Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Chapter 5

Traditional technologies for animal production


Animal health is essential in mixed farming systems, but veterinary health care knows failures as well as successes. The major successes are those of vaccination campaigns; the major failures occur where the veterinary services are largely unable to reach small farmers with their individual problems. Veterinary care in terms of prevention can help to improve livestock production. However, in traditional livestock systems the cattle owner mainly tries to avoid major damage at mini mum cost and without depending on expensive and possibly erratic services from outside. Part of the health care therefore lies with local technicians using indigenous veterinary medicine, and learning to cope with disease - by spreading risks, by using animals tolerant to local diseases, and by running a low-cost operation.

Many diseases occur naturally and regularly depending on local ecological and sociocultural conditions, but changes in the world have also had their impact on local systems with consequences for animal health:

The actions that can be taken to cope with the effect of these changes are many, though not all problems can be solved on a small scale. One technological and futuristic approach lies in better mapping and prediction of animal diseases (J. Slingenbergh, pers. comm., 2000). Another lies in the continuation or modification of vaccination campaigns. Still another approach lies in the use of barefoot doctors and in recognition of the benefits (and sometimes constraints) of indigenous medicine. Some of these approaches relevant to mixed farming systems are given below.

Vector-borne diseases: traditional and modern treatments

Humid tropical regions harbour a range of endemic infectious animal diseases. Many of these diseases are caused by micro-organisms that hide for part of their lives in a tick, a mosquito or a fly (called the vector). Disease pressure is related to the density and the species of the vector. Cattle reared in infested areas for thousands of years have acquired a certain natural resistance but animals may still suffer and die when the infection pressure is high, or when other infections burden the immune system. One way to overcome or prevent these vector-borne diseases is to use insecticides in so-called cattle dips. This allows farmers to maintain animals with higher production levels because natural resistance tends to be at the expense of milk and meat output. However, breeds with natural resistance can be reared with a minimum of expense and they will continue to be important in sustainable livestock production in Africa.


Screen traps against tsetse flies - a novel way to reduce the vector population (Zambia)


Cattle dip to control tick infestation. The centre of the building consists of a "swimming pool" containing the medicine in which the animals are submerged (Kenya). Technically these "dips" function well; however, the problem of their actual functioning lies in the socio-economic world and its functioning around the dip.

The main disease vectors in cattle are the tsetse fly, various tick species and some mosquitoes. Over one-third of the African continent is infested by the tsetse fly, which transmits the micro-organism causing trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness). Local cattle and goats have more genetic resistance to these micro-organisms than exotic breeds with higher milk or meat yields. The best-known tick-borne diseases of cattle are theileriosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and cowdriosis. African swine fever is a tick-borne disease of pigs to which exotic breeds are highly susceptible.

Vector-borne micro-organisms are hard to control but scientists and farmers continue to try with varying levels of success. A traditional way to protect livestock is to avoid areas of high risk in certain periods. For example, Fulani cattle keepers in the subhumid zone of West Africa avoid infested grazing areas, and they minimize the time spent at watering points where vectors are most likely to occur. In the wet season, grazing is delayed until late in the morning, as worm infestation on grass is highest early in the morning. Fires are built next to cattle pens to keep away biting insects at night and, when outbreaks do occur, the livestock owners avoid infected areas. Because of increased population pressure, however, it is increasingly difficult for nomadic cattle owners to avoid unfavourable areas, even by trekking long distances. The most economic approaches from formal research combine control and protection measures in a ratio that depends on socio- economic and epidemiological conditions.

Veterinary and animal health research uses genetic approaches in cattle, sheep and goats against vector-borne diseases. They work primarily on the genetic resistance of cattle breeds to the micro-organisms and to tick vectors, on genetic resistance of goat breeds to trypanosomiasis and on cattle breeds with natural resistance to ticks. In addition, genetic engineering of breeds with genes that favour resistance against diseases is a relatively new avenue in the battle against animal diseases and not yet proven to be effective. Another approach aims to reduce the vector burden, as has been done for decades, for example by the dipping of cattle against ticks. This is successful in the short term but it does not have a lasting impact on the tick population, nor on the disease. In addition, ticks develop resistance to acaricides. New acaricides will have to be developed continuously, to stay ahead of the diminishing sensitivity of the ticks. Resistance continues to develop against these products as well, i.e. new products need to be developed continuously to stay ahead. The FAO strategy on ticks and tick-borne diseases programmes aims at promoting integrated tick and tick-borne disease control methods that include immunization when applicable and increasing awareness about resistance of ticks to acaricides.

The development of vaccines against tick-borne diseases and trypanosomiasis is a major line of research. Important progress has been made in understanding the way in which micro-organisms attack the host. The vaccines so far developed all have disadvantages. East Coast fever vaccine, for instance, is expensive and exists off live, virulent strains. Animals vaccinated for East Coast fever may infect ticks long after vaccination and contribute to new outbreaks in subse quent years. Immunization against some tick species has been tried and may have some possibilities. When this approach has effect, the tick population could be suppressed without damage to the environment.

