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Preliminary evaluation of research on agricultural by-products utilisation by modern small scale farmers in the Sudan

T.A. Mohammed and B.I. Babiker
University of Khartoum, P. O. Box 32, Khartoum North, Sudan

Conclusions and recommendations


This paper attempts to evaluate the state of research on agricultural by-products and its usefullness to modern small scale farmers and other potential users. It highlights the quality of the research reports generated and their relevance and applicability on small-scale farms. For this purpose the authors reviewed the available research reports and conducted interviews with senior scientists and managers in the major research institutes and some agricultural production centres. Some modern small-scale farmers and feedlot operators were also interviewed.

It was observed that the modern small-scale farmer have received little, if any, benefits from the research undertaken on agricultural by-products. This observation is related to the relatively low quality research undertaken, so far.


Agricultural By-Products Research Undertaken
Applicability of the Research Results

Approximately 258,000 of the 2,000,000 small-scale farmers of the Sudan could be described as modern small-scale farmers each cultivating an area ranging in size between 5-22 feddan1 with cash and staple food crops. The majority of these farmers are tenants on government irrigated agricultural scheme established on the Nile and its major tributaries. Almost all farmers and farm labourers maintain small herds of cattle, sheep and goats as an alternative source of income, a way of diversifying production, to guard against risks of crop failure and/or crop price decline, as a source of food and to help with farm work.

1 feddan = 4200 m2

Under prevailing agricultural production system on small farms crop and livestock production are not fully integrated. The various available resources and tend are directed to cash and staple food crop production. A negligible area is cultivated with forages. This has left farmers with no alternative other than maintaining their livestock herds on crop residues and to a lesser extent on fallow grazing occasionally supplemented with off-farm produced concentrate feedstuffs and forages.

Although the modern small-scale farmer employs relatively modern means of agricultural production, he uses relatively traditional means of livestock husbandry. One aspect of this traditionalism is the way crop residues are used as the main source of feed on the farm. Their use is not based on methods that maximize the benefits and reduce the waste and, consequently optimize the overall cost of production. More importantly, the research that has been undertaken, to date, is believed to be inadequate and not specifically orientated to rationalizing the use of these by-products at the farm level.

The objective of this paper is to provide a preliminary evaluation of the research generated so far on agricultural by-products and to examine its quality, relevance and applicability on modern small-scale farms in the Sudan.

Agricultural By-Products Research Undertaken

An overview of the research undertaken and reported during the period 1965-1988 is presented in Tables 1 and 2. Altogether 16 reports were generated out of 2 major research projects and a number of small-scale research activities conducted by some interested researchers and graduate students.

The two major research projects and the bulk of the research activities were performed at the Institute of Animal Production, University of Khartoum. The two major research projects (by-product-Sudan) were financed by IDRC of Canada for a total sum of about 300,000 Sudanese Pounds (Sudanese Pound = US$ 4.5) over a 3 year period for each project.

The primary objective of the research undertaken was to maximize the use of agricultural by-products in beef and sheep finishing operations. In the Sudan, meat producing animals are traditionally finished on dry feedlots using complete diets composed of costly concentrate feedstuffs (grain and cakes) with little forage and/or agricultural by-product.

The research approach adopted was the conventional on-station research methodology and only in one study (Ahmed et al. 1985) was the non-conventional on-farm research methodology employed. The technology embodied in the research undertaken involved the use of feed mills, mixers and pelleters in addition to chemicals (alkalis, acids and others) and concentrate feedstuff ingredients.

Almost all of the research results verified the technical feasibility of incorporating processed agricultural by-products at levels of 25-45% of the diets of meat producing animals. However, the economic feasibility of the majority of the results was implied and was not demonstrated following proper economic analysis. The results of the on-farm research trials undertaken indicated the potential users, interest and willingness to promote such a research approach.

Following the review of the above cited research the following observations on the quality aspects and shortcomings of the research could be made.

Table 1: Inventory of agricultural by-products research undertaken in the Sudan during the period 1966 - 1988

Agricultural by-product

Number of research Reports




Mustafa (1988); Mohamed (1988); Mohamed Salih (1986); El Hag and George (1981); El Shafie (1976); El Hag and Kurdi (1986); Osman et al., (1987); Mohammed et al, (1987); Farah (1986).

