14. ALTERNATIVES TO FENCED GRAZING SYSTEMS
Whilst the fenced pasture system is very effective, there are other very useful methods of feeding that a dairy farmer may use instead of, or as a supplement to fenced grazing.
This may be done year round or in response to a particular need, such as feed shortage during the dry season. In order to obtain good levels of milk production, all dairy farmers should be using supplements to pasture feeding.
14.1 Concentrate Feeds
It is difficult to get the 'perfect feed' from one source. That is a feed which has all the correct components of protein, energy, minerals etc. in adequate balance and quantity to promote maximum animal production [milk].
Protein tends to be what most tropical forages are most lacking, also they are often bulky and slow to digest, therefore the cow cannot actually eat enough of the available feed to optimise her performance.
Using a high protein, easily digested dry feed to supplement the cows intake can be a very profitable way of producing more milk. The farmer needs to be aware of the cost of feed and the benefit gained in extra $'s of milk per extra $ of concentrate fed.
In many cases concentrate feed has to be imported, however inexpensive, good quality supplements can be made by farmers using locally available materials.
14.2 Mineral Supplements
Cattle require a balanced intake of minerals such as [but not limited to] Sodium, Phosphate, Copper, Zinc, Cobalt, Selenium, Iodine in varying quantities. Sometimes adequate minerals can be had from the normal diet, but often supplementing the diet with a multi-mineral salt lick block increases stock health and production.
Sometimes the lack of one single micro-element such as copper can seriously affect the health and production of cattle. If cattle seem generally unhealthy [dull coat, thin etc. ] despite being offered enough feed, then it is recommended that the farmer find if a mineral deficiency is likely and if so, give appropriate supplementary minerals.
14.3 Crop Residues and Industrial By-products
Sometimes unsaleable or excess crops such as squash or manioc, or unused parts of crops such as kumara leaves or banana stems can be used. Some by-products such as spent grain from the brewery make excellent cattle feed. This is dealt with in greater detail elsewhere in this book,
14.4 Cut and Carry
This feeding method is widely practised by smallholders in many countries and is well suited to small scale dairy production where access to grazing land is in short supply. It may be used to provide the complete requirements of cattle kept in a shaded yard or house (zero grazing) or it may be used to supplement to grazing.
Suitable varieties for cut and carry are available these include:
elephant grass Guatemala grass guinea grass paragrass splenda setaria
locally occurring tree legumes such as Albizia chinensis and Adanonihera sps leucaena
The grasses should be fed in the green, leaf' state. Chopping the plants and feeding in troughs will ensure less wastage. Often enough feed can be gathered from waste ground and roadsides, however a farmer with a small area of land (say I ha) can, by using intensive cut and carry, achieve high effective stocking rates and production per ha. Provided good management.
A dairy farmer in Thailand grew I ha of guinea grass (P maximum) between rows of trees 125 kg ha urea was applied and the grass cut every 30-40 days. This produced enough to feed ~ cows producing 10-12 litres of milk per day. This same land had the Stocking Rate capacity for grazing of 2 cows per hectare.
The advantages and disadvantages of cut and carry For
-efficient use of forage.
-less wastage from trampling.
-saving of grazing energy.
-less soil damage
-less labour required to herd stock.
-water reticulation not required.
-less capital needed on fencing.
-higher labour input needed to cut-and-carry fodder.
-greater labour resources needed to dispose of excreta.
-more capital required in structures, equipment and possibly fuel costs.
-less opportunity for animals to select forage.
-cutters may select low quality feed.
-too little feed may be given to animals.
-urine may be lost and dung may be returned to areas other than forage
producing areas resulting in soil fertility decline.
-animals may need supplementation with coconut cake, rice bran, etc.
Photo 25. mechanised chopping of splenda setaria in Fiji
Tethering is well suited to small farmers, with
- few cattle
- limited money for building fences
- small and or scattered areas of land
- access to fallow cropping areas and communal grazing areas
- cut and carry systems
However the following points need to be emphasised
- Cattle must be checked regularly ~ least once a day to ensure problems such as the animal becoming caught on its own rope have not occurred.
- Adequate quantity and quality of water must be available.
- The animal should be offered good quality leaf' feed.
- The animal should be offered plenty of feed and moved to a new position as soon as the current grazing is grazed down (height depends on pasture variety. e.g. batiki 15 cm, elephant 50 cm).
Tethering is best considered a rotational grazing system and the guidelines for pasture quality, growth stage, legume content and rotation length are the same.
14.6 Waler requirements of cattle
Cattle should get adequate, unpolluted water every day.
The approximate requirement are as follows.
Litres per Day
1 yr old
2 yr old
dry cows and bulls
14.7 The Effect of Heat
Cattle must not only cope with the heat influence of the sun, i.e. the ambient temperature, they must also cope with the heat produced internally as a product of digestion.
Often the problem of production is that cows won't or can't eat enough feed to maximise their milk yield. We have already mentioned the limitations associated with low quantity feed. Cows also stop eating to avoid over-heating, in the simplest terms cattle eat to keep warm, in a tropical climate cattle attempt to regulate their body heat by reducing or stopping eating.
Lower quality feeds (i.e. lower CP% and % digestibility) require greater energy to digest and result in more heat released internally. Bos Taurus type cattle are considered more prone to heat stress.
The following actions can be taken to minimise the stressful effects of heat.
1. Feed high protein highly digestible feeds
- high legume content pasture
- cut and carry legume foliage (fresh)
- high protein supplements
2. Allow best feeding opportunities at night
- put cows onto new pasture after the evening milking
- feed more supplement at the afternoon milking.
3. Provide ample shade
- coconut plantations are ideal
- shade trees are useful.
- keep cows under shade while they wait to be milked e.g. under a tree.
4. Washing cows down with water helps to cool them.
5. Provide ample, cool, clean water to drink.