Traditional, indigenous disease control and treatment

The interest in ethnoveterinary practices is growing. Many of these practices offer viable alternatives to conventional western-style veterinary medicine especially where the latter is unavailable, unaffordable or inappropriate. Ethnoveterinary medicine can provide low-cost health care for simple animal health issues though it tends to be ineffective against infectious diseases. Ethnoveterinary remedies are often based on knowledge and tradition from folk medicine for human use, such as in India on the ayurveda (the books about life). Most of the plants used are easily available but non-plant substances are also used. For example, warm stout is given to animals after they have given birth to help remove the afterbirth and cobwebs are used on cuts to help stop the bleeding. Some of the plants used are multipurpose such as guava (Psidium guajava), bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris), rice (Oryza sativa), turmeric (Curcuma longa), aloe (Aloe vera), banana (Musa spp.) and Kalanchoe pinnata. These plants are either already found on farms or they can easily be grown. Many of these plants also have a food value. For example, an excess of green bananas can be ground, boiled and fed to stock as a source of carbohydrates and iron. Guava fruits and leaves contain useful vitamins. Cymbopogon citratus and Ocimum gratissimum can be used to make delicious teas. Medicinal plants to treat ruminants are used mainly for internal parasites, internal and external injuries and pregnancy-related conditions. Farmers usually boil the plants to make a decoction. Other plants are administered as teas, in which water is boiled and thrown on to the fresh leaves, which are left to steep (an infusion) and then administered once or over a period of days. Bamboo joints, thin-necked bottles or other appropriate instruments are used to drench the animals. As with any technology, care has to be taken in the use of indigenous medicine and application of knowledge. However, more attention to the potential of these approaches is likely to unlock a vast area of useful knowledge for conditions where modern medicine is out of reach.


Domesticated animals live, by definition, in and around the homesteads of people. Animals are either kept literally in the house, or in a pen or stable; they can be herded at shorter or larger distances from the home or they are only occasionally rounded up in a cattle crush or corral. Animals are not kept in sheds in conditions of EXPAGR, where land is abundant. Occasionally they are kept in corrals that are used for deticking of the animals, for marking, for vaccination or for castration (Photos 46, 47 and 48).

As mentioned before, the EXPAGR mode is not associated with integrated mixed farms and therefore it is most interesting to discuss housing and management in LEIA and NCA systems.

BOX 14


Ramon Pelisco is a tenant farmer who has one water buffalo with calf, some chickens and some pigs. He uses the herbaceous plant "albahaka'" (Hyptis suaveolens), which grows abundantly in marginal areas, to treat the buffalo for severe diarrhoea. This plant is also used to treat diarrhoea in humans, and can also be placed in chickens' nests to minimize lice infestation. Another farmer, Tito Pael, owns and farms 7 ha of sloping land. Besides growing coconut, coffee and maize, he raises water buffaloes, goats, pigs and chickens. To deworm the calves, he mixes pure coconut milk (extracted from finely ground coconut meat without adding water) with an egg of a native chicken. The mixture is poured into the calf in the afternoon. The calf is then allowed to wallow while being observed for the following day; if there are no signs of the internal parasites being expelled, the medication is repeated. The medication is usually effective after two drenchings.

(Based on Reijntjes, Haverkort and Waters-Bayer, 1992.)


Corral for animal management in Peruvian mixed systems based on EXPAGR. Large pastures are available and crops are grown without using animal dung


Marking of animals - an activity that is typical for grazing in EXPAGR, which needs a corral or management pen (Peru)

Housing for animals demands investment and farmers must carefully consider whether it brings sufficient advantages to warrant such an investment. Many intermediate solutions exist, from grazing behind fences (Photos 49 and 50), to tethering cattle, to zero grazing where the feed is brought to the animals and where the dung is collected (Photo 52). Animals may be kept in stables year-round or only seasonally. During wet growing seasons animals tend to be kept on the homestead whereas afterwards they are allowed to graze on the harvested fields and in the bush. In semi-zero grazing systems, animals are kept in a stable or fenced enclosure for part of the day and particularly during the night, where they may be given some cut fodder. For the remainder of the day, they are allowed to graze.

The benefits, i.e. the reasons for housing and management, can vary widely between systems but they include aspects such as:


Castration of a male animal that is not to be used for reproduction. Animals are castrated to prevent unwanted reproduction, to make them easier to handle or to obtain a particular meat quality (Peru)


Cattle grazing in a LEIA situation in Kenya where pasture production starts to compete with maize production. Zero grazing based on crop residues and weeds offers an alternative


Intermediate conditions between EXPAGR and LEIA, where fences are erected to keep animals away from the crops (South Africa)


Damaged top sorghum caused by animals invading the crop field - an example of an EXPAGR system occurring side by side with more land strapped conditions (Nicaragua)


Cut-and-carry feed systems in LEIA - children fetch grass from roadsides in baskets (Indonesia)

Animal housing in the warm tropics requires a shed design that keeps out rain and solar radiation, while allowing the free flow of air. Ventilation helps to cool the animals by allowing evaporation of water (sweat), thus cooling the air; by keeping the sun out, the place is also kept cool. In the hot tropics walls can be absent, although thick brick, stone or mud walls can help to lower temperature fluctuations between day and night. Roof overhang is important to keep out the sun and rainstorms when walls are absent. Trees provide shade and fresh air around the stable. They can be used to store feed (Photo 53) and roofing material should reflect the solar radiation and allow ventilation while preventing draught. To deflect solar radiation the roof can be painted white, made of reflecting materials, of tiles and/or plant materials that insulate (such as straw, grass or palm tree leaves) (Photo 54).


