Understanding livestock licks and feed supplementation

Poor grazing conditions, drought, high feed ingredient prices and improper feed management make feed and lick supplementation a major expense for the livestock farmer.

30 June 2021 | Agriculture

STAFF REPORTER

WINDHOEK

Livestock farming has become more expensive and one of the costliest factors is livestock feed and lick supplementation.

Agribank’s technical advisor for livestock and rangeland, Erastus Ngaruka, says some of the predisposing factors to this expense are poor grazing conditions, drought, high feed ingredient prices and improper feed management.

Feed and lick supplementation is aimed at compensating and maintaining the animal’s daily nutritional and feed intake requirements to optimally maintain or improve its body condition, health and productivity.

Ngaruka says the nutrients that livestock require include protein, energy, minerals and vitamins.

He says the cheapest source of livestock feed is the rangeland, which can be supplemented with roughage and concentrated feeds to satisfy their daily requirements.

Roughage feeds have higher fibre content, are slowly digestible, and have a lower nutrient concentration than concentrated feeds.

“The choice of lick and feed depends on the targeted nutrients and intended benefit to the animal,” says Ngaruka.

“Thus, an appropriate lick and feed management plan is important to ensure that livestock productivity is highly maintained at low cost.”

Different nutritional needs

He added that lick and feed should be provided either for maintenance or for production purposes.

Maintenance supplementation is aimed at ensuring survival by maintaining the minimum daily nutritional needs of an animal, whereas production supplementation is aimed at satisfying the high levels of nutritional demands that increases with increasing production level or performance of an animal.

Ngaruka further says that animals in different production stages have different nutritional needs and feeding volumes.

Furthermore, production supplements are targeted to achieve growth, weight gain, milk yield and reproduction.

He says that to manage lick and feed provision effectively, farmers need to understand the daily nutritional requirements of the animal at any production stage, and the recommended daily intake of the supplement.

“These commercial supplements are formulated to satisfy specific nutritional targets where an animal is supposed to eat a specified amount of a particular supplement per day to meet its daily nutritional requirements.”

Production supplements have higher recommended daily intake levels than maintenance supplements.

Furthermore, roughage feed supplementation is also based on the dry mater intake requirement of an animal per day. On that, an animal will at least need to eat an amount of roughage feed equivalent to 3% of its body weight per day.

Budgeting

These estimates will help a farmer to budget and provide supplements effectively given the number of animals targeted.

“Many farmers do not use these estimates, and thus are losing out by either buying more or less than what they need, which in turn compromises productivity and income.”

Lastly, Ngaruka says that farmers need to start relating feed costs to total feed utilisation.

“Any supplement introduced should be effectively utilised by the animal and achieve the targeted production objective. Therefore, ensure that you provide the right supplements at the right time, in the right amount to the right animal.”

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