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When breeding livestock, water is necessary not only for drinking, but moreover and most of all to produce the feed that guarantees animal livelihood, health and wellness.
When drought or water scarcity hit, animal feed is one of the major costs that farmers need to control and cut. Often, they do that by diminishing the number of animals in the farm, by culling or selling them in order to reduce both water consumption and feed cost.
Water use can be more efficient and as a result can prevent the adoption of strategies such as saving, selling or culling. For example, different methods of alternative feed sourcing and production can be put into place, even in small farms and even with limited resources.
When times of water scarcity come, farmers are encouraged to store and stack fodder that can be mixed with other feeding. Also, in times of need it is important to have adequate feed supplements reserves.
Farmers are strongly advised to choose agricultural by-products, crop residues and to use bush encroachment or invasive plants as a source of dry matter for alternative, cost effective feed, that also serve as drought relieving resources.
Of course, alternative feed production procedures need to be guided and farmers need tools to help them mix and formulate different alternative ingredients.
The most common sources of alternative feed
Invasive plant species pose a large threat to ecosystems, especially when no management practice is set in place to reduce the effect. But when a management approach such as pruning or harvesting of invasive plant species is in place, the relationship becomes a symbiotic one. The harvested materials can be transformed into feed for animals, contributing to achieve a nutritionally balanced diet.
- Bush Encroachment
Bush-based feed refers to the production of animal feed that uses the encroacher bush biomass as the main ingredient. Recently, value chain addition to the different parts of the bush biomass has gained popularity, due to the fact that it does not only aim to pay back the costly debushing, but also develops the local market, especially in Namibia where our pilot Bush Feed project is rolling out, and creates high valuable products out of the harvested biomass. Among these value chains, bush feed has gained special interest since it has a potential to enhance livestock feed and food security.
Currently, a number of Namibian farmers are already producing bush-based feed. Bush feed production in Namibia has also demonstrated to be a viable possibility for farmers during drought periods, as they are protein rich feed sources.
- Prosopis Glandulosa
One of the most common invasive plants that is utilized as feed source is the Prosopis, that is found intruding all over the world. The fruits, leaves, flowers and tender twigs of the prosopis contain large amounts of protein and carbohydrates that are crucial for animal growth. To produce bush feed from prosopis, the crushing and milling is done when branches are young, fresh and ready for harvest. Younger bushes are more nutritious and their protein content is higher. Then supplements are added to the feed to make the fibres more digestible.
- Agro Industrial By-Products
In extreme drought conditions, by-products not usually fed to livestock and failed crops that were intended to be harvested can be used as feed. Agro-industrial by-products (AIBP) are mostly derived from agricultural processing industries such as cereal grain milling, oilseed extraction, brewery, malt production, fruit and vegetable processing. Compared to other feeds used to feed livestock, agro-industrial by- products have several advantages, such as: relatively cheap or no cost, make up for feed shortage during periods of scarcity and uneven distribution, they do not compete for human food resources. In addition to this, they have comparable nutritional values to the crop they are derived from.
By achieving the above-mentioned best practices, farmers, in conjunction with feed formulation companies, may come up with different feeds derived from invasive bush species or other agro-industrial by-products.
Besides, it is crucial that farmers and producers verify the quality and integrity of the so obtained feed and whether it may have been exposed to chemicals prior to animal consumption.
Therefore, it’s fundamental to have a tool that guides farmers in choosing the right ingredients to formulate well-balanced, healthy rations and provide the animals with the right amount of nutrients, even if they are using alternative feed sources such as the ones we mentioned.
With Farm4Trade’s Feed Formula App, farmers will have complete libraries of verified ingredients and their characteristics, comprehensive of Milled Bush, Invasive Plants and Agro-Industrial By-Products, to formulate their feed even with restricted expense capacity or in times of water scarcity.
Try our Feed Formulation Application now: start feeding better food to your animals, save money and preserve the environment!