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H. Menbere


Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa, with approximately 27 million head of cattle, including around 6 million draught oxen, 24 million sheep, 18 million goats, 7 million equines, 1 million camels and 52 million poultry. The greatest concentration occurs in the highlands where 70 percent of the human population live. Livestock and livestock products contribute 35 percent of the agricultural output and additionally supply the power to cultivate virtually all of Ethiopia's 6 million ha of land cropped annually. Livestock (mainly donkeys) also contribute substantially to rural transport needs. Exports of livestock products are presently limited to hides and skins, but a great potential exists and maximum effort is being exerted for exports of beef, mutton and live animals, especially to the Middle East. Livestock is the second largest earner of foreign exchange after coffee.

Since the mid-1970s, rural development has been organized within a socialist framework. However, collective farming through cooperatives and state farms accounts for less than 10 percent of the total cultivated area. Over 85 percent of agricultural output is still produced by individual subsistence smallholders who have farming rights over the land they till. Out of the total land area 55 percent are grasslands or permanent pastures. In the highland area animals are part of a mixed subsistence farming complex, while in the lowland area animals are kept by pastoralists. Only a very small proportion is commercially owned by state farms, cooperatives or private individuals.

Livestock productivity, in general, is low throughout the country. Cows calve about every second year and cattle take four to five years to reach maturity. All types of animals suffer nutritional stress for much of the year because of the high cropping and grazing intensity. There are few opportunities for increased offtake under the present production systems and nutritional interventions, such as forage development or supplementation (or a combination of the two) which would be necessary to increase per head and animal production. Cattle, sheep and goats frequently walk long distances to water/graze and are housed or gathered at night, either with their owners or in simple shelters and barns made out of thorn bushes.

Substantial areas are used for communal grazing. These commons are typically dominated by unpalatable and low productivity grass types. Severe overgrazing and erosion are evident in almost every part of the country.


2.1 Crop residues: cereals, pulses and other crops

These are the main sources of roughage for small-scale and commercial fatteners operating around crop farming areas. Cereal straws from teff, barley and wheat are the largest component of the livestock diets. The residues are stacked after threshing and fed during the dry season, as are pulse crop residues. Maize, sorghum and millet stovers are important residues in the lower altitude zones. Teff is widely grown in the highlands and barley replaces wheat at higher altitudes, where pulses increase in importance.

Ethiopia's annual crop of about 4.6 million ha of cereals produces 6.5 million tonnes residue, and 0.8 million ha of pulses provide 0.4 million tonnes of haulms. Nutritive values of teff straw are equivalent to medium quality hay, whereas other cereal residues are only of poor to fair quality. However, pulse haulms are high quality roughage (5–8 percent crude protein).

2.2 Byproducts from the Ethiopian sugar industry

On the average about 15 000 ha of cane are harvested each year with a yield of 110 tonnes cane/ha (FAO Production Yearbook 1985). Sugar mills are found at Wonji/Shewa and Metahara and are organized and run by the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation (ESC).

2.2.1 Molasses

Present molasses production is more than 70 000 tonnes per annum (Table 1) and molasses production is expected to reach 92 000 tonnes by 1991–92. The expansion will take place in 1988–89 (Wonji/Shewa) and 1989–90 (Metahara).

The major part of molasses produced by the Sugar Estate is presently exported to Europe and USA through Djibouti and all the molasses from Metahara are exported (Table 2). Railway wagons are used as transport for exports.

A part of the molasses produced in sold on the local market to distilleries and for cattle fattening (Table 3)

Comparison, for each year, of the figures of production and export + local sales shows immediately that there is an important quantity of molasses which is neither used locally nor exported. Residual molasses could be available for additional livestock feed. The average excess for 1980, 81 and 82, is around 15 000 tonnes/year. This excess molasses is in fact dumped in ground pits existing in the Sugar Estates and used for road maintenance and the rest dumped down the river (Awash).

Explanation of this situation is not the lack of export possibilities. ESC always finds international buyers but the Ethiopian railways cannot for the moment insure the transport of molasses. The surplus molasses will increase with the expansion programme and will reach 65 000 tonnes in 1991–92. However, the Government has started plans to convert all surplus molasses into ethanol including, presumably, the 50 000 tonnes which were to be exported.

The most recent group to examine alternative use for molasses was an FAO team that visited Ethiopia in late 1984 to plan an emergency programme for livestock survival during the current drought. The team adovocated (and we all do) that all molasses should be used as livestock feed, both in times of drought and during normal seasons. Five thousand tonnes of molasses would fatten less than 10 000 head per annum. This is less than the number currently fattened by the Ministry of State Farms Development for export. Ethanol production conflicts with existing operations and future plans for cattle fattening in Ethiopia particularly if rations are to rely on molasses for the energy available for weight gain.