A tree used to store straw - a very simple form of "housing" (Thailand)


Straw storage in an attic; the roofs are also made of straw, which is a cheap material that also keeps the inside cool (Sri Lanka)


Fodder fences with Leucaena leucocephala (Kenya)


Cultivation of oats as animal feed (Australia)


Different modes of feeding in mixed systems

Feed provides the energy and minerals that allow animals to stay alive, to grow, to produce and reproduce, etc. It can come as straw, grass, tree leaves, grains, tubers, insects, etc., depending on the agroclimatological conditions and on the mode of farming. Livestock in mixed systems of the EXPAGR mode depend mainly on grazing on wastelands, fallowed croplands or distant grazing areas. As the systems move into the LEIA mode there is a greater need to use crop residues or industrial wastes. As systems move further into NCA there is a particular opportunity to use leaves from leguminous crops, or biomass from crops (green manure) that are grown between the main crops. Improved fallows, so-called leys, can use crops such as legumes or crucifereae (mustards) and even fodder grains, while living fences provide timber, fodder and posts (Photos 55 and 56). In HEIA systems it is common to grow special fodders or to buy feed from outside; mixed farms where animals and crops exchange resources "on the farm" are rare in HEIA.

Crop residues are relatively unimportant where there is plenty of land or other resources such as in EXPAGR and HEIA. However, use of crop residues for feed becomes vital in situations of LEIA and NCA where land becomes scarce. The straws from cereals, sometimes coarse such as maize, sorghum and pearl millet, and sometimes fine and slender such as wheat, oat or barley stover, thus form a major feed resource under many LEIA conditions. (See Singh and Schiere [1993; 1995] and Joshi, Doyle and Oosting [1994] for reviews and extensive literature references on this topic.) Unfortunately, the feeding value of such straw and stover is low. Cattle and buffaloes can eat little of them and the concentration of nutrients is low. As feeds become scarcer and of less value, it is better to give one feed in a less wasteful way (Photos 57 and 58) and/or introduce methods to overcome the nutritional limitations, e.g. through treatment with chemical or physical methods, through choice of other varieties and planting methods, etc.

Feeding of fibrous crop residues

Production of crops such as cereals and oilseeds yields two kinds of by-products that can be used as animal feed - the highly valuable grain and oilseed residues (such as brans and cakes - Photo 59) and the poor quality straws and stovers. The green fodders from legumes and specialized grass production that are part of the crop rotation occupy an intermediate position in terms of feed quality (Table 6). This chapter focuses on methods to use the fibrous crop residues for animal feed in crop-livestock systems (Photo 60).

Animals at low levels of production of milk, meat, draught, etc. do not generally require much supplementation to meet their nutrient requirements. They obtain sufficient nutrients by grazing on roadsides, or on fallow lands, or by consuming crop residues and kitchen waste at home. During periods of scarcity they lose some bodyweight, which they can regain during the more favourable season. Low-quality feed does not provide sufficient nutrients to maintain the bodyweight of ruminant animals but it may be sufficient for survival. To achieve any production of milk, meat or draught over long periods, low-quality fodders must be supplemented with better feeds and/or they must be treated with chemicals or other methods. Farmers commonly supplement low-quality fodder with concentrate feed ingredients such as brans, cakes or mixed commercial feeds. Treatments are less commonly used and they are useful only under specific conditions. Different treatment methods and supplementation are summarized in Table 7. Catalytic and strategic supplementation and urea-treated straw are treated in more detail.


Classification of crop residues according to crude protein content (CP), energy content (TDN) and CP:TDN ratio

Crop residue type

CP (%)

TDN (%)


Category I: good quality


Oilseed cake




Concentrate feed




Legume tree leaf




Category II: medium quality




Medium quality grass




Rice bran




Mature grasses




Category III: poor quality




Maize straw




Rice straw





Goats walking on maize husks (Nicaragua). A wasteful method of feeding that causes large parts of the feed biomass to remain unused


Stall-feeding goats - the waste feed is put underneath the feeder to serve as compost when mixed with dung and urine (Kenya)


Hydraulic press used to separate the oil from the seed for crops such as sunflower, soybean, coconut and cotton. The resulting residues (cake) have a high value as animal feed (Peru)


The straw from cereals has a low nutritive value in terms of digestible energy but it can be very valuable as a survival feed - here the straw has been made into a bundle for later use as feed (Nicaragua)


Special feeds to supplement the lack of nutrients in straw-based rations can be used in several ways, called catalytic, strategic or substitutional supplementation. The latter is only applied in industrial systems where cheap concentrates/brans/cakes are available. Under these conditions straw is only fed as a source of fibre to aid digestion. The aim in these systems is to feed as much concentrate as possible, i.e. to substitute the roughage.