Dura hulls


El Shafie and Mcleroy (1965)

Groundnut hulls


El Hag (1986); El Hag and George (1981); Ahmed et al (1977); El Shafie et al. (1976); El Hag and Hamad (1983); El Hag (1986).



El Hag and George (1981); El Shafie et al (1976); El Hag and Kurdi (1986).

Cottonseed hulls


El Shafie and Osman (1965) El Shafie and Mcleroy (1965).

Cottongin trash


Khalafalla (1988)



1. The bulk of the research undertaken on agricultural by-products is an individual rather than an institutional activity as could be perceived from the weak integration of researchers and the lack of multidisciplinary approach. Few of the activities were conducted by more than two persons.

2. It was apparent that the capacity of the Sudanese scientists and institutions to generate research on agricultural by-products is limited.

3. Almost all of the research activities were reported in the English Language (the elite Language) and very few of the reports were abstracted in Arabic which is the mother tongue of the majority of the population.

4. Almost all the research undertaken was targetted for commercial dry feedlot operators and not small-scale farmers. Some of the research was conducted for academic purposes.

5. One shortcoming of the majority of the research conducted, so far, on agricultural by-products, and as a direct consequence of the lack of coordinated research efforts, is the absence of economic analysis of the results. Thus, although almost all research results indicated the technical feasibility of agricultural by-products in animal feeding, economically this has not been verified.

6. The technology employed involved the use of capital-energy intensive machinery and relatively expensive chemicals and concentrate feedstuff ingredients.

7. The majority of the research on agricultural by-products was conducted on agro-industrial by-products, namely the oilseeds, sugar cane and cotton ginning industrial by-products. Research on crop residue was limited to sorghum stover.

8. The scientific merit of some of the research undertaken is questionable. Some of the research reports reviewed contained insufficient information, error of formulation and design and the failure to answer fundamental questions on the issues addressed by the investigator.

9. Little or no effort was made to introduce the majority of the research results obtained to the potential users, either, directly or through pilot or development experimentation.

Relevance of the Research Undertaken to Modern Small Scale Farmers.

Almost all of the research undertaken was of little or no relevance to the modern small-scale farmer in the Sudan for one or more of the following reasons:

1. The research emphasized the use of agro-industrial by-products (Table 2) which are not available on the farm or nearby local markets. They are available at industrial centres, distances away from the modern small-scale farms, at relatively low prices. Table 3 shows the crop and agricultural by-products productivity and utilisation on modern small-scale farms in the Sudan. It indicates that the agricultural by-products available on the farm are the crop residues of sorghum, cotton, groundnut (haulms) and wheat in that order of magnitude. With the exception of cotton, which is grazed in site, the bulk of the crop residues are collected and stored for later use. However, not ale of the estimated amounts of the agricultural by-products produced on the farm are available for collection and storage by the farmer. This is related to the acuteness of labour shortage at harvest time and the intensity of in situ grazing by nomadic livestock trespassing to water in the nearby irrigation canals.

2. The research undertaken maybe more relevant to high producing mature meat animals (finishing cattle and sheep). The control treatments/diets were composed of high concentrate feedstuffs. This is not always the case on modern small-scale farms where the bulk of livestock are kept for milk production. Meat animals are usually disposed of at an early age at home or sold as feeders. Thus, the feeding of high levels of concentrate on modern small-scale farms is an exception rather than a rule.

Table 2. An overview of agricultural by-products research activities undertaken in the Sudan (1960-1988).

Agricultural by-product/agro-industrial by-product

Class of agricultural by-product

Materials and equipment employed

Experimental species

Research results (% of cotton)




Sorghum stover

Crop residue

Mills, mixers, chemicals and concentrates

Beef cattle




Dura hulls

Crop residue

Mills, mixers and concentrates

Beef cattle



Groundnut hulls


Mills, mixers and concentrates

Beef cattle






Mills, mixers, concentrates and pelleters

Beef cattle




Cottonseed hulls


Mills, mixers and concentrates

Beef cattle




Cottongin trash


Mills, mixers and concentrates





Only in one study was the control an unprocessed agricultural by-product.
DMI: Dry-matter intake
ADG: Average daily weight gain
FCR: Feed conversion ration

Table 3: Crop & Agricultural by-product productivity & utilisation on modern small-scale farms in the Sudan.


