Foxtail millet is suitable for feeding poultry due to its high crude protein content and high energy value, close to that of maize grain. It contains no major antinutritional factors. Its protein digestibility is high (Goodarzi Boroojeni et al., 2011).
Most experiments on the partial or total replacement of maize grain by foxtail millet in broilers resulted in similar growth performance for both cereal grains (Reddy et al., 1997b; Baghel et al., 1982). Under some conditions, performance was even higher with foxtail millet than with maize (Goodarzi Boroojeni et al., 2011). Broilers fed foxtail millet performed better than with other millet species such as pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) or finger millet (Eleusine coracana). However, some experiments with starter broilers showed a small depression in growth rate at high inclusion levels (60%, total maize substitution) (Rao et al., 2004).
Several methods aiming to increase the nutritive value of foxtail millet have been tested. Germination was unsuccessful, in some cases negative effects on performance were noted. However, pelleting had positive effects in starter diets (Reddy et al., 1997b). The effect of the inclusion of an enzyme cocktail was not significantly beneficial (Rao et al., 2004).
Foxtail millet can be used as the sole cereal grain in well-formulated broiler diets. It should be used more carefully in starter broilers: the inclusion level should be lower than 40% or the diet should be pelleted.
In layers, egg production and egg quality were maintained when foxtail millet completely replaced maize grain, although feed efficiency was decreased at the highest inclusion levels (Reddy et al., 1997a). In broiler breeders, performance was significantly decreased by the inclusion of high levels of foxtail millet in comparison with maize (Rao et al., 2000). Feed efficiency and body weight were also reduced while egg weight and quality were not affected. The lower pigment content of foxtail millet decreases egg yolk color when no other pigment source is used.
In layer ducks, foxtail millet decreased egg number (although not significantly), and maintained feed intake. Egg weight increased so the egg mass produced was not affected. (Nageswara et al., 2003).
Foxtail millet should be limited to 30 to 40% in layer diets in order to maintain feed efficiency. Where maize is scarce or expensive, the use of foxtail millet as the sole cereal grain is possible.
Foxtail millet bran
Although rich in crude fibre, the bran from foxtail millet milling could replace wheat bran (10% of the diet) in relatively slow-growing broiler diets without adversely effecting performance (Kadirvel et al., 1994).