WINDHOEK - Nestled in the shadows of the Auas Mountains just south of Windhoek is Farm Windhoek which has become a haven for outdoor lovers, offering activities for the whole family with over 70 kilometers of trails suitable for mountain biking, hiking, trail running, dog walking and bird watching.
As the dearth of the drought takes its toll on the 200 cattle roaming on Farm Windhoek, a new activity has sprung up at the farmstead where innovative farmer Piet Nolte is now producing high-quality bush feed, making use of intruder species to supply the herd of Brahman, Drakensberger, and Herefords with their daily needs.
Nolte says he produces bush feed for N$1 per kilogram, while the current price of Lucerne is N$6 per kilogram.
“I was forced to turn to Mother Nature to provide feed for the animals, and on Farm Windhoek, an abundance of intruder species was the answer. We cut down Prosopis, black thorn, shepherds trees and buffalo trees that account for 80 percent of the mix and then add molasses, chop or maize meal and bush enhancer to produce a completely balanced and highly nutritional feed,” he explains as two of his workers fire up the chipper/shredder machine that now runs flat-out every day to supply the demand.
Nolte says his product can be fed to all kinds of animals, except horses because of the urea content in the mix.
“I am busy upgrading my chipper when it is not running to make it even more efficient because many black farmers close to Windhoek have been inquiring about the possibility of supplying them with feed as they just cannot afford imported lucerne and hay. The current drought is much worse than anybody could have anticipated at the start of the year and I see many small-scale farmers on their knees and with their animals in terrible shape. It is heart- breaking. I would gladly supply these farmers with my feed at an affordable price once my chipper is upgraded,” says Nolte. He is extremely knowledgeable in producing bush-feed for livestock and has done extensive research in order to come up with his own nutritional feed.
“Tough time are still ahead for every farmer as winter now raises nutrient requirements of both cows and calves. Consequently, extra high-quality feed is necessary to help livestock maintain their core body temperatures and keep the immune system functioning properly.
If cattle do not receive a balanced diet during winter, an animal’s production and fertility rate declines. Not only does the animal become stunted, if it is pregnant, it is unable to carry to term or raise offspring to maturity,” he notes.
In the past, crop residues were used to feed livestock in winter, but as time went by some farmers began to treat crops with urea to improve protein content.
The hominy chop is used in the mix to cause a pH-drop in the rumen for slower urea release. Intake is regulated with salt. Cattle must receive at least 150 gram of pure protein per day.
The protein in the mix sustains rumen micro-organisms, improving the digestibility of the feed.
Nolte says the most difficult period is from August until October when the nutritional value of natural grazing is at its lowest, and cows are in their final trimester of pregnancy. “It is during this period that livestock suffers most from nutritional deficiencies because of a drop in the nutritional value of natural grazing,” he notes.
“Cattle are grazers and since bushes contain more nutrients than grass, grazers tend to suffer greater nutritional deficiencies compared to browsers during this period“, he explains.
Nolte says in the current economic crisis and the drought, it is impossible to see animals through winter by feeding those licks. “Communal and small-scale farmers simply can’t afford it. When you have 200 cattle on a farm, you have to get your money’s worth through higher production and the fertility of your livestock. I achieve this with my bush-feed which has proved to be the answer in these desperate times,” he explains.
“At the end of the growing season, usually around May, the farmer must take stock of how much forage is available on the farm and how long will the forage last with the livestock currently on the farm. Because of the large inter-seasonal rainfall variation, it is advisable to make provision for an extended dormant season not shorter than nine months until the new effective rains have fallen and livestock are able to take “full bites” again. If forage was enough, livestock should reach the end of the dormant season still in good condition. This means that cows will conceive and calves will grow well. If forage was not enough, the livestock will be in poor condition, the cows will not conceive and in extreme cases, livestock will die,” he explains.
2019-06-18 11:13:35 | 5 months ago