Estimated grain production (kg/feddan1)

Ratio of agricultural by-product: grain

Estimated production of agricultural product (kg/farm)

Current use in livestock production

Constraint to utilisation





Grazed in situ within one month of harvest (March)

Collection and storage are prohibited.





80% collected, stored and fed in stall. The remainder is grazed in situ within 2 weeks of harvest (Dec.)

Poor storage, inefficient use.





70% collected, stored and fed in stall. The remainder is grazed in 2 weeks of harvest (Nov.)

Poor storage.





80% collected, stored and fed in stall. The remainder is grazed in in situ (March-April).

Poor storage inefficient use.

1feddan = 4200 m2

(1) Current agricultural statistics (1984), Ministry of Agriculture, Sudan
(2) Better utilisation of Crop Residues and by-products in Animal feeding FAO, Animal Production and health paper.

3. The technology embodied in the research undertaken involved the processing of the agricultural by-products used. The equipment and materials employed for the processing and preparation of the diets are beyond the economic and technical capabilities of the modern small-scale farmer, and perhaps the country as a whole. The lack of electricity on the farm and the frequent shortage of Petroleum fuel to operate the processing equipment, in addition to the small amount of crop residues produced on the farm, are enough reasons to justify the inappropriateness of such a technology on the modern small -scale farms.

Applicability of the Research Results

It was found that the results of the research undertaken are inapplicable on small-scale farms and feedlots.

A number of factors have led to this inapplicability.

Major among these factors are:

1. The research that has been done, so far, is on livestock finishing and more specifically on finishing in commercial dry feedlots. As such it is neither related to the local conditions of the small-scale farmer nor to the nature of their animal raising activities. Small-scale farmers in the irrigated production centres are concerned more with dairy production than with fattening animals in feedlots.

2. The materials, tools and equipment used in the research are dictated by the nature and scale of the business activities in the commercial fedlots. This obviously hinders their applicability at the small-scale level where the number of animals dealt with is rather small.

3. The research is oriented mainly towards arriving at technical feasibilities and technical optima. With the exception of one or two research projects no economic analysis has been done to translate economic optima into monetary terms, i.e. cost savings and increased revenue that could be extended to and understood by the small-scale producers. There is need to provide adequate economic incentives to the small-scale farmers to induce them to adopt the improved production methods. This underlines the need for economic analysis of research results if the ultimate objective is to make the small-scale producers benefit from them.

Conclusions and recommendations

1. Research on agricultural by-products undertaken in the Sudan is characterized by weakness, marginality and disarticulation. This could be due, at least in part to the inadequate human and financial resource allocated to research institutions (Appendix) and to the lack of links between them. The low pay, the lack of good support to research and the absence of a healthy working atmosphere are behind the low efficiency and dedication of the scientists to produce good quality research.

2. Agricultural technology is known to be location specific. This makes it imperative to coordinate efforts to establish and strengthen research work to adapt new agricultural research and discoveries to local farming conditions. This is likely to yield higher socio-economic returns and better quality research.

3. Small scale farmers are generally likely to be more ignorant than enterprisers in other sectors of the economy about the existing improved methods of production. Hence properly designed extension services that disseminate research results to farmers and bring to the researchers their problems as a feed-back are also likely to yield higher socioeconomic returns and better quality research.

4. Where possible, the tools and equipment pertinent to applying the new production techniques that are recommended, need to be designed to meet the needs of small-scale production. Simple, locally available and relatively cheap materials, equipment and tools would encourage the adoption of the new techniques.

5. Alternatively the new technology could be used collectively by groups of farmers in co-operative organisations or, perhaps, it could be provided as a service at cost by the administrations of the production units.

6. Even for those to whom it is applicable i.e. commercial feedlot operators, the research results that have been arrived at, so far, have not been adopted. This is so despite the fact that the results were demonstrated on commercial dry feedlot premises. This is believed to be related to the nature of the meat animals markets. In the Sudan these markets are highly concentrated. The few commercial operators who control these markets are not very conscious of the cost effectivenes of the newly demonstrated technologies.


