1990), rabbits (Sadek et al., 2010), small ruminants (Tamang and Samanta, 1993) and ruminants. The nutrient composition of Azolla is almost identical to that of commercial poultry feed, except that Azolla’s high protein content and slightly less of calcium content  is high and calcium content is slightly low (Kamalasanana et al., 2002).

Materials and Methods

Experimental Birds and Feed

The study was conducted during summer season in private owned poultry farm having broiler stock of 4400 birds of one-day-old male vencobb broiler chicks. The experiment comprised two treatments, where in birds of first treatment were fed with 100% (w/w) of Venky’s vencobb commercial broiler feed and the birds of second treatment were fed with  70% (w/w) of Venky’s vencobb commercial broiler feed and 30% (w/w) of Azolla.

Experimental Set-up

In the present study, 1 day old male chicks weighing 39 ± 20 g each were used as experimental birds and a completely randomized design experiment was conducted in a privately owned broiler poultry farm at village Sangapur, Koppal, Karnataka, India during summer 2013-14. The experiment comprised two treatments, wherein, about 2200 birds of first treatment were fed with of commercial broiler feed (Venky’s vencobb broiler commercial feed) and the birds of second treatment were fed with 70% (w/w) commercial broiler feed and 30% (w/w) Azolla. The lighting programme during experimental period consisted of a period of 23 hour and one hour of darkness and chickens were kept in an open sided partitioned deep litter pens with adequate ventilation. The floor was covered with wood shavings to act as adsorbent for the fecal droppings. The feeding and water troughs were cleaned daily to ensure there was no contamination. All the necessary prophylactic and vaccination schedules were followed. The parameters such as final average body weight, Feed conversion ratio (FCR) and mortality percentage was calculated with the formulae.

Statistical Analysis

The data were subjected to test of significance between the groups using least-square analysis of variance (Snedecor and Cochran, 1980). Significant group means were subjected to Duncan’s multiple range test (Duncan, 1955).

Results and Discussion

Body Weight Gain

The male broiler chicks were weighed initially at day one and subsequently every week interval till at the end of experimental period (45th day). The average weight gain was calculated as compared to 100% (w/w) of Venky’s vencobb commercial broiler fed group, the 30% (w/w) of Azolla fed group showed an increased average body weight gain of 150 grams per broiler bird (7.1%) at 45 days age (Table 1). Our results are in full agreement with the previous reports of Azolla as a feed ingredient for broiler birds (Rai et al., 2012). Whereas, Basak et al. (2002) and Parthasarathy et al. (2002) reported significant (P<0.01) improvement in live weight of broiler chicks than that of control diet fed birds when they were fed with 5 percent Azolla meal, while lower live weights percent of Azolla is increased above and concluded that the Azolla could safely be included at 5 % level, replacing 2.6 % wheat bran and 2.4 % fish meal without any adverse effect. In the present experiment the results shows the positive trend in the body weight gain in

Table 1: Weekly body weight of broilers

Age in Week Body weight gain in grams P value
Control Treatment
I 164.84 ± 1.72 176.05 ± 1.57 0.00**
II 425.01 ± 3.17 441.10 ± 3.37 0.00**
III 840.57 ± 4.18 870.05 ± 5.48 0.00**
IV 1230.80 ± 20.89 1260.92 ± 8.42 0.18
V 1726.69 ± 35.14 1770.73 ± 17.61 0.26
VI 2102.23 ± 16.00 2250.05 ± 16.23 0.00**

Azolla supplemented group so it can be used as a feed supplement to enhance productivity. Further research with different levels of azolla mix with other commercial feed will through more light on its practical utility.

Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR)

FCR is more in 30% of Azolla fed group (1:1.97) as compare to the 100% commercial broiler fed group (1:2.12). Previous workers have reported the use of Azolla supplement to enhance the FCR and body weight gain (Alalade and Iyayi, 2006) and the result of the present study with 30% Azolla also confirms the increases FCR and body weight gain. But results are in contrary to Parthasarathy et al. (2002) as they reported that the feed and protein efficiency ratios were similar in basal and 5 % Azolla diets whereas, these were significantly (P<0.01) decreased as level of Azolla increased from 10 to 20 %.

