Farmers should adopt a fodder plan

Plant, harvest, process and store

03 July 2019 | Agriculture

Livestock feeding is believed to be the most complex and costly practice on a farm, amongst other agricultural practises. In Namibia, livestock are predominantly reared on an extensive production system of which the cheapest feed-base is the rangeland on the farm.

Over the years, the utilisation and pressure on Namibian rangelands have increased to an extent that both rangeland and livestock productivity have been gradually compromised. Agribank's technical officer of livestock within the bank's agri advisory services division, Erastus Ngaruka, says this is being exacerbated by erratic and capricious rainfall, as is currently being experienced in the form of recurrent droughts in the country.

“Livestock farming dominates the Namibian agriculture sector and has a significant socio-economic value towards sustainable livelihoods in the country at all scales of production.”

With regards to the current drought, Ngaruka says that a large number of livestock have died, especially cattle, while the ones sold are in poor condition, fetching little money as prices are low. Recently, an adult cow sold for as little as N$400 on auction. To further exacerbate matters, feeding costs have also increased.

Ngaruka says that this is a big threat to farmers' livelihoods and the country's economy.

“Having entered the normal dry season, the most difficult task at hand is to ensure that the remaining animals survive through the season, bearing in mind that the pattern of next season's rainfall activities are unknown at this stage.”

According to Ngaruka, the survival of the remaining livestock will depend on the feeding regimes adopted by individual farmers.

He says that it is therefore critical that farmers develop and adopt a Farm Fodder Flow Plan (FFFP) applicable to their specific farming conditions.

An applicable FFFP will have to ensure that there is a continuous supply of sufficient fodder to the animals throughout every year. The plan should include sustainable grazing practices, producing and processing own fodder, as well as the storing of any available fodder and lick supplements for use during difficult times.

“In particular, farm fodder production and processing at kraal level using cheaper, user-friendly and effective techniques should be fully explored and adopted as one possible way to lessen the impact of drought on farmers.”

According to Ngaruka, the benefits include reduced livestock deaths, reduced feeding costs, maintaining productivity, reduced grazing pressure, additional and diversified farm income and reduced human-livestock food competition.

Farm fodder production and processing entails the cultivation of common fields and processing their residues into animal fodder, cultivation of pasture or valuable perennial grasses, lucerne and other forage plants in backyard gardens or fields.

It further includes hydroponic fodder production practices or use of crop sprouts as green fresh feed from hydroponic systems and the harvesting of edible forage resources such as wild melons, pods, leaves and twigs/branches from bush and tree prunes.

“Generally, the lesson to be learned is that almost all rainy seasons in Namibia since the 2013 drought have not been favourable. As a drought preparedness action, farmers need to adopt drought feeding strategies and invest in appropriate technologies or machines available, such as a hammer mill and a feed mixer to process and formulate their own drought feeds,” said Ngaruka.

He stressed that a good rainy season is not only about the amount of rainfall but its distribution and intensity over the season, and ultimately the quantity and quality of the forage yield.

“The quantity and quality of feed available to the animal at the end of the rainy season will determine its strength and ability to survive until the next rainy season. Therefore, farmers need to ensure that their animals are adequately fed throughout every year.”





ELLANIE SMIT