The urgency of the world food problem has presented a challenge to nutritionists to investigate the possibilities of utilizing other potential energy sources because, the major portion of the maize crop is diverted for other purposes such as biofuel, brewery and starch industries, and human consumption. One of the cheap energy sources available for replacing maize in poultry ration is bajra (pearl millet). The bajra grain with 11.5 percent crude protein and 2900 kcal metabolizable energy resembles maize (9 percent crude protein and 3330 kcal M.E.)in most of the qualities. Thus bajra may provide a major replacement for maize in poultry feed as there is striking similarities in the nutrient composition of both grains (Prasad and Panwar, 1997). Bajra is the most widely grown species of millet, grown in India and Africa since prehistoric times. It is now generally accepted that pearl millet originated in Africa and that it was introduced into India from there. Bajra is well adapted to production systems characterized by low rainfall, low soil fertility, and high temperature, and thus can be grown in areas where other cereal crops, such as wheat or maize, would not survive. The Bajra (Pennisetum glaucum) protein has more lysine, methionine, and tryptophan than other food grains. Also, it is recognized as a low-fat diet. Bajra contains thiamin (Vitamin B1) and iron. In our effort at revealing the potential of bajra which could replace popular energy sources like maize in poultry ration, we report in this work utilization of bajra by replacing maize at particular levels in broiler rations with respect to weight gain, feed consumption, and feed conversion ratio.

The growing world food crisis has presented a challenge to poultry nutritionists, especially in India, to investigate the possibilities of utilizing other potential energy feed sources as a replacement for maize grain. The major portion of the crop is now diverted for purposes such as biofuel, brewery, and starch industries, apart from its growing spate in human consumption. Maize, of course, is the major feed ingredient in the broiler diet with an inclusion level of around 60% in the total diet. In India, because of only a marginal increase in maize production coupled with poor production per hectare, has widened the supply and demand gap which has put a lot of pressure on maize prices during most of the year. Because of this, it has become quite essential to identify and evaluate less expensive, readily and locally available energy sources for poultry feeding in the place of maize.
One of the energy sources available for replacing maize in poultry ration is Bajra (Pearl millet). Pearl millet one of the most drought-tolerant of all domesticated cereals, is grown widely in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. India is the largest pearl millet producer in the world. It can be grown under seasonal rainfall as low as 200-250 mm, making it the only reliable productive cereal in the driest rain-fed regions of the arid and semi-arid tropics. The important dry land crop provides both grains as well as fodder. Bajra grain contains 12 % C.P. and 3240 kcal M.E. and resembles maize ( 9% CP and 3330 kcal ME) in most of the qualities. It can be included up to 30% in the chick ration and up to 60% in the grower and layer ration. Thus, Bajra may provide a major replacement for maize in poultry feed because of the striking similarities in nutrient composition of these two types of grains.
Bajra crop is well adapted to production systems characterized by low rainfall, low soil fertility, and high temperature, thus can be grown in areas where other cereal crops like wheat or maize would not survive. Bajra protein offers the added advantage of having more lysine, methionine, and tryptophan content than other food grains. Comparatively, it has also a lower fat-producing ability within the animal system. The grain also supplies more thiamin and iron.


The utilization of the pattern of millets was estimated by ICAR-IIMR and the results showed that in case of close to three fourth of the sorghum production is going towards self-consumption which means it is directly consumed by humans. Sorghum is also utilized as animal feed to the tune of 12 percent while about 8 percent of it is processed into value-added products to form the FMCGs. Sorghum as a crop for alcohol production also utilizes it to the tune of 5 percent. The remaining sorghum is diverted towards export in the form of grains and value-added products. Similarly, case of bajra (pearl millet) is used for direct human consumption to the tune of 69 percent whereas, nearly 15 percent of bajra is used as animal feed and 10 percent is used in breweries for producing alcohol. Utilization of bajra for processing towards value addition is about 5 percent. About 1 percent of bajra is utilized as seed material for seed production and multiplication. Further, the utilization of ragi is slightly different from sorghum and bajra with nearly 10 percent of ragi being utilized for creating value-added products in the FMCG segment. However, with regard to the utilization of ragi for direct consumption, it is similar to sorghum with about three fourth of the production being directly consumed by humans. Nearly 13 percent of ragi is used as animal feed with limited utilization of 1 percent towards exports. Other than millets being used in food processing industries and for human consumption, they can be used in many other industries also. Feed Replacement: Maize is one of the cheapest sources of energy used in the production of animal feed or compound feed compared to other grains. It provides the most energy at INR 1 compared to other feed grains as it provides the highest metabolizable energy. Despite this, the scenario may not remain the same in coming years as the growth of maize production is slower compared to its consumption in the animal feed segment. Moreover, the production of compound feed is likely to grow by a CAGR of 5.6% which would put more stress on domestic maize demand. Eventually, this increase in demand and shortness of supply would push its prices and encourage cheaper imports. To arrest this deficit projected in the coming future may to some extent filled by using alternative feed grains, particularly millets like bajra, sorghum, ragi, etc. The availability of conventional cereals or grains like wheat and rice would be limited due to their extensive usage in the food segment.

