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AGA IN ACTION

Going to the basics: Ration balancing to enhance animal productivity, health and welfare and to decrease environment pollution

An International Workshop on Feeding Systems and Ration Balancing for Dairy Farms in Tropical Countries was held in Villavicencio, Colombia, from 25–27 October 2011. The Workshop was organised by the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research (CORPOICA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Federacion Panamericana de Lecheria (FEPALE). The aim of the Workshop was to discuss the importance of ration balancing on farms; demonstrate the Ration Balancing Program developed by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) of India to extension workers, progressive farmers and animal nutritionists; discuss ways to adapt the program for Latin American situations; and prepare a road map for pilot testing of the program in Latin American countries. Two hundred and fifty seven participants comprising of extension and livestock workers (157), researchers (37), technicians (23), progressive farmers (20) and students (20) attended the Workshop. The participants were from Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Honduras, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Venezuela.


Conclusions and Recommendation from the Workshop are:

The Workshop recognised the central role the balanced animal feeding plays in making livestock production systems sustainable. Feeding cost constitutes 50 to 70% of the total cost of production. Animal feeding impacts animal productivity, reproduction, health and welfare and environment. But, unfortunately donors and policy makers have so far neglected this important area.


Ration Balancing Program at the farmers’ doorsteps has made a substantial impact at the end users level in India. It has enhanced income of farmers by 10 to 14%, increased feed conversion efficiency by 40 to 50% and decreased methane emission from cattle by approximately 15%.


Need for a Ration Balancing Program for Latin American countries was emphasized by many participants. It was also suggested that a paper on ration balancing should be prepared by the Animal Production and Health Division and translated into Spanish.


The participants requested the FAO to make available the publications in the area of animal feeding being produced by AGAS in Spanish language.


Decisions taken at the Workshop were:

  • 1) In order to enhance knowledge transfer, initiate a Latin American Animal Nutrition Network and link it to FAO Animal Feeding Gateway.
  • 2) Set up a Ration Balancing Program for both small and large scale farmers, with a focus on dairy and dual purpose grazing systems. 
  • 3) Set up a task force for developing a template for collation of country-wise data on feed resources and their nutritive value; and to provide suggestion on setting up of a data base in every country that is linked to FAO Animal Feeding Gateway.

It was also decided that CORPOICA should take lead for activities 1 and 2 and AGAS and RLC provide the technical support. Other Latin American countries will adopt the Ration Balancing Program once it has been implemented in Colombia. A close working relation between the Animal Production Officer at the FAO Headquarters and Senior Livestock Officer in RLC is envisaged in the follow-up and in providing support to the regional network on Animal Nutrition and its work programme.


The findings of the Workshop should be communicated to other Latin American countries by FEPALE and the Livestock Commission for Latin American countries.