There are substantial economic data and research results to support the argument that molasses should be used as a livestock feed, irrespective of the season. The FAO team that visited Ethiopia in late 1984 concluded that in times of severe drought, priority should be given to the use of molasses to assist with the survival of breeding cattle and that in normal years, fattening and feedlot finishing would be the most profitable alternative.

2.2.2 Cane tops, trash and bagasse

Ethiopia's cane field produces 540 000 tonnes of cane tops and 270 000 tonnes of trash each year (380 000 tonnes of dry matter) and the factories produce about 476 000 tonnes (235 000 tonnes of dry matter) of bagasse. Some of the cane tops are collected by local peasants and fed to livestock without any charge. Usually most of the cane tops and trash are burnt to facilitate subsequent irrigation and cultivation of the ratoon crop. The three existing factories use most of the bagasse as boiler fuel. In any given year a minimum of 300 000 tonnes of dry matter in the form of cane tops and trash has been produced within the three sugar estates. This means that at the rate of 3 to 4 kg average dry matter intake per head per day for 90 days it will be sufficient to feed more than one million cattle. This is assuming efficient recovery of tops and trash but shows the enormous potential for productive utilization of available resources that are presently wasted.

3. Molasses as cattle feed

3.1 Background

Feeding practices in almost all fattening programmes in our country depend on liberal feeding of wheat bran, and middlings and noug cake supplemented with straw (and more recently sugarcane tops). Molasses is fed in limited quantities (less than 3 kg/day). Urea in most cases is not used. Average performance rate is between 500 and 600 per day. These feeding practices must change and are being changed because of the following major reasons:

The use of molasses for cattle fattening has been developed in many countries under conditions resembling in some respects those presently prevailing in Ethiopia. Namely, shortage of foreign exchange, lack of conventional concentrate feeds, and the need to expand meat production to provide protein for the population. A high molasses feeding system proved economically successful since rates of animal performance and efficiency of feed utilization were almost doubled compared with the traditional method. In view of the export potential of molasses and foreign exchange cost associated with urea, the use of molasses/urea (blocks or liquid) must be associated with livestock production systems which either provide export earnings (finished beef animals) or provide substitutes for imports (dairy production).

3.2 Feeding and management systems on state farms

3.2.1 Beef cattle feedlots (at Wonji and Kuriftu) have started to feed ad libitum molasses with 500g/day of poultry litter, one kg/day of protein-rich oil cake (noug, cotton) and sugarcane tops or straw at the rate of approximately 1 kg dry matter per 100 kg liveweight per day. A mixed supplement of wheat bran and wheat middlings with oil seed cake is being replaced by oil cake and poultry litter. The supply of poultry litter is from the State Poultry Farm not too far from the feedlots (Debre Zeit). The ad libitum feeding of molasses is reached by providing steadily increasing quantities of molasses; it usually takes three weeks to reach ad libitum feeding.

3.2.2 Beef holding areas (Netle, Alemtena): These areas have water points and advantage was taken to situate cattle around the water troughs and to feed them molasses ad libitum. Oil barrels cut down the middle and concrete troughs made from drain pipes (60 cm diameter) are used to mix the molasses, 1 kg oil cake, and 500 g of poultry litter per head per day. Straw is fed on the ground (or on a rack) at daily quantities between 1 and 4 kg/head depending on the holding area grazing capacity (native pasture). Grazing time is between 3 and 7 hours per day and confined throughout the rest of the day and night (with adequate space) with easy access to the troughs. This system of feeding is also adapted to fattening of goats and sheep. The amount of oil seed cake and poultry litter is 150 kg and 50 g per head per day respectively. Molasses is sometimes sprinkled over the daily hay allowance at the rate of about 0.5 kg/head/day.

3.3 Storage and transport of molasses

A system of mixing aqueous urea and molasses in standard oil tankers has been developed and is giving satisfactory results. The important points to note are that water should be added first to the tanker in amounts equivalent to 5 percent based on the weight of the final mixture. The system of introducing the water is to use a hose pipe and to measure the rate of flow with a watch. The approximate amount of water is then added to the tanker on a time basis. This is quicker and perfectly reliable for the purposes required. The urea (in amounts equal to 2.5 percent of the total weight of the mixture) can be added at the same time as the water. Care must be taken to ensure that there are no lumps in the urea. Lumps of urea can be easily broken with a spade or similar instrument. The urea and water must be put in the tanker at least some 10 km away from the sugar factory so that the urea will go into solution as the tanker is driven to the factory. At the factory the required amount of molasses (92.5 percent of the total weight of the mixture) is added. As molasses has a higher density (1.45) than fuel oil the loaded weight of the tanker is achieved when it is approximately two thirds full. The space that is left above the above the molasses together with the baffler inside the tanker ensure that the molasses and aqueous urea are completely mixed before the tanker arrives at its destination. The above system of transporting and mixing of urea was used during the drought feeding programme and to feedlots and holding areas of the State Farms.