Table 2: Average Daily Gain (ADG) of broilers

Age in Week ADG in grams P value
Control Treatment
I 23.53 ± 0.25 25.10 ± 0.22 0.01**
II 37.17± 0.46 37.97 ± 0.52 0.25
III 59.46 ± 0.53 69.21± 0.92 0.14
IV 55.62 ± 3.04 56.01 ± 1.27 0.90
V 70.84 ± 3.42 72.83 ± 2.71 0.81
VI 53.65 ± 3.58 68.47 ± 16.23 0.00**

Birds Mortality

There was reduction in mortality rate in 30% of Azolla (w/w) supplemented birds compared to 70% of (w/w) commercial diet. As the mortality rate is higher during summer season (McDougald and McQuistion, 1980) birds protection via modification in the diet is a cheapest strategy. The reduction in mortality was observed in Azolla fed birds only 2% against 5% in 100% commercial feed fed group. This could be due to the biochemical composition of Azolla such as antioxidants, carotene, moisture content and other vital nutrient components.

Reduction in House Fly Population

Houseflies and mosquito menace is an age old problem associated with poultry farming. There were multiple reports of managing via chemicals (trimethoxam, cryomezin), Azolla fully cover on water surface prevents mosquito breeding and development (Rajendaran and Reuben, 1998) but none of the literature is available pertaining to  the house flies management via poultry feed modification with Azolla . In the present study the reduction in the fly population was observed. This could be due to the nitrogen fixing ability of Azolla in association with symbiotic blue green algae Anabaena azollae (Becking, 1979).

Cost of Production

The economics was worked out by comparing the expenditure incurred on total amount of feed consumed by broilers up to 45 days from income obtained after selling. The average weight produced was 2,063.23 g and 2,210.85 g in control and treatment group.

Table 3: Cost of production and economics

Parameter Control Treatment
Quantity of  commercial broiler feed per chick/day (grams) 100 70
Quantity of feed fed till 45 days/ 2200 broiler chick (kgs) 9900 6930
Quantity of Azolla fed /broiler chick/day (grams) 30
Quantity of Azolla fed /2200 broiler chicks/ 45 days (kgs) 2970
a.                  Expenditure    
Cost of commercial chicks (Rs. 18 / chick) 39,600 39,600
Cost of commercial broiler feed 2,47,500 1,73,250
Cost of production of Azolla /kg (Rs. 4 X 2970 kg) 11,880
Labour wages for Azolla production and maintenance (135 men days X Rs.300/men days) 40, 500
Labor cost (45 men days) 5,000 5,000
Electricity and miscellaneous (Rs. 1 / chick) 2,200 2,200
b.                  Total expenditure 2,94,300 2,72,430
c.                   Income    
Selling of birds (Rs. 80 /kg live weight) 3,51,120

(4389 kg)


(4,851 kg)

Selling of litter 3,000 3,000
Selling of gunny bags 990 690
d.                  Net income 3,55,110 3,91,770
Net profit (b-d) 60, 810 1,19,340
Cost of production (Rs./kg) 67.05 56.16
Cost- benefit ratio 1: 0.21 1:0.44

The respective output price @ Rs. 80 / kg live weight at the end of experiment was Rs. 3,51,120.00 for 4389 kg live weight produced and Rs. 3,88,080.00 for 4,851 kg live weight produced in control and treatment group respectively. Thus the net profit was Rs. 60, 810.00 in control and Rs. 1,19,340.00 in T2  yielding a cost benefit ratio of 1 : 0.21 and 1 : 0.44 in control and treatment respectively (Table 3). The previous studies concluded that 20% of commercial feed could be replaced by supplementing fresh Azolla in the diet (Subudhi and Singh, 1978) will reduce the cost of feed and weight gain increases.


The study reveals that the use of 30% of Azolla (w/w)   along with 70% commercial feed in poultry broiler diet increases the body weight gain, improves the FCR, reduce the mortality rate due to heat stress during summer and reduce the cost of production of broiler. In addition, off smell and house fly population and mosquito menace can be reduced by growing azolla in and around the poultry farm and fed to the poultry birds.


Authors are thankful to the University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, Karnataka and ICAR, New Delhi for providing necessary facilities and funds to carry out this work. We also thank Sri Sailaxmi poultry farm, Sangapura for their co-operation in rearing of broiler birds.


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