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K. Hübl


This paper will concentrate on the tropical part of Africa commonly called sub-Saharan Africa and more particularly on the experience gained in West Africa.

1.1 Livestock production systems

Two major cattle breeds have populated sub-Saharan Africa: zebu cattle brought by nomads from Asia who settled in the tsetse-free rangelands, and humpless cattle (Bos tauru) introduced via North Africa. The latter started to develop from West Africa's coastal regions especially the highlands of Guinea, Futa Djallon, from where two famous livestock breeds originate: the N'Dama cattle and the Djallonké sheep.

Several livestock production systems have developed according to ecological conditions and as a result of coexistence of animal and plant production within the main farming systems.

In the semi-arid zones, pastoral range-livestock systems still predominate, although the number of real nomads is constantly declining with a trend toward shorter migration distances, agro-pastoral activities and settlement of at least part of the family keeping the milking animals and young calves. Ruminants play by far a predominant role and milk is the main product.

In areas of higher humidity and crop growing potential, crop-livestock systems have developed. Trypanosomiasis is a major problem where cropping areas are placed within bush and tree savannah. If the area is totally cleared and used for crop production, the tsetse flies disappear. Under these conditions more intensive feeding systems based mainly on crop residues become possible. Quite often the nutritional bottleneck occurs during the rainy season and vegetation period when livestock are enclosed in order to prevent crop damage.

In the African highlands the crop-livestock production system is characterized by a high density of the livestock and human populations (Jahnke, 1982). Animal traction is well established and cow milk and sheep production play an important role.

In addition to the above structures which have logically developed on the basis of tradition, environment and socio-economic conditions, more intensive and modern production systems such as ranching and intensive dairy, pig and poultry production units have been introduced to most of the sub-Saharan countries. A great number of them have failed because of supply, management and marketing problems which had been underestimated by ambitious promoters. Many others have shown rather promising results and they are those which give hope for the future. However, it must be remembered that these units request a similar management level to those in other parts of the world.

1.2 Animal health problems

Unlike Asia and Latin America, the African continent has almost all the known animal diseases causing tremendous losses. Because of their mobility and frequent contacts with other animals, different soils and watering facilities, nomadic livestock are continuously exposed to various diseases. Outbreaks of epizootic diseases remain inevitable unless an efficient vaccination cover is established and maintained but unfortunately this is not yet the case.

A wide range of ecto-, endo- and blood parasites threaten the stock. Blood parasites develop through the occurrence of biting and sucking insects, tsetse flies transmitting animal trypanosomiasis which prevails in most of the sub-Saharan countries. These diseases, together with nutritional problems, are mainly responsible for the low productivity and moderate growth rates of African livestock.


2.1 Introduction and first trial in Nigeria

In August 1971, in a first meeting in Rome with FAO officials and representatives from the sugar industry, the idea was born to launch a cane-molasses fattening operation at the Mokwa Cattle Ranch (MCR) in northern Nigeria. At the MCR conditions for such a project were almost ideal:

7 000 ha of partly cleared land, cattle corrals and holding facilities, building, workshop, office and storage infrastructure, presence of five internationally recruited development experts, their well-trained Nigerian counterparts and over 100 workers and herders having at their disposal more than 1 000 head of fattening cattle.

In agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria and FAO, Dr. T.R. Preston visited Nigeria in the second half of 1972. Based on his experiences from Cuba, a detailed workplan for a big feeding trial using cane molasses was immediately conceived and elaborated. Shortly after, some 600 young zebu bulls were procured and passed through quarantine treatment.

By November 1972, these fattening animals were already divided in three equal groups and fed cane molasses transported from the Bacita Sugar Complex situated some 75 km south of MCR. Molasses intake was rationed only for about 3 weeks after which the animals were given molasses ad libitum.

The fattening stock belonged to the Sokoto Gudali breed. The average starting weight was around 195 kg and the ages varied from 1.5 to 3 years. They were kept in open corrals allowing 4 to 5 m2 space per head. In addition to free water and molasses intake each bull was offered 2–3 kg (DM) of roughage and about 2 kg of whole cotton seed including some 30 g of mineral salt per day. The roughage consisted of grass silage, Panicum hay or 3–4 hours' limited grazing on natural pasture (mainly Andropogon).

Apart from the three different sources of roughage on which the three fattening groups were based all other feedstuffs were identical. After an adaptation period of 4–5 weeks where some molasses toxicity occurred (majority successfully treated) the animals fully consumed the different feeds showing considerable weight gains with an intake of 6–7 kg liquid cane molasses per day.

The weight gains shown in Table 1 were obtained despite a temporary (19 days) breakdown in the supply of cotton seed.

2.2 Mokwa feedlot

Following the promising results of the successfully completed molasses-based feeding trial (April 1973) the Mokwa Cattle Ranch which had started nine years previously, rapidly developed (Neumayer and Húbl, 1974). Within one year the cattle stock was raised to over 3 000 head permitting an annual throughput of more than 4 500 animals. All animals were kept on zero-grazing and ad libitum molasses. More than 15 tons of liquid cane molasses was transported daily from Bacita to Mokwa.

The average weight gains rose from 150–200 to over 700 g/day and all finished bulls were slaughtered and processed in the project's own refrigerated abattoir. Up to 120/day carcasses were transported to the capital of Nigeria, while most of the fifth quarters were sold locally.

Table 2 shows tremendous change in fattening performances. In this table molasses-based feedlot performances are compared with the fattening conditions in Mokwa before the introduction of the intensive molasses fattening method.