Feeding systems based on the use of fibrous crop residues

Feeding system


Emergency and survival feeding

The use of any type of feed to achieve survival of the herd or animal, if necessary at the expense of liveweight and/or re)production.

Catalytic supplementation

The use of small quantities of good-quality feed to improve digestion and intake of a basal ration of straw or mature grass.

Substitutional supplementation

The use of large quantities of supplement to supply sufficient nutrients for a desired level of animal output, if necessary at the expense of straw/grass intake, i.e. supplement substitutes the basal ration.

Straw treatment

Use of physical or chemical methods to increase straw feeding value or consumption

Chopping and soaking

Chopping implies the reduction of feed particle size, commonly at the size of a few centimetres or more, mostly to avoid waste of feed. Done alone or in combination with soaking.

Selective consumption (strategic supplementation)

Farmers and/or animals can select the good part of the feed, leaving the residue for animals of lower output or for other uses than feed.


The use of leaves before they mature on plants for animal feed; mostly coarse grains such as maize and millets.


The use of purposely dense sown plants for animal feed that are thinned and fed to the animals as the crop matures.

Use of variability

The term "use of variability" implies the use of differences in straw quality and quantity due to management, environment and genetic factors.

Adjusted cropping

A variation on the theme of variability (see above), i.e. crop choice is at least partly based on the nutrient requirements of the animals; or animals and crops are mutually adjusted, e.g. in the Flemish/Norfolk systems (see Chapter 7).

Source: Based on Schiere (1995).

Catalytic supplementation

Supplementation of low-quality fodder with nutrients such as nitrogen and/or phosphorus is called catalytic supplementation if it is done to achieve improved rumen function. Small amounts of nutrients can result in increased intake and digestibility of straws. The supplement is said to have a positive associative or "catalytic" effect on digestion. The approach aims to increase the roughage utilization by using a minimum quantity of supplement. Obviously, this is attractive where low-quality roughage is cheap and where supplement is expensive, in combination with production objectives that aim at near maintenance growth. The most common example of catalytic feeding is the use of lickblocks or other systems in which cattle can lick a mixture of (generally) urea and molasses (Photos 61 and 62). Lickblocks often contain urea as a supplementary element, as it needs to be fed slowly and distributed evenly. The block is a compact brick, placed before the animal to lick. This helps to meet the nitrogen requirement of rumen microflora, resulting in enhanced rumen activity and increased degradability of crop residues. Feeding of some kitchen waste or green leaves may achieve the same objective of maintenance.

Strategic supplementation and selective consumption

Another approach for efficient use of a limited stock of supplements is to use them only for certain animals: strategic supplementation. It is applied where better feeds are given to reproductive and young valuable animals, while adults or less valuable animals are left to lose weight. A typical but disguised form of strategic supplementation is the use of selective consumption (Photos 63 and 64). In this case the animals are offered a large amount of feed from which they can select the better parts such as the leaves while rejecting the rest such as the stems. The inferior feed refusals are then fed to less productive or idling animals or used for bedding. The final residue may be mixed with dung for composting or dung cakes. Strategic supplementation is applied frequently on farms when not enough better-quality fodder or feed are available for all the animals. Lactating cows, sick and weak animals or draught animals (both prior to and often during the working season) receive extra feed to perform their duties, to get well or do the fieldwork, respectively.

Treatment of straw

A range of treatment methods is available to increase digestibility and/or intake of straw. Simple methods include chopping or soaking of straw and more complicated ones involve steam treatment, e.g. for the treatment of sugar-cane bagasse (Rangnekar et al., 1982). The most practical approach is based on the use of urea. Urea can be sprayed over the straw in a ratio of 2 percent with a 1:1 water:straw ratio, a form of catalytic supplementation. More relevant is the treatment of straw with urea where 4 kg of urea are spread with 50-100 litres of water on 100 kg of straw. The mix is kept in a heap for one to three weeks after which it can be used as feed with or without concentrate supplements. The treatment process increases the availability of energy from the fibres in the straw, apart from providing nitrogen for better rumen function (Photos 65 and 66). Experience suggests that the technology is most likely to work in the following situations (based on FAO, 1988; Singh and Schiere, 1995):


Feeding lickblocks as supplements on grazing land (South Africa)


Feeding a liquid urea and molasses mixture by using roller drums (Nicaragua)


Selective consumption studied in digestion trials in Indonesia where sheep leave the central vein of the leaf


The practice of selective consumption in stall-feeding where animals leave the stems (Kenya)

BOX 15


In many places women spend much time collecting green grass from the roadside, or weeds from the cropland. India is a particular case in which it might be expected that the use of supplements, other than those women collect, would decrease the workload of women. The availability of agricultural or industrial residues such as wheat flour, oil cakes, compounded feed, cultivated green forages, collected green fodder, hay and roughage is very important for the poorer women who have a shortage of straw. In Haryana (north of Delhi), the periods between October and December and from May to June are lean periods in the sense that no green fodder is available for cattle. Then supplementation is a must, unless farmers prefer the animals to lose weight and to diminish production. When cows are an important source of income for a farming family, and when the products are sold at the market, the farmer will make a different choice than when the cows are kept mainly for subsistence. Women prepare various dairy products, and they know how to influence the quality of the milk in relation to the products by mixing the feed. The influence of different supplements and the basal ration on the smell of the milk or, for example, on dung quality, are very important for women who make dairy products such as cheese and ghee, or who prepare dungcakes for fuel.