Storage of molasses on farm sites is a simple earth pit on a hill side. Tankers can unload and the molasses could flow out by gravity on tankers pulled by horses or tractors.


Changes in feed availability and in the nature of the ingredients fed can be causal factors of the metabolic disturbances associated with high level feeding of molasses. Inevitably when a change is made from restricted feeding of molasses to ad libitum feeding, there will be a relatively high incidence of metabolic disturbances. The three metabolic disturbances that can occur are molasses toxicity (drunkenness), urea toxicity and bloat. The important step is to establish the feedlot on the ad libitum molasses system; then provide on a continuous basis both the molasses and the other supplements (e.g. oil seed cake and poultry litter) and measure the results in terms of animal performance, economics and disease incidence.

The economic advantages of using high levels of molasses/urea are considerable apart from the fact that the use of high levels will enable the wheat bran/middlings presently used in the fattening ration to be allocated for other more appropriate purposes such as feeding of dairy cows, poultry and pigs. There is, therefore, a very strong incentive for a programme of research which will increase the understanding of the factor causing molasses toxicity; and to development of feeding and management systems in which the economic losses due to this disease are minimized to the point that they are more compensated by the greater rate and economy of fattening.

Therefore, the following feeding trials should be the developmental research areas to be studied: the base of research areas will be on indigenous cattle, crop residues and agroindustrial byproducts available in Ethiopia.

The list of research areas is not comprehensive nor does it indicate the exact orders of priority. It is certain that considerable research will be needed both at the operational level and laboratory in order to optimize the use of molasses in livestock feeding systems in Ethiopia.

In order to understand and implement strategic feeding systems the Ministry of State Farms Development and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) have commenced collaborative programmes on development research and training since the beginning of this year (1986). This point of collaborative effort should be stressed because the result will not have application only to Ethiopia but to other African countries already contemplating a greater utilization of their own national feed resources.

Table 1: Molasses production (tonnes)
Year1984 – 851983 – 841982 – 83
Wonji11 91714 35811 547
Shewa13 98815 15812 565
Metahara44 85643 72740 629
 70 76173 24364 741

Table 2: Molasses exports for the last five years
Year1984 – 8511983 – 8411982 – 831981 – 82
From ESC tonnes35 00028 00041 00029 000
Sale prices US$/tonne 50.047.861.9

Table 3: Local use of molasses
Year1984 – 8511983 – 8411982 – 831981 – 82
 16 00015 00018 30314 771
Cattle fattening    
 15 0009 800821724

1 On estimate available from Ethiopian Sugar Corporation(ESC), 1984.

Table 4: Tonnage foreseen as being available for livestock (tonnes)
Total molasses production 1991–291 000
Tonnage to be used for alcohol production and baker's yeast66 000
Residual25 000
Tonnage required by the beverage industry21 000
Tonnage available for livestock5 000

Hiwot Menbere

El ganado y los productos ganaderos representan el 35 por ciento de la producción agrícola de Etiopía, además de proporcionar energía de tiro para la producción agrícola y el transporte. Aunque las exportaciones de productos pecuarios se limita actualmente a cueros y pieles, se reconoce el beneficio potencial de la exportación de animales vivos y carne de vacuno y de carnero, y se están haciendo grandes esfuerzos en este sector.

Los residuos de cosecha constituyen la principal fuente de forraje para los animales, y también se dispone localmente de subproductos de la industria azucarera, por ejemplo melaza, cogollos de caña, bagazo y paja. Una pequeña parte de la melaza producida por el Ethiopian Sugar Estate (Ingenio azucarero etíope) se vende localmente a destilerías y para el engorde de ganado, mientras que la mayor parte se exporta. En general, todo parece indicar que el sector ganadero no utiliza plenamente los recursos de piensos disponibles.

Por consiguiente, es necesario realizar investigaciones sobre la utilización óptima de los recursos de piensos. La atención deberá concentrarse en la utilización de esos subproductos industriales por el ganado autóctono. Ello supondrá una evaluación de las fuentes de forrajes bastos y sus interacciones y suplementación con melaza/urea; investigaciones sobre la utilización de los cogollos de caña como forraje y de la gallinaza como aditivos y sustitutivos parciales de la urea; y la determinación de la respuesta de los animales a los diversos suplementos proteínicos.

A este respecto, el Ministerio de Desarrollo de Granjas Estatales de Etiopía y el Centro Internacional para la Ganadería en Africa (ILCA) han iniciado un programa cooperativo de investigaciones y capacitación en desarrollo a comienzos de 1986.

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