Matching Livestock Systems With Feed Resources
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Preston, T.R. 1986. Matching Livestock Systems With Feed Resources. Spore 4. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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If one compares the results obtained from programmes designed to improve crop and animal production in Third World countries, it becomes obvious that crop improvement has been more successful. Why is this so ~ One of the reasons is that most of the...
If one compares the results obtained from programmes designed to improve crop and animal production in Third World countries, it becomes obvious that crop improvement has been more successful. Why is this so ~ One of the reasons is that most of the plants grown in tropical countries did not exist in the Northern, colonizing countries. As a result, development programmes for crop production were obliged to start from scratch in order to identify and develop local cultivation techniques. This was not the case for livestock because most of the species were already known, and it appeared to be simply a matter of transferring production methods that worked in the North to the South despite the differences in conditions. The expected results were not obtained because too much emphasis had been given to technology transfer at the expense of local research. Another mistake was the emphasis put on the production of animals rather than their role in an agricultural system. Increased production was dependent on expensive and sophisticated feed, and this policy simply resulted in the replacement of meat imports by feed imports with absolutely no reduction in the import bill. Finally, insufficient attention was given to the socio-economic constraints which influenced the degree to which such innovations were accepted by the people concerned. It is thus necessary to develop new livestock raising strategies which are based on local needs and resources including current and potential conditions. Rearing techniques must thus be adapted to such needs and resources. One must also take into consideration the need to integrate another element, that is, the necessity for Third World countries to increase their production of energy from local, renewable resources. Appropriate technologies already exist. Such simple and practical techniques often only need to be perfected as they have long been understood and applied by local farmers in a most rational way. They are based on raising cattle for multiple uses, on raising calves under restricted suckling, and on the combined production of food and energy from local plants with a high photosynthetic capacity based on applications of urea. The basic concept must be aimed at achieving not economic efficiency but maximum biological output. The objective is not the maximum production of one sole product but the most efficient production, given the available resources, of a variety of products including milk, meat, hides, organic fertilizer and work power. Resource utilization It is often thought that Third World countries could escape from food shortages if they could raise their agricultural production levels to those of industrialized countries. In terms of production per unit of land, labour and feed, there is no doubt that there are considerable disparities between the production cycle of livestock in developed countries compared with the Third World. It is equally true that high livestock production figures attained in developed countries are due to the disproportionate use of world resources, notably fossil fuels, fishmeal and protein-rich oilseeds. Developing countries are major producers of oilseeds, but these are primarily consumed by livestock in Europe where milk and meat surpluses cost money to taxpavers and compromise the markets in Third World countries. Such exports are needed for these countries to earn foreign currency in order to pay, among other things, their debts. More serious still is the fact that the surpluses become 'gifts' of food aid which limit even further the possibilities of developing local livestock industries in Third World countries The challenge facing Third World planners is thus considerable: it consists of trying to raise the standard of living through the efficient use of national resources with the least possible dependence on resources that have to be imported. Socio-economic constraints It is no simple task to introduce innovative techniques in the livestock production operations of small farmers. Without a good understanding of the taboos (whether religious or otherwise), customs and the sociology of village communities, a researcher has little chance of establishing a system designed to improve on traditional methods. Subsistence farmers and livestock herders must first of all ensure a food supply for their families, and only after that can they think of improving the condition of their livestock. If they are to succeed, therefore, technical innovations must be introduced in a framework that takes a certain number of factors into consideration: there must be an immediate gain from the new technique; it must be relatively simple and not disrupt normal agricultural activities such as planting and harvesting; the risks involved must be minimal; the innovations can be risky only if the benefits are exceptionally high; they must not be conflict with any religious practices or cultural activities. Technology transfer and energy Technology transfer from industrialized countries to the Third World has, from time to time, given good short-term results for the production of animal protein. An example is the development of milk production and chicken, farms near big cities. In the long term, however, these often entail a dependence on imported feed because native species and local feed sources have been completely ignored. This is another negative result of importing technologies. Finally, the increase in the price of fossil fuels has underlined the need for research on alternative energy sources, particularly renewable sources. In this respect, livestock offer interesting possibilities for integrating energy and food production. What should be done ? Development initiatives must be reoriented towards the poorest of the poor in rural areas, who are the main producers of basic foodstuffs for most countries. By helping such regions, one contributes not only to increasing food supplies but to decreasing urban migration. New techniques need to be developed, but there is no doubt that it is more important to begin by improving existing ones. It is also necessary to promote livestock production systems for multiple end-uses. Intensive production of milk competes with feed and food supplies for other animals and people. The growing role of draught animals must be recognized through the need, for example, to use dairy cows for such purposes. To raise animals capable of doing both, one must inseminate local breeds adapted to the climate and known for their meat production with exotic species that have been developed for their milk production. The suckling of young animals should be controlled in order to make better use of such milk which can play a catalytic role in the efficient use of local food resources. One must also encourage the growing of crops that can be used both for the production of enemy and for animal feed and of certain tropical crops that are good producers of biomass, such as sugar cane and beans. They serve a dual purpose: their protein and sugars, found in the cells of their leaves and stalks respectively, are excellent food sources while the carbohydrates found in their cell walls are better suited for using as biomass energy. Together these factors lead to an integrated livestock raising system which optimizes overall agricultural productivity using available resources. Post-harvest residues, which represent the major part of feed supply for ruminants in many tropical countries, and dry season grazing, do not however, contain enough nitrogen to provide the ammonia necessary to enable the intestinal micro-organisms to digest such feed. In this case, the provision of urea to ruminants helps to improve their production and increases their resistance to drought. Herders should therefore consider ruminants a priority. Intensive pork and chicken production is costeffective only when cereal feed is available at a moderate price, but because of their digestive system, ruminants can feed on high-fibre, carbohydrate-rich food sources that cannot be used directly by other animals or people. Finally, communication between researchers, teachers, extension workers and farmers must be improved in order to facilitate the exchange of information within Third World countries themselves. This would strengthen the autonomy of these nations, and the ability of their people to help themselves. Herds play a fundamental role in the economics of most Third World countries where they represent the major source of cash revenue for many farmers and all of the nomadic herders. We should therefore show a certain modesty in respect of the research results obtained to date, and some humility with regard to traditional systems. In addition, we need to display imagination, willingness and courage to develop new approaches to livestock development policies in the Third World. The above ideas were presented by Dr. T.R. Preston, an expert in animal production, during a conference given at CTA. The complete text of this conference. published in French and English, can be obtained on request from CTA
SubjectsANIMAL PRODUCTION AND HEALTH;
- CTA Spore (English)