News Reference

Pearl millet

is the sixth most important cereal crop after rice, wheat, maize, barley, and sorghum. It is widely grown on 30 million ha in the arid and semi-arid tropical regions of Asia and Africa, accounting for almost half of the global millet production. Climate change affects crop production by directly influencing biophysical factors such as plant and animal growth along with the various areas associated with food processing and distribution. Assessment of the effects of global climate changes on agriculture can be helpful to anticipate and adapt farming to maximize agricultural production more effectively. Pearl millet being a climate-resilient crop is important to minimize the adverse effects of climate change and has the potential to increase the income and food security of farming communities in arid regions. Pearl millet has a deep root system and can survive in a wide range of ecological conditions under water scarcity. It has high photosynthetic efficiency with excellent productivity and growth in low-nutrient soil conditions and is less reliant on chemical fertilizers. These attributes have made it a crop of choice for cultivation in arid and semi-arid regions of the world; however, fewer efforts have been made to study the climate-resilient features of pearl millet in comparison to the other major cereals. Several hybrids and varieties of pearl millet were developed during the past 50 years in India by both the public and private sectors. Pearl millet is also nutritionally superior and rich in micronutrients such as iron and zinc and can mitigate malnutrition and hidden hunger. The inclusion of minimum standards for micronutrients—grain iron and zinc content in the cultivar release policy—is the first of its kind step taken in pearl millet anywhere in the world, which can lead toward enhanced food and nutritional security. The availability of high-quality whole-genome sequencing and re-sequencing information of several lines may aid genomic dissection of stress tolerance and provide a good opportunity to further exploit the nutritional and climate-resilient attributes of pearl millet. Hence, more efforts should be put into its genetic enhancement and improvement in inheritance to exploit it in a better way. Thus, pearl millet is the next-generation crop holding the potential of nutritional richness and climate resilience and efforts must be targeted to develop nutritionally dense hybrids/varieties tolerant to drought using different omics approaches.

Lower productivity

The productivity of the crops like Bajra is much lower due to various reasons such as the non-availability of quality inputs to the farmers, lack of access to improved varieties of seed and other technologies, unavailability of credit on time, poor storage facilities, and poor market linkage, etc. There is no doubt, a large potential for using pearl millet as an alternative to maize in poultry feed. It is important to propagate the good nutritive as well as other attributes of pearl millet among poultry producers and feed manufacturers to promote this as an alternative to maize.
It has been reported that the Pearl millet-based diet provides the best (p<0.05) feed conversion ratio (FCR) and the lowest (p<0.05) feed cost per unit of body weight gain. Complete replacement of maize with pearl millet in the broiler diet did not impair feed intake, body weight gain and feed conversion ratio, and nutrient retention.

Inclusion in poultry diets
Pearl millet has been shown to be a suitable feed ingredient for poultry diets, and whole seeds can be fed to poultry. Its seed is higher in methionine than maize, alleviating some of the need for synthetic methionine supplementation in organic poultry diets. Feeding ground pearl millet to laying hens results in eggs higher in omega-3-fatty acids and lower in omega-6-fatty acids than eggs from hens receiving corn-based diets.
Although pearl millet can be grown in areas not favorable to corn, and the grain can be used in poultry diets, but the production of pearl millet has been limited due to its susceptibility to rust disease. Rust resistant hybrid of pearl millet has been developed so as to alleviate this concern. Thus, the grain in poultry feeds is a good alternative to maize for broilers and layers. When pearl millet replaced maize part per par iso calorically and isoproteinically, the performance of chicks was either comparable or even better than those on of maize-based diet. Pearl millet was included at 60% part per part or iso calorically and isoproteinically at the expense of maize, the performance of layers was comparable. The protein content of pearl millet, although variable, but higher, and the essential amino acid profile is more balanced than corn. It has higher oil content than other common cereal grains and is a better source of linolenic acid. Based on the performance of broilers and laying hens fed pearl millet, it appears that pearl millet is equivalent or sometimes even superior to corn as a grain source for poultry rations. Moreover, the crop matures quickly, which makes potentially it an ideal component of traditional double cropping and rotational cropping system.
Anti-nutritional Factors
Pearl millet grain does not have many of the anti-nutritional factors that other alternative grains do. As compared with Rye and Sorghum, pearl millet is low in tannins. It does not appear to need to be heat treated to destroy any protease inhibitor or other harmful factors. However, the grain contains saponins, which are known to damage the lining of the digestive tract. The pearl millet grown in the United States appears to be resistant to aspergillus flavus infection, reducing concern about mycotoxins. However, the grain is susceptible to fusarium fungi, but the level of fusarium toxins is usually low.

Multiple uses

Bajra is also used as fodder for livestock. The crop is cultivated in India approximately on 900000 hectares yielding 20-35 tonnes of green fodder per hectare. It is generally grown for taking grains, not as fodder. After removing grains, its stalks are seldom used for feeding the animals as fodder crops in the country. Whenever it is grown as a fodder crop, it is harvested before the flowering stage for feeding the animals. It is a quick-growing, disease-resistant, high-tillering fodder crop, suitable for sowing in arid and semi-arid regions which can be sown early in spring under irrigated conditions and in Kharif under rainfed conditions. However, it is not suitable under high rainfall areas. It does well even on light soils. It is sown alone or a mixture of guar or cowpea. The crop is cultivated in a similar manner as jowar and maize; and contains 22% dry matter, 13% TDN, and 0.9% DCP. Hybrid-Bajra-1 has been developed by GADVASU scientists in Ludhiana, which is disease resistant and can be grown in all types of soil and climate conditions.…….click here to read the full news