From February to March 1974 the international expert team was removed and full responsibility was placed in the hands of the well-trained Nigerian counterparts. The motivated feedlot management did very well for about one year until the oil-producing country decided to subsidize imported beef to an extent that cattl carcasses in the south were sold cheaper than live animals in the north. The project had little chance to survive this development in the Nigerian beef industry and the feedlot, including the very successfully run refrigerated abattoir, was closed after the last of almost 4 000 fattening bulls had been slaughtered.

From the Mokwa experience, the following conclusions can be made:

2.3 Ferkessedougou feedlot

The feedlot and sugar complex is situated 600 km north of the capital and port, Abidjan, in the Côte d'Ivoire. The country is highly deficient in meat and imports more than 100 000 head of zebu cattle per year, an important part of these animals passing through Ferkessedougou on their way down to the coast.

In 1976 a molasses-based feedlot was started close by the sugar complex of Ferkessedougou. Under a statal development agency (SODEPRA) and financed by the West German Technical (GTZ) and Financial (KfW) Cooperation, the target was an annual throughput of 10 000 head of cattle to be slaughtered in Ferke (Domdey, 1983).

From 1976 to mid-1980, some 18 000 head of cattle passed through the feedlot producing more than 1 000 tons of liveweight gain in more than 2 million fattening days. Performances resulted in an ADG of 456 g against about 700 g in the Mokwa Cattle Ranch.

As in Nigeria, molasses was given ad libitum. Although the feed composition had to be changed quite often due to temporary shortage of certain items the following ration (Table 3) is typical for most of the time from 1976 up to the present as the feedlot is still running.

While the infrastructure and the regular supply of purchased and farm-produced feed were better than in Mokwa, the project in Ferke had great difficulty with lean cattle quality at purchase. Zebu bulls, originating from the northern range, suffered particularly from parasites and they also had great difficulty to withstand the high rainfall of northern Côte d'Ivoire (1200–1300 mm p.a.). Under these conditions only about 90 percent of the incoming fattening bulls reached a normal slaughter weight. The other 10 percent had to undergo emergency slaughter or died (about 2 percent). All slaughtering was carried out in the project's own refrigerated abattoir, most of the products being transported and sold in the bigger towns of southern Côte d'Ivoire: Bouaké, Yamossoukro, Abidjan.

Experiences and results from the Ferke feedlot lead to the following conclusions:


If molasses is produced at great distances from the nearest sea port and if molasses fermentation into yeast or alcohol is not intended or feasible, a molasses-based feeding operation on fattening cattle, growing sheep or other domestic animals is still advisable. However, large industrial-type feedlots in the African context seem to be difficult to manage creating marketing problems on both sides which involve a great deal of risk.

If the transportation problem can be resolved, i.e. by an effective extension service operation (as in Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire), smaller and medium-sized fattening units seem to have less problems and more chance for long-term development.

Based on his experiences over the last few years, the author considers that the molasses-based feeding system practised in small or bigger fattening units using purchased fattening animals does not seem to be the ultimate stage in development. Many of the problems and difficulties of the production system which have been described can be resolved or overcome if feeder bulls are replaced by dual-purpose crossbred cattle and molasses by farm-produced sugarcane and other forage crops within the flexible and efficient frame of a family-type production unit.


Domdey. Fleisch aus Ferké. 1983 Ein Feedlot am tropischen Standort. GTZ - Schriftenreihe No. 123.

Jahnke, E.J. 1982 Livestock production system and livestockdevelopment in tropical Africa. Kieler Wissenschaftsverlag, VAUK.

Neumayer, T. and Hübi, K. Mokwa Cattle Ranch. 1974 BFE Schriftenreihe No. 13.

Table 1. Performance data
 Herd 1 (silage)Herd 2 (restricted grazing)Herd 3 (Hay)
Fattening period (days)169167169
Total weight gain (kg)96.63598.21119.13
Average daily gain (kg)0.5720.5880.705

Table 2. Comparison of performances before and after introduction of molasses
1.Rainy season1a) natural pasture0.300 kg average
   daily gain
  b) artificial pasture0.500 " "
2.Dry season1a) natural pasture0.000 " "
  b) artificial pasture0.100 " "
3.Feedlot (whole yr.)2a) maize silage and cotton seed0.300 " "
  b) molasses, grass silage or hay, cotton seed or dried brewers' grain 0.700 " "

1 before introduction of molasses

2 after introduction of molasses

Table 3. Composition of ration at Ferkessedougou feedlot
FeedstuffkgDM kgDig. protein kg
Roughage (grass or silage)
Cotton seed1.00.90.150
Cotton seed cake0.50.450.200
Total 6.950.550

K. Huebl

Africa subsahariana se enfrenta con una serie de problemas. El rápido crecimiento de la población y el estancamiento o la disminución de la producción alimentaria están provocando un deterioro de la situación económica y social. Además, la repetición de períodos de sequía parece agravar la situación general.

El sistema de la ganadería tradicional evoluciona bastante lentamente, mientras que se observa una clara tendencia a la integración de la producción ganadera y agrícola. Los animales domésticos padecen una amplia gama de enfermedades que afectan a su productividad.

La alimentación del ganado con melaza ad libitum fue introducida en Africa occidental por el consultor de la FAO Dr. T.R. Preston. En 1972 se inició con éxito una operación en el Rancho Mokwa en Nigeria. Con arreglo a los conocimientos y la experiencia adquiridos, se estableció otra segunda granja de engorde de ganado vacuno con dietas a base de melaza en Ferkessedougou, en Côte d'Ivoire septentrional.

Se describen y analizan la situación inicial, el ganado utilizado, la zénica de alimentación y los problemas con que se tropezó.

Por último, se intenta ofrecer una perspectiva de los futuros sistemas de alimentación del ganado a base de melaza.

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