The poultry industry can be touted as the fastest growing segment of livestock rearing in India. With an impetus from the significant gap between supply and demand, antibiotics and other artificial supplements are being used to increase production and maintain the health of chickens. The concern over antibiotic build-up, coupled with an increase in healthy living and avoidance of synthetic products, have pushed scientists to explore using natural herbs as a feed additive facilitating growth and helping increase microbial resistance.
One such herb in particular is growing in popularity today. Saffron has been identified as a natural feed additive that can imbue chicken grub with antioxidants. Its petals contain carotenoids, crocins and other oils which have healing benefits, thereby directly helping with chicken health.
It is grown in most of the countries having cold winter and warm summer and can be cultivated throughout the year. In India it is mainly cultivated in Kashmir which has a temperate climate.
However, it is to be noted that around 30 percent of the saffron cultivated is usually discarded as waste. Their quality is considered lacking in key ingredients that make it unfit for human consumption. This wasted saffron, that is now inexpensive, has the same qualities and properties for chicken health as the main spice and is useful for fighting disease and promoting weight increase.
The Division of Animal Nutrition, SKUAST-Kashmir has tried out adding waste saffron to poultry feed. The studies have shown that the saffron petals added to poultry feed helped in reduction of deaths and an increase in weight among poultry. It was also concluded that Saffron helped in more efficient feeding on behalf the poultry and furthered easy protein assimilation.
There is now no doubt that there is enormous potential for petals from saffron waste to be included as an additive and supplement to poultry feed in India. This can lead to better growth and improvement in overall health of poultry without the need for using antibiotics which cause various other related problems in the long run.