The adventures of Neddy the Paravet: Fodder trees provide nutritious livestock feed all year

    | September 8, 2014

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    This week’s story from Malawi highlights the benefits of fodder trees. So does our Script of the week.

    A balanced diet provides livestock with water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals and vitamins. These nutrients are essential for growth, reproduction, the production of meat, milk, and eggs; and an animal’s ability to provide transport and traction.

    Each animal needs feed that matches its stage of life. Young animals require more protein than older animals, and pregnant and lactating animals need extra minerals and carbohydrates. Ruminants such as cows, sheep and goats eat more grass and straw than pigs, horses and rodents because they have a different kind of digestive system. If an animal’s diet is imbalanced, if minerals or energy are deficient or in excess, it may fall sick, experience difficulties with conception or miscarriage, become unproductive or even die.

    When producing programs about livestock nutrition, encourage farmers to answer the following questions:

    1. What are the important components of an animal’s diet?
    2. How can I tell if something is missing, or what is missing?
    3. What happens if there is something missing from my animal’s diet?
    4. How can I ensure that my animals have a good diet?

    Farmers should also ensure that their livestock’s diet stays relatively constant throughout the year. This can be difficult because diets vary from season to season, and sometimes from week to week. Also, because it is difficult to produce enough dry feed to save for the off-season, animals often get low-quality roughage and very little grain at that time of year.

    Advise farmers to work with local crop specialists and other successful farmers to identify appropriate fodder plants.

    This script encourages farmers to plant “fodder trees” or other fodder crops. Fodder trees, shrubs and other plants can supply nutritious livestock feed all year. Some good fodder plants are nitrogen-fixing, so they also improve soils. Let farmers know that they don’t need to use their best land for fodder plants; they can plant them in wooded areas, on rocky land, as fences, along roadsides, or in the terraces of rice paddies.