Ahmed, F.A., El Shafie, S.A. and Osman, H.F. 1977. Fattening of Western Baggara cattle on rations of conventional concentrates and agricultural by-products. Acta Veterinaria (Beograd) 27(1): 21-27.

Ahmed, S.E., Mohamed, T.A. and El Hag, M.G. 1985. Survey and on farm trials in private beef cattle finishing feedlots in the Khartoum area. In: T.L. Nordblom, A.K.H. Ahmed and G.R. Rotts (eds) proceedings of a workshop on Research methodology for livestock on farm trials held at Alepo, Syria, 25-28 March, IDRC - 242 e. 5-40, Ottawa, pp 14-40.

El Hag, F.M. 1986. Performance of feedlot beef cattle fed on agro-industrial by-products versus concentrate feedstuff under different seasons and management systems. M.Sc. thesis (Anim. Prod.), University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan.

El Hag, G.A. and George, A.E. 1981. Performance of Western Baggara bulls fed on rations containing high levels of poor quality agro-industrial by-products. E. Afr. Agric. For. J. 47: 43-48.

El Hag, M.G. and Hamad, A.F. 1983. Sudan desert sheep performance on variable levels of agroindustrial by-products supplemented with urea and cobalt. Wld. Rev. Anim. Prod. 19: 21-28.

El Hag, M.G. and Kurdi, O.I. 1986. prospects for efficient utilisation of agro-industrial by-produces and crop residues for ruminants feeding in the Sudan with emphasis on quantification, nutritional composition, constraints and research results. In: Towards an optimal feeding of agricultural by-products for Livestock in Africa: proceeding of a Workshop held at the University of Alexandria, Egypt, October 1985 ILCA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

El Shafie, S.A. and Mcleroy, G.B. 1986. Carcass characteristics of feedlot fattened northern and western Sudan Zebu cattle. Sudan J. Vet. Sci. Anim. Husb. 6:3-11.

El Shafie, S.A. and Osman, A.H. 1965. Fattening of Sudan Zebu cattle. II. Weight gain and carcass analysis of Kenana cattle under two different types of feed. Sudan J. Vet. and Anim. Husb. 6 (1) 75-82.

El Shafie, S.A., Osman, A.H. Khalil, K.A. and Tawfik, E.S. 1976. Preweaning and postweaning growth and its relationship to feedlot performance and carcass characteristics of bull calves. Sudan J. Vet. Sci. and Anim. Husb. 17:1-16.

Farah, A.A. 1986. An appraisal of the economics of beef cattle finishing in Khartoum, M.Sc. Thesis. University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan.

Khalafalla, M.K. 1988. Effect of dietary level of cotton gin trash on nutrient utilisation and performance of Sudan desert lambs. M.Sc. thesis. (Anim. Prod.), University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan

Mohammed Salih, G.M. 1986. Effects of sorghum straw feeding on feedlot performance of cattle, M.V. Sc. thesis. University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan.

Mohamed, H.K. 1988. Utilisation of unprocessed sorghum stover supplemeted with different levels of concentrate stover supplemented with different levels of concentrate on performance of Sudan beef cattle, M.Sc. thesis (Anim. Prod.), University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan.

Mohamed, T.A. El Tayeb, A.E., Mustafa, A.F. and Khogali, H.M. 1986. Processed and unprocessed sorghum stover in beef finishing rations. Paper presented at the 4th ARNAB workshop, held in Bamenda, Cameroon, 20-27 October 1987.

Mustafa, A.F. 1988. Effects of plane of nutrition and incorporation of milled sorghum stover in a conventional concentrate diet on the performance of Sudan beef cattle. M.Sc. thesis, University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan.

Osman, A.G., El Tayeb, A.E., Suliman, A.H. and Mohamed, T.A. 1987. Effects of sorghum straw alone or in combination with molasses and nitrogen sources on performance of Sudan desert lambs. Anim. Feed. Sci. Technol. (accepted).

Appendix: Human and financial resources of livestock research institutions in the Sudan.

Livestock research institutions





Scientific and Technical



























Budget 1988 (000' pounds)





(a) Including budget for research in crop production One U.S Dollar is officially equivalent to 4.5 Sudanese Pounds

ARC = Agricultural Research Centre
NRC = National Research Centre
LRA = Livestock Research Administration

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