(Based on Muylwijk, pers. comm.,1994.)

BOX 16


A farmer in Muzaffarnagar District, India, has a large herd with 60 milking cows that produce abundant milk and 55 dry cows. He exercises crop production on 32 acres (13 ha) of rice, wheat, sorghum, maize and sugar cane. For his herd he buys large quantities of fodder and concentrates on the market. He feeds no rice straw to his herd but he could have saved Rs 100 000 per year if he had fed treated wheat straw because, in his case, the cost of straw is considerably less than the cost of concentrates. Another farmer with a buffalo dairy in Muzaffarnagar District has a medium-sized herd with 23 milking buffaloes. He sells milk and buys concentrates and fodder. Contrary to the other farmer he has no land. He can save some money using limited quantities of treated straw. However, since, unlike the first farmer, he has to buy all the straw, it is much more expensive for him, whereas the concentrates are relatively cheap.

(Based on Mahendra Singh Rahal, pers. comm., 1987.)


Preparing urea-treated straw (Sri Lanka)


Farmer feeding urea-treated straw (Thailand)

BOX 17


In 1994, 11 million tonnes of straw were treated on more than 5 million small farms in China. Strong government support, plenty of crop residues with practically no market value and a strong extension service enabled the technology to be practised in China. This simple technology has also been demonstrated in Viet Nam, Cambodia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic but the uptake by farmers there is still limited due to the high price of urea and low price of beef in these countries.

(Based on Sato, Sansoucy and Preston, 1996.)

Other straw feeding systems

A wide range of additional straw feeding methods exists, ranging from selective consumption, chopping and soaking of straw, breeding or management for better or more straw, to the use of adjusted cropping patterns and types of animals. The straw is chopped and/or soaked to increase the intake and to ensure that the animals eat the entire mixture rather than select only the better parts. Breeding and management for better or more straw relate to the selection of crop types and/or management methods that favour animal production. For example, plant breeders have long overlooked that farmers in conditions of unreliable rains prefer cereal varieties that will also yield good straw in the case of harvest failure (Photo 67). There are also varieties of sugar cane that produce good cane as well as fodder, a typical strategy for mixed farming conditions. Moreover, by densely planting the crops it is possible to get thinner stems, i.e. stems with higher digestibility. In a dense crop, a part of the crop can be removed before it matures, providing good feed and more space for the rest of the crop. Stripping of leaves is done to get green but maturing leaves of maize, cane and other coarse crops to be used as feed when their feeding quality is still good (Photo 68). Clearly, this requires a type of animal and production level that can use such feed; the concept of the "communal ideotype" illustrated with crop and animal choice (see Chapter 3). Whatever is done with straw, it is almost always a loss of nutrients and soil organic matter when straw is burned, even though that may be the easiest form of disposal (Photo 69).


Better or more crop residues through improved management practices (India)


Woman collecting green maize leaves to feed the animals at the compound (Kenya)


Burning of straw, an accelerating approach used in EXPAGR systems where animals have enough access to other feeds. Burning is easy, but it leads to losses of nitrogen and organic matter (Sri Lanka)


Leucaena, a well-known fodder tree

Several methods of feeding and their usefulness for the farming system are indicated in Table 8. These depend on the mode of farming, the access to other feeds and the type and level of desired production. EXPAGR has an abundance of forest, bush and waste land grazing, and feed resources that are a better source of nutrients than straw. Straw in these conditions is only useful to help the animals through a period of feed scarcity and selective consumption can be used. The use of straw for feed is more common in LEIA and NCA, systems that are both characterized by an adjustment of production objectives to resources. Particularly in LEIA, the shortage of feed, combined with the availability of labour and the adjustment of animal output to poor-quality feed resources, makes it relevant to chop or soak the straw in order to avoid wastage, or to make sure that a maximum number of animals is maintained. Straw use in NCA is determined by the need to recycle better or preserve excreta, to maintain soil structure and to avoid straw burning. Biomass from crop residues can also be needed for soil protection by mulching for direct improvement of soil. Often a combination of uses exists; even competition among straw uses can occur - as animal feed, for bedding to collect urine, for the soil as mulching, for the paper industry, for roofing or for fuel.

