Herd nutrition is the most important factor affecting performance. Poor nutrition results in low rates of production, often defined by growth and reproduction. It also affects the immune system and the ability of an animal to fight disease. In extreme conditions of malnutrition, death can occur. All in all, faulty nutrition causes many problems and lack of nutrients is one of the major reasons why animals do not reach their full production potential. In many animal production systems, about two-thirds of improvements in livestock productivity can be attributed to improved nutrition thereby necessitating optimal feed resource utilization since there are factors such as seasonal availability of forage and crop residues as well as recurrent and prolonged drought periods as it is in our case.
Improving performance through better nutrition is determined by three interrelated considerations:
• The availability of nutrients
• Type of feeding system
• The level of feeding management.
When feeding or preparing animal feed it is always better to have proper guidelines that would make it easier to track the quality and quantity of the feed offered in connection to the output given and expected.
Factors to consider when making feed for animals
This would influence the animal’s energy requirement therefore considering them would assist in providing balanced nutrition to meet these needs.
- Castrate or intact
- Productivity-(Milk production, breeding bulls, racing horses, meat producers)
- Physiological effects- (pregnancy, lactating, disease)
- Grazing habits-( bulk grazers, concentrate selectors or intermediates)
- Environment- (temperature fluctuations- hot, cold, windy, rain)
Things that one should know when preparing feeds for animals:
- It is essential to know the nutrients in the feeds that you provide that way, it becomes easier to know what more to add to the feed to make it complete. Essentially the major nutrients to consider are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals.
- Minerals are one of the vitally important as they are not readily available let alone in required amounts in feed especially graze and browse. Therefore it is essential to include their adequate levels in feed being formulated.
- Since we deal with ruminants, they require adequate amounts of roughage to prevent digestive disturbances. These include green grass, planted pastures e.g. Lucerne, elephant grass, cabbage etc. these form good roughage for animals especially lactating females.
- Animals that graze freely on range and rough grazing consume feeds that that cost nothing but they need to be supplemented for vitamins and minerals.
- Growing browse contains higher levels of crude proteins and phosphorus than grasses but may be of limited value due to their high content of tannins and terpene based oils which inhibit enzymes and rumen bacteria respectively.
- Do not feed spoilt or damaged feed as they may cause mycotoxins which brings us to how we store our animal feed especially hay and silage. Hay should be properly stacked with air ways available for proper drying. Silage should be properly covered to prevent air contact and enable proper fermentation. Mixes should also be kept dry and shaded.
- Dairy animals (both goats and cattle) should be fed the same that is intensively fed with a good source of hay and concentrates.
- Goats are have a high efficiency for converting concentrates to proteins therefore value back is guaranteed. But it should be noted that over feeding concentrates causes digestive problems which results in conditions such as laminitis.
- It is important to make sure that animals get enough energy and protein feeds for high production outcomes.
Importance of giving supplementary feeds:
- When rationing animals we should always be realistic and base on cheap foods such as browse, pasture, agricultural and industrial by products.
- Supplementary feeds such as drought relief cubes, mineral salts and water should be fed at all times because roughage on its own will not supply the energy, protein, vitamins and minerals required for the maintenance of the animal’s health. Different animals at different physiological stages have certain nutrients requirements therefore necessitating supplementation especially in this drought season.
- When considering feeding salt licks, know that they should contain trace elements such as iodine, copper, selenium. They may be needed in small amounts but are crucial to the animal’s wellbeing and are not readily available in the right amounts in graze.
- Simple mixtures such as crushed maize and bran are easy to make and can be fed twice daily to lactating or milking animals.
- A common problem of overfeeding grain for grain feeders to females in late lactation should be observed. They would store fat in their abdominal cavity leading to pregnancy toxaemia and problems during parturition. Extra care should be taken to prevent harming the very animals we are trying to help.
- One of the most important aspect that we should not forget when feeding and especially in this escalating heat is the provision of water. Adequate amounts of portable water should be provided at all times and the animals should be allowed to drink as much water as they want.
- Under free range management, animals in communal grazing are expected to locate their own sources of surface water. The demand for water increases especially in the dry season and animals will be prone to stress and dehydration due to lack of water.
- When water is not given, milk production declines and becomes even inadequate for the young ones. It is therefore import ant to choose a good system for the type of production you want to prosper in as free range becomes undesirable for dairy breeds as well as other breeds that are not heat tolerant since surface water is not readily available especially during this times of drought.
- Some common salt could be sprinkled on the feed to encourage them to drink water in order to prevent formation of urinary tract stones in male goats. Should borehole water be extremely salty, you may consider moving animals to a different area as very salty water often contains high levels of fluorine which weakens bones and teeth.
Water is the most important nutrient for the animal followed by energy then protein. Minerals and vitamins are also vital and should not be overlooked. At the end of it all, it is important to provide extra feed to our livestock so as to meet their body requirements and gain optimum efficiency. This is also necessitated by the change in climate since we are in a drought season. Knowing what is needed and at what level also helps a farmer manage their feed resources well and plan ahead for a prolonged period of time leaving out surprises of shortage or feed depletion. Happy feeding!
- Mushi E.Z. Binta M.G. Chabo R.G. and Modisa L. (1999). Diseases of goats in Botswana. Government Printer, Gaborone. Botswana.ISBN-99912-1-331-7