Farm productivity depends on seasonal management
12 May 2021 | Agriculture
Farmers need to be responsive to seasonal changes because farm productivity depends on the animal, the environment, and the management.
Therefore, farmers need to develop appropriate management plans that are responsive to the conditions in their production environment.
These include seasonal feed shortages and prevailing health risks. A closer and regular inspection of livestock will be needed to allow quick response to any abnormality or change in livestock health and behavioural conditions.
According to Agribank’s technical advisor for livestock and rangeland, Erastus Ngarukathe, many farming areas in Namibia have received a lot of rain compared to the previous seasons, recording above-normal annual averages.
Ngarukathe says while rangeland productivity has improved in some areas although the quality of the grazing materials is still not the finest, livestock body conditions are high.
“It should however be noted that the quantity and quality of the grazing materials the animals are eating now have an influence on their endurance until the next rainy season which can also not be surely predicted.”
Thus, Ngaruka says farmers need to continuously ensure that their livestock survival and performance are not compromised.
He says that since the normal dry season is approaching, there are specific challenges that farmers will face. These are associated with livestock nutrition, health, and reproduction.
Livestock require sufficient supply of nutrients throughout the year as a response to seasonal changes in rangeland conditions and body demands.
He says grazing livestock such as cattle and sheep are the most vulnerable to nutritional deficiency, especially mineral deficiencies because the soil-mineral concentration especially in sandy areas is beyond the grass root zones for uptake.
“As winter approaches, the grasses stop growing and go into the dormancy period where the nutrients are relocated to be stored in the root system as reserves for regrowth in the next season.”
Ngaruka says that during this time, grasses are drying up and shedding seeds and, in the process, vitamin A and much of the protein are lost.
Therefore, he says that farmers need to inoculate their animals with vitamin A and to provide protein lick supplements.
He adds that one of the ingredients needed in the winter supplements is urea as it enhances the digestion of dry forage materials through increased population and strength of the rumen microorganisms responsible for digestion in ruminant animals.
Later in the dry season, the animal’s demand for energy increases as the grass plants become depleted or scarcer or grazed to the maximum.
Thus, energy supplements need to be added to the protein supplements and in certain cases especially when there is grazing shortage, roughage feeds or hay will be needed to fill the rumen, Ngaruka explains. Since many farmers have planted crops, they can cheaply use processed crop residues as dry season feed supplements.