Performance of broiler chickens fed neem (Azadirachta indica) leaf meal as an alternative to antibiotics
One hundred and ninety-two day-old marshal broilers were used in an eight weeks feeding trial to evaluate the effects of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaf meal on growth performance and haematological parameters of broiler chickens. The birds were randomly assigned into four (4) groups of forty eight (48) birds each in a Completely Randomized Design. Each group was sub-divided into three (3) replicates of sixteen (16) birds each. The neem leaf meal (NLM) was included at 0, 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5% as a replacement of wheat offal.. Feed and water were provided ad libitum. The inclusion levels of A. indica reduced (p<0.05) the growth performance of the birds during starter phase but 0.5% NLM produced highest (p<0.05) final weight at finisher phase. The best values of feed conversion ratio (FCR) and protein efficiency were
recorded in the control while all the other groups had similar values at starter phase. At finisher phase, the highest (p<0.05) weight gain was recorded from birds fed 0.5%NLM while the control and 1.0%NLM had similar (p>0.05) values. The FCR and protein efficiency were similar. There was no mortality throughout the finisher phase while the values at starter phase were similar (p>0.05) across the groups. Among all the haematological parameters that were measured, the PCV, Hb, heterophils and lymphocytes were significantly (p<0.05) influenced at starter phase while PCV, WBC, platelets and heterophils were influenced at finisher phase. It could be recommended that NLM should not be included in broiler chicken diets at starter phase. However 0.5% NLM inclusion level could be adopted during finisher phase for better growth performance without any adverse effect on the haematological parameters of the broiler chickens.
Keywords: Neem, growth performance, haematology, broiler chickens