By Byron Mutingwende
Farmers attending the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) workshop in the Hatfield area of Harare have been capacitated on the importance of on-farm feed formulation.
In his presentation to the farmers, Emmanuel Nyahangare, the Animal Nutritionist Lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe said it is important for farmers to utilise available ingredients on their farms in order to reduce feeding costs.
“Research has shown that farmers often use up to 80% of total variable costs buying commercial feed for intensive livestock systems. If one can reduce these costs by making their own feeds, it increases the farmer’s margin of profit,” Nyahangare said.
He said on-farm feed formulation is both a science and an art, which should balance animal requirements and nutrient supply. Nyahangare said the science aspect makes sure that the animal gets its required nutrients according to demand while the art ensures that the feed encourages voluntary feed intake. It is useless to make a balanced meal that the animals do not have appetite for, he said.
“Animals primarily feed for maintenance first and over and above maintenance they feed for production. They should ensure that the animal diets should have adequate carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
“Farmers should spend more time understanding the ingredients taking into consideration anti-nutritional factors, price, availability and digestibility. When they are using alternatives, farmers should make sure that they use correct alternatives. For example, maize can be substituted by sorghum and other small grains.” Nyahangare said.
He added that whilst it is considered a difficult task, with proper training and practice, farmers can be able to make their own feed on the farm.
Joseph Nyamukungwa, the Director of Delpot Brands, which manufactures livestock feeds, said there is need to demystify the production of feeds.
“Farmers are used to buying expensive feed from manufacturers yet they can as well cheaply formulate the feeds on their farms. They can do this by sourcing or even producing the feed for themselves on the farms. This reduces the cost of production by a larger percentage that is sustainable,” Nyamukungwa said.
He added that his company produces sunflower cake and sources other major ingredients like soya cake, cotton cake and sells in packages that are affor
“Delpot Brands has also addressed the challenges that farmers were getting by sourcing vital food additives like calcium grit and premixes or base mixes,” Nyamukungwa said.
Dr. Gabriel Chatukuta, the Livestock Technical Manager of Coopers Animal Health was excited about the enthusiasm that farmers have regarding making their own feeds.
“I was impressed by the huge turnout by farmers and the questions that farmers raised after our presentation on solutions to feed formulation. I realised that the knowledge of farmers is increasing. There is a huger for least-cost feed formulations in light of the prevailing economic hardships.
“Coopers is relevant to meet the needs of small-scale farmers. We are investing in research and innovations that improve small and medium-scale livestock production. We have on-going feed trials at the moment. We gave insights to the audience on our trials. As a company we are open to offer lectures and trainings to any grouping of small-scale farmers who are interested in feed formulations,” Dr. Chatukuta said.
He added that Coopers already does trainings in grain protection, public health, cattle dipping, pest control and broiler production.