Trees as fodder

In LEIA and HEIA there tends to be insufficient land to grow fodder as a special crop. One way to cope with a shortage of fodder is to use crop residues such as straw, as already discussed. Another approach is the use of leaves from trees that are specially grown on the boundaries of crop fields (Photos 55, 70 and 71). Use of trees for fodder can also be beneficial in EXPAGR where trees grow naturally in the bush or on the ranch. Feeding of tree leaves in such systems is a common strategy to overcome periods of feed shortage. Traditional feeding systems make maximum use of tree leaves, pods, seeds, etc. Farmers, but particularly the women, tend to be well aware of the habits and preferences of each animal (Photo 72). They know feed materials which are claimed to be beneficial for improving the quantity and quality of milk, and for improving the health of their animals, etc. This is a typical case where farmers use indigenous knowledge to classify feed as very good, average or bad. They do so on the basis of the palatability and visible effects of the feeds on quality and quantity of milk, unlike researchers who look mainly at chemical analysis. The research and extension community can gain much if they learn to speak the language of the farming communities.


Usefulness of straw feeding methods per mode of farming in mixed crop-livestock systems

Mode of agriculture

Relevant feeding system

Expansion agriculture

- emergency feeding


- selective consumption


- catalytic supplementation

Low external input agriculture

- emergency feeding


- chopping and/or soaking to avoid wastage


- stripping/thinning


- variability

New conservation agriculture

- straw treatment with urea


- selective consumption


- adjusted cropping


- variability

High external input agriculture

- substitutional supplementation


- straw as source of fibre in high


BOX 18


The use of tree products such as flowers, seeds and pods varies with the season and availability of other feeds. In some communities of western India, for example, the choice of trees varies with the species of animal - a case of adjusting feeds and animals. Flowers of Bassia latifolia, commonly known as Mahuva, are dried and stored to feed bullocks and milk producing animals. The flowers are rich in energy and are also used as human food in times of scarcity. Farmers adopt conservation methods wherever they are found useful.

(Based on FAO, 1992a).

BOX 19


It is estimated that in the Philippines smallholders raise 80 percent of the cattle population and 90 percent of the buffalo and goats. A range of fodder trees is available on smallholder farms but their value and utilization are limited to areas of high livestock concentration. Fodder from trees is very valuable in upland farming systems, particularly during the dry season, and in the coconut farming system. Better animal performances are observed with increasing levels of tree fodder in animal rations.

(FAO, 1992b.) concentrate rations


Much concern exists worldwide about the need to maintain genetic diversity, on the one hand, and to increase the production of animals on the other. Whether goats, rabbits, chickens or cattle, many believe that the use of imported genes will increase the production of animals. Often it is even assumed that the import of genes is a miracle solution whereas, in fact, animals will only produce more if they are well taken care of, if they are healthy and well fed. Imported genes are not always improved genes even though there are conditions that call for import, often at the expense of local genetic diversity. Many traditional local breeds have already disappeared, together with their sometimes very rare characteristics such as horns, hair patterns and disease resistance, and influence on local folklore (Photo 73 and 74).


A live fence of fodder trees to keep pigs out of the garden (Peru)


Farmer transporting fodder leaves on his back to feed the animals at home (Sri Lanka)


Court bull with large horns that give aesthetic value (Sri Lanka)


Indigenous pig scavenging on the roadside (Peru)

Fortunately it is possible to maintain the advantages of local breeds and also to reap the benefits from imported genes. Crossbreeding is the breeding of an exotic breed with a local one, aiming to maintain the best of both breeds. Where necessary, farmers and policy-makers can maintain local breeds. An example is the N'dama breed in the humid areas of western Africa that has particular tolerance to sleeping sickness. In other locations, particularly in cities with a good supply of feed, veterinarians, etc., it may be necessary to choose pure exotic breeds, whether chickens, pigs or dairy animals. Local breeds are a potential asset to countries for the adaptive traits that they have acquired over time, such as:

Farmers in areas where foreign "blood" was imported through development agencies are now starting to realize that their conditions are not always suitable for the "purebreds". Breeding for production levels that suit the local resource base is related to the issue of the communal ideotype (Chapter 3) and is often done by farmers when they "go back" from exotic to crossbred or even local animals.

BOX 20


In Kabarole (Uganda), the mild montane climate was favourable to European breeds of dairy cattle. In the 1950s and 1960s the government actively promoted dairy production, establishing a livestock-breeding centre in the district. This resulted in large numbers of local cattle being replaced by smaller herds of crossbred dairy cattle. Pastures were enclosed to control disease and to increase production, implying less common grazing land being available for local herds. Grazing areas were privatized and enclosed. The introduction of zero grazing and semi-zero grazing systems, in which the crossbred cattle spend most of the time in the stable, allowed farmers to collect manure and recycle nutrients more easily.

(Based on Walaga et al., 2000.)

BOX 21


The case of mixed farming in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas shows that access to milk markets, roads and veterinary services allows an increase in the number of crossbred cattle and buffaloes thus producing more milk. Buffaloes are particularly in demand because they are more resistant to prevailing diseases than exotic breeds of cattle and their milk has a higher fat percentage. Otherwise, the bulk of the livestock in remote areas of the Himalayan region consists of local species because these regions lack the necessary infrastructure.

