Grazing management without rancour – Part 2
Continued from yesterday
Apart from the conventional grazing lands, advantages can be taken of the multiple land use system of under-sowing mature plantation crops such as: coconut, oil palm, rubber, cocoa and cashew with cover crops or legume- based pastures. Here the grazing animals effect weed control and their excreta improves the soil nutrient status. Reduced temperature under the plantation provides comfort for the animals especially during hot weather.
Every Nigerian state produces at least one or more distinctive agricultural by-products with great potential as livestock supplementary feed resources. The byproducts are invariably burnt off or allowed to decay. These include: maize, sorghum and millet stovers; rice straw; maize, rice and wheat offals; yam, cassava, banana and plantain peels; and cocoa pods. To another group belong high protein products – groundnut, cowpea and soybean haulms – which are accessible in abundance at the beginning of the dry season. Although cottonseed, groundnut, coconut and palm kernel cakes are utilised more by mono-gastric animals, some quantities are often aside for ruminant livestock. Suitable forage can be conserved as hay or silage, the former being weather-dependent.
Profitable silage making is realisable from maize, sorghum or millet if planted at high population densities (as opposed to the traditional practice of wide spacing for grain production) and the manipulations of bunker silos (concrete permanent structures that last several years) as opposed to pit silos which have to be repaired/reconstructed or relocated before every use. Maize harvested for silage at the appropriate maturity stage may not be supplemented with carbohydrate sources such as molasses and citrus or pineapple pulp. However, irrespective of the forage involved, including elephant grass, the addition of molasses is often advocated. Presently, and for ease of contact, molasses may be obtained from Dangote (Adamawa), Sunti (Mokwa) and Lafiaji/Tonga (near Bacita) sugar compares, while citrus and pineapple pulps can be sourced from Benue and other states renowned for fruit production. It is desirable that the silo be as close as possible to the feeding point.
The establishment of browse plants in grazing lands is particularly advantageous in low rainfall areas. Browse shrubs and trees can effectively withstand long dry seasons and at such times, their edible leaves and fruits that are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins become available to livestock while the grasses, on the other hand, are nutritionally deficient. It is important to preserve scattered stands of shade trees where livestock can rest.
Pastoralists can only be settled on already developed grazing lands but they have to be ready to pay for government-subsidised production costs. In the mean time, the pastoralists have to be taught pasture establishment, range improvement and renovation, crop-livestock integration, and most importantly, grazing animal management. Few Nigerians specialise in pasture agronomy and much fewer still, in range management. Yet experts are required to disseminate knowledge on pasture and rangement principles and practices as well as appropriate stocking densities to the technologically un-inclined pastoralists at the state and local government levels. The agricultural curricula in most higher institutions do not reflect or committing support pasture and range management teaching, to any worthwhile level.
An American engineer stopped by to tour a Nigerian university farm and was amazed at the diversity of morphological vegetative and reproductive display by over 80 species and cultivars of improved grasses and legumes. He exclaimed being reminded of a related set-up in a Florida Agriculture Station. Had he visited the over one hectare of painstakingly established and carefully handled students’ demonstration and research plots three years after, he would have been thoroughly shocked as, at the instance of the less-informed university administrators, the 13-year old arrangement had been willfully and unconcernedly bull-dozed and replaced with buildings and structures, thus depriving the students the practical skill acquisition. The public was also denied sightseeing opportunities.
• To be continued
• Prof. Akinola, a forage scientist, retired from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso. He resides in Ilesa.