Livestock feeds account for the biggest monthly expenses on most livestock farms in Africa. With the ever-rising cost of feed, many farmers are scaling down their production or reducing the rations given to their animals. This has affected profitability as the amount and quality of feed determine the production and performance of livestock. This article will focus on the five simple ways that you can use to reduce the cost of livestock feed.
Use of hydroponics
Hydroponics is a soilless innovation that is used to grow fodder or other shallow-rooted plants like vegetables using a nutrient solution. Hydroponics fodder consists of freshly germinated grains seeds, usually under 10 days old. These shoots have a very high nutritive value to livestock and poultry.
For livestock fodder, grains are used to grow fodder on aluminum or plastic trays. While any grain can be used, the best grain to use for hydroponics fodder is barley seeds. One kilogram of barley seeds can produce 10 kg of barley hydroponics fodder. On top of this, hydroponics fodder has a higher nutrient presence than the ungerminated seed. So not only do farmers save on the cost of feed, buthave they also feed their livestock with feed that has higher nutrient concentration.
Insect farming for poultry feeds
Insects are a good source of proteins, particularly to poultry. While free-range poultry have the opportunity to eat nutritious insects, poultry reared under indoor farming systems do not have access to insects. Their source of proteins lies in the commercial feed that they are fed.
It is now possible to farm insects for purposes of feeding poultry.
The best insect to farm as a poultry feed is the black soldier fly. Farmers target the black soldier fly larvae which has a crude protein value of 50%. There are very minimal expenses associated with black soldier fly larvae production. This method is not cheaper but offers a higher protein value than most commercial feeds.
Growing feeds ingredients
Instead of purchasing expensive feed ingredients, farmers can consider growing all or part of the ingredients used to make feed. In most livestock feeds, the bulk of the ingredients is usually maize or wheat. For protein purposes, ingredients like soya beans, sunflower, and cottonseed cake are used.
Farmers can easily grow some of these ingredients on the farm and then mix them to obtain better quality feeds than most commercial feeds in the market. Silage is also another option for cattle, goats, and sheep. Maize plants at the milking stage make the best quality silage for livestock.
Planting of fodder
As a livestock farmer, it is important to plant fodder long before you establish your livestock farm. This will help you to cut down on the cost of fodder. Farmers with large pieces of land can consider planting hay while those who own smaller parcels of land can grow like Napier grass due to its fast regenerative ability.
There are other trees whose leaves livestock enjoy consuming. Planting such trees can help to supplement the fodder requirements on the farm. These trees include calliandra and Leucaena trees. The leaves of these trees can be chopped and mixed with other fodder to give livestock fodder that is well-balanced.
Knowing how much feed each animal requires
It is important to know the amount of feed that each animal is required to consume in a given day. You should avoid either overfeeding or underfeeding an animal. Giving animals excess feed leads to wastages. This increases the cost of raising livestock.
Animals should be separated according to age groups. Feeding is mainly dependent on these age groups. Animals that are still breastfeeding consume the least amount of feed as compared to pregnant animals or breastfeeding animals. This distinction must be made when allocating feed rations.
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