(Based on Tulachan and Neupane, 1999.)

Many livestock experts claim that environmental constraints should be removed before attention is paid to breeding because "only under favourable environmental conditions can animals express their genetic potential". However, genetic potential is not a single magic upper limit of the performance of animals. In the first place, production should not be measured only in the number of eggs or litres of milk. Particularly in mixed systems the production should be seen as a combination of dung, draught, meat, social satisfaction, etc. Secondly, the performance of genotypes may differ between environments and, thirdly, "genetic potential" also implies an animal's capacity to cope with harsh or unfavourable conditions. Therefore the genetic make-up of stock has to be judged in the environment in which they have to produce and genetic progress can be realized even under so-called suboptimal production conditions.

BOX 22


Preston (FAO, 1992c) worked out cattle breed requirements based on human nutrition demands. According to him the theoretical demands are 180 kg of milk and 50 kg of meat per year. The milk:beef ratio is 3.6:1. If less beef is consumed the ratio can be about 7:1. A dairy cow producing 4 500 kg of milk will produce, on average, a carcass weight of 250 kg per year. The milk:beef production ratio is 18:1. So, if milk production is based on a specialist system, either beef must be imported to make up the deficit, or there should be a parallel specialist beef production industry. In most countries this is a luxury operation that the farmers cannot afford and it is therefore necessary to develop appropriate multipurpose production systems based on integration of crops and livestock. In such systems, draught power and security are also important, i.e. the strategy must be one for optimization of a combination of production goals rather than maximization of a simple output.

(Based on FAO, 1992c.)

BOX 23


Almost all domesticated pig breeds have evolved by natural selection from two major types: Sus vittatus, the wild pig of India, China and Southeast Asia, and Sus scrofa, the wild pig of Europe. The present-day so-called "improved" pig breeds arose from crosses between European landraces and oriental pigs. One author recognizes 87 breeds of domestic pigs in the world and a large number of varieties of pigs not recognized as breeds, but each having its own unique characteristics. Within the immense Chinese pig population, some 100 different breeds and varieties have been identified (Udo, 1999).


It is one thing to obtain and use exogenous (or indigenous) breeds; it requires management to maintain healthy stock. The example of calf raising is taken here, but similar stories can be told of improvements through management in rearing goats, rabbits, chickens, etc. Many are based on hygiene, good use of critical inputs and housing, but most depend on the keen eye of the farmer. In mixed systems in particular a farmer has many things to keep in mind, and rearing of young stock can be different to that in specialized systems. Calf rearing may therefore not receive much attention and mortality can vary between 20 and 40 percent, or even higher in imported cattle. In farms with few animals, there tends to be competition between milk for sale and for consumption by humans and milk for the calf. In dairy-oriented systems the male calf has little value if the meat of young animals does not have an extra price, such as for white or pink veal. In cropping-oriented systems, on the other hand, the male calf as a future ox for draught has more value than female calves for replacement.

Climatic conditions, feeding and genotypes are important in the development of a calf over time into an adult animal. A hot climate gives lower weights at birth, a consequent lower growth rate, and lower liveweight at first service and calving. Poor feeding results in weak calves at and after weaning with high mortality rates, which in turn leads to little development of the mammary system, to a high age at first calving and to a low production of milk from the adult animal. Crossbreeding in particular results in a high variability of growth and corresponding liveweights and there is a wide range of weights at all ages at smallholder level for the combination of the above factors. Conditions can be improved by providing shade and natural and/or artificial cooling. Early feeding of hay and concentrate can correct poor milk feeding practices. The use of the adult weight of a particular crossbreed can help to determine the correct birth weight and growth rate one can expect. For example, a 300 kg crossbred cow is expected to produce an offspring weighing between 6 and 8 percent, i.e. 24-32 kg, with a daily growth of 300 g/d. From a 500 kg crossbred one expects a 30-40 kg calf with a growth rate of 500 g/d.

A well-reared calf is the productive cow of the future and various approaches have been tried to improve calf rearing. In dairy regions of the United States and western Europe there are calf-rearing clubs where farm children rear a calf in the best way they can while they register the costs of their exercise. An animal husbandry inspector regularly judges the technical and economic performance of the calves at the farm or a central place in the region while giving comments on the youngsters' efforts, and allocates prizes. Similarly, cooperatives in India, Sri Lanka and eastern Africa have held calf rallies based on the principle of judging at a central place.

Most dairy textbooks advocate artificial rearing to reduce the amount of milk consumed by the calf and leave more for family consumption and/or for sale. This approach is borrowed from conditions where artificial milk is cheaper than milk "direct from the cow". In many smallholder conditions the situation is different. Artificial milk is not easy to obtain, and restricted suckling is a good option. Restricted suckling is a practice in which a calf is allowed to suckle after the mother is milked; it reduces or prevents mastitis, a problem common in herds with artificially reared calves. It is also very convenient for the cow in the case of poor milkers and in cases where the farmer has no time for milking, or when he/she wants to attend meetings away from the farm. Bucket feeding is more troublesome, especially with calves that carry zebu blood, because they cannot easily drink from the bucket. In addition, feeding with artificial milk powder can be troublesome due to low-quality powder (damaged by high temperature and humidity), difficulty in getting hot water and cleaning practices that are below standard.

