The “Feed Lot” –New technology to increase beef production in Uganda
For a long time industrial and agro processing residues have never been optimally used. Many times the breweries have been struggling to dispose brewers spent grain, a by product of beer production. Crop residues like the maize stovers are always burnt and cleared off after harvesting, while sugarcane factories have been grappling how to dispose off molasses, a byproduct from sugar.
Researchers at Makerere University are now converting these waste materials into high quality feeds for livestock dubbed the “Feedlot technology.” In 2011, researchers at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences embarked on research involving the use of industrial and crop residues in feeding animals to boost beef production in the country. The major feeds used in this program are the Maize bran, molasses, brewers spent grain from Luzira and Jinja, Maize stovers and mineral sources locally available.
Head Department of Agricultural Production Dr. Denis Mpairwe said the research work is being done in collaboration with a farmer in Mubende District, Rwaburindore Bishanga Tarsis. Rwaburindore owns a 4.5 square mile ranch called Betar Ranchers with over 2000 heads of cattle and over 2000 goats and sheep for beef production under extensive and intensive production. The farmer approached the university with the major interest of producing beef at faster rate with a target of supplying 400 animals per month to Fresh cuts .
Under the Feed lot technlogy, researchers are comparing two systems. In one method animals graze on pasture the whole day and then put to a special feeding in the evening. The second method is raising the animals on maize stovers and finishing them on the feed lot in one place, an area where Makerere University is providing technical advise. “We are comparing the weight gain of different breeds like the Boran, Bosmara, Ankole and Fresians because they have different requirements. We are costing the feed, the labour, structure so that at the end of the day we come up with a cost benefit analysis for him.” Said Dr. Mpairwe.
After weaning around on year , animals are brought into the feed lot and fed until they obtain market weight of Uganda which is 350 kilogrammes putting into consideration meat to bone ratio .Researchers then assess which animal will give more meat, grow as fast as possible and at what age they should be brought in the feed lot.
PhD Researcher Asizua Denis who is currently stationed on the farm collects samples at three hours interval with the objectives of establishing how much feed a farmer needs to raise different breeds per day and how long the animals should stay in the feed lot for profit. “We are evaluating the type of animal, the type of feeding system and also evaluating the feeds and how different feeds are utilized by animals to produce meat. We started with animals which weighed on average 220 kg and after about effectively 40 days now which is one month and 10 days our average weight has gone to 250 kg”, He said.
This means that an animal under Feed lot technology gains 30kg in a month and about 1.5 kg a day. However some animals referred to as champions have been able to gain 30 kg in two weeks. Different sizes and types of animals are put in one paddock to feed together and then separated according to the sizes to establish the rate of weight gain, feed consumption to help compute the feed conversion ratio as the first economic indicator of the feed lot system. It has been observed that very good animal eats less and grows faster while a poor one eats more and put on less weight.
Under the feed lot technology different feeds are rationed to provide different nutrients. The maize stover provides the source of fiber to take advantage of the ruminant microbes which can convert the fibre for the animal to feed. For the microbes to work very well, animals are provided an energy source and that energy source comes from the molasses. The molasses is put in the feed to help the growth of the microbes and at same time help in the growth of animals because sugars or carbohydrates in the molasses are readily available for absorption like glucose.
The brewers spent grain is used as a source of protein for the animal. So far the sources of protein that have been used in Uganda are cotton seed cake, sunflower cake and fish meals but they have turned out to be very expensive because they determine the cost of feeding animals and chicken. But now this brewers spent grain is being dumped and even cheaper compared to cotton and sunflower seed cake.
The first beneficiary of this technology who is also Managing Director Betar Ranchers Rwaburindore Bishanga Tarsis said he works with the university to help in research to establish the building of beef and how much he will benefit from supplementation .
The model farmer, Rwaburindore Tarsis on his farm in Mubende
“Here specifically is the animal Feed lot technology where we are supplementing the animal feeds and it has helped the animals to grow much faster, the quality of the beef it puts on is high quality and even a person with a small piece of land can be able to rear thousands of cattle. On two acres, we are keeping 150 animals on food supplement”, Rwaburindore said in an interview on his farm.
He advised farmers to take up the technology and commended Makerere University for offering advisory role, ration percentages, feeds and conducting research on performance of feeds whose findings will go a long way to help the beef industry.
He however calls upon government to give support to the commercial farmers if the beef industry is to flourish. “Water is a big challenge, the cost of drugs and trained personnel and lack of long term interests financing and veterinary services are huge challenges because the investment is big and needs huge capital and then most of feeds come from Kampala”. He decried.
Experts in animal production at the University are now calling upon government to re-strategize by supporting commercial farmers who have the land a position that is contrary to the current EU which advocates support for the small holders . To them government should support commercial farmers who will in turn support small holders on grounds that they have land, and can easily reach out to the population sustain the supply of beef throughout the year.
Model farmer Tarsis Rwaburindore looks on as Dr. Denis Mpairwe explains the technology to Makerere University students
“A farmer like Rwaburindore needs support by way of water and soft loans, because pumping water all over 4.5 square miles , fencing and feeding needs a lot of money and it could work for him if he got 1 bn soft loan of low interest of about 2% and long term as the main way of supporting beef production in the country.” Dr. Denis Mpairwe appealed.
Researchers are also calling for government intervention in regulating feed utilization in this by way of minimize feeds that go out of the country to support farmers or come up with some policies to regulate the utilization of feeds. About 90% of the feeds like sugar molasses; maize bran, rice and maize bran now are exported to Kenya go to Kenya because in Uganda because farmers have not been using them.
“The most important recommendations I can give is that we already know that the feed lot we have can boost livestock production so what is now required is how to use them help farmers to produce meat because now it’s the market forces that are operating and incase there is a shortage framers cannot be helped. So most important strategy is a regulatory document on feed utilization so that government can have a say on what kind of feeds to export and what amount to keep for farmers and at same time find a way of regulating prices because at times they shoot because of speculation”, PhD researcher Asizua Denis advised.
Farmers using the common feeds of cotton and sunflower seed cakes get the feeds the way they want, the moment they are high some people drop off the business. “Another strategy is increasing cotton production. If cotton and sugar production increases that will increase the availability of the feed supply”, Rwaburindore the beef farmer proposed.