BOX 24


The National Dairy Development Programme in Kenya found a calf mortality of 20 percent in 1980 which, through training of the farmers, was reduced in four years to below 10 percent even though differences between male and female calves persisted (12 percent and 8 percent, respectively). Similarly, in smallholder dairy programmes in the United Republic of Tanzania (Kagera and Tanga regions), an emphasis on calf rearing reduced calf mortality to between 5 and 10 percent (De Jong, 1996).

BOX 25


Sri Lankan farmers were trained in calf rearing through their cooperative society. They were given a measuring tape to record the chest girths of their calves and to compare them with a target growth line. A technician of the cooperative society regularly visited the farmers to check the weight of their female calves and to provide a small bonus if the calf had reached the targeted weight. Out of 1 850 calves registered within a six-month period some 916 had received a bonus at 18 months and 603 calvings were recorded at an average age of 30 months at the premises of the partici pating smallholders. The cost of the scheme amounted to US$ 100 per heifer that calved. The measurements also assisted farmers in the sale of their stock against buyers that tended to estimate live weights downwards (De Jong, 1996).


Animal products such as milk and meat are difficult to keep over long periods. They can spoil and become unsuitable for human consumption in a matter of hours, particularly in hot and unhygienic conditions. A range of preservation techniques can be found to process this category of products, including heating, smoking, salting, fermenting (to produce lactic acid), drying or concentration to reduce the moisture content of the raw materials. For example, dried, smoked or salted meats are prepared to preserve the meat and to change the flavour and texture to increase variety in the diet. Conditions under which animals are slaughtered are often unhygienic and allow bacteria to be transmitted to meat by flies, animals and birds. Harmful micro-organisms may grow on meat and cause food poisoning when eaten. These, together with infectious organisms such as parasites that grow in the meat, make careful selection of raw materials, proper handling, hygiene and preparation of meat products essential. In the case of milk, many traditional techniques can be found for producing indigenous products. Fermented milk products such as yoghurt and soured milk contain bacteria that aid digestion and that help prevent illness caused by other bacteria. In addition, fermentation removes milk sugar (lactose) from milk and facilitates digestion of the product.


Clean rabbit cages in a backyard with special cages for kitten rearing (Guatemala)


Calf rearing: artificial feeding of a calf (Peru)


Rearing of young animals: duck eggs in a village hatchery (Indonesia)

Examples of rural processing of meat products include dried, salted and smoked meats. They are found widely in Africa where they are important traditional foods. Possibly the best known example is biltong, which is used as a snack food in southern Africa, but similar products are made in other parts of the continent. Biltong is made from strips of dried, salted meat, which are dark brown with a salty taste and a flexible, rubbery texture. Quanta is a similar dried and spiced beef product used as snack food in north Africa. Spices are mixed with fermented honey and about 120 grams of spice (composed of 2.5 percent salt, 1.5 percent black pepper, 10 percent spiced chilli) are added to each kilogram of meat and mixed in manually. The evenly spiced strips are hung on a string suspended in a well ventilated, dust-free area and left to hang for five to seven days until they break with light hand pressure or are crunchy upon chewing.

Examples of dairy products are soured milk, cheese and butter. Traditional sour milk is a thick clotted product similar to yoghurt but with a stronger flavour and a more acidic taste. It has a similar shelf life of three to eight days and is used as a drink or as an accompaniment to meals in some countries. Preservation is due to the production of lactic acid by naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria in the untreated milk. Various types of fresh cheeses can be made with simple equipment; a pan or container and some lemon can be good enough to prepare simple but tasty cheese. Traditional butter and ghee are made by stirring sour milk until the fat coagulates and separates into the solid butter (fat) and liquid buttermilk. The butter is collected by hand and washed with clean water two or three times before packing. This butter can be heated to evaporate the remaining water. The result is ghee, a highly valued cooking and frying ingredient, particularly in Asia.


Diseases, housing and feeding of animals in mixed farming systems have been discussed here with emphasis on low-input conditions. It has been shown that in certain circumstances it is better to trust and build on local systems and try to improve them than to introduce new technologies, including exotic animal breeds. Local animals are more adapted to the environment and exotic, usually more productive, breeds are often much more vulnerable and need more care, better feed and better hygiene than local ones, involving higher costs and a strongly organized system. The rearing of young animals can profit greatly from good hygiene and a well-balanced use of scarce inputs. Generally it is worthwhile to assess the local situation and to take that as a starting point for changes in the systems to achieve higher and more sustainable production of crop and animal products. The experience of local farmers is likely to be of considerable help in such cases and, by participating in the decision process, they will be more at ease with proposed changes or the introduction of new technologies. Much can be gained if research and administration learn to understand the thinking of the farmers, i.e. their priorities, their perceptions, their restrictions and their creativity.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page