Mak, PSFU promote use of Urea Molasses Blocks as supplements for beef production in Central and Western cattle corridors

About 40 livestock farm managers and farmers from 10 districts in the Central and Western cattle corridor have been trained in the production of Urea Molasses Blocks/Multi-nutrient blocks as supplementary feed to boost beef production in the country.

Farmers practically mixing the ingredients for the blocks

Molasses urea blocks (MUB) are high protein-energy concentrated feeds containing the necessary amounts of minerals and vitamins and supply Non-Protein Nitrogen (NPN) to the rumen microbes.

Low quality pastures and crop residues are deficient in fermentable nitrogen, carbohydrates and minerals. The blocks are therefore a strategic feed supplement for ruminants as they provide a constant source of fermentable nitrogen and energy throughout the day to promote growth of the rumen microbes and the animals.

The training was conducted at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo organized under the Promote Supplementary Feeding (SUPPL-F) project. The Promote Supplementary Feeding (SUPPL-F) project is part of the Developing a Market –Oriented and Environmentally Sustainable Beef Meat Industry in Uganda (MIBIP) which is a Government of Uganda programme supported by the European Union under the overall  supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).

The  project is implemented by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda(PSFU) and partners at a total budget  of EUR 715,299 for a period of 28 months from the 12th August 2019 to December 2021. The collaborating partners include Robran Holdings Limited (RHL), Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences(CAES), The Green Elephant (TGE), the Livestock Development Forum (LDF) and the Orchid House Farm Nakasongola.

Dr. Justine Nambi teaching farmers on Making the blocks at MUARIK

Makerere University lead instructor Dr. Justine Nambi said supplementation with Urea Mollasses Blocks significantly increases feed intake, milk yield and growth rate, and they are therefore, a cost effective approach to utilization of locally available feed resources for improved productivity.

The common ingredients used in making the urea molasses feed blocks according to Dr. Nambi  are Molasses, Urea, Fibrous feeds like wheat bran, maize stover, rice bran, rice straw,  or any other cereal crop residues, Mineral premix, legume forage leaf hay, Cassava flour, clay or cement (as binding agent).

“Molasses make the blocks tasty and attractive to the animals due to their sweet taste and good smell. They provide energy and some other nutrients and minerals like Manganese, Magnesium, Copper, Potassium, Selenium, Iron, Calcium and Vitamin B-6.  The blocks should not contain more than 50% molasses as they would break too easily and take too long to dry.

Urea known to farmers as a fertiliser for crop production is used to make the blocks. It is advisable that the amount of urea be limited to 10% to avoid poisoning.  Urea is essential in improving digestibility and providing non-protein nitrogen”.  Dr. Nambi stated.

She explained that Cereal bran is the most common fibrous feed used after chopped grass or stover. The bran provides energy to the animals whereas Calliandra leaf hay has well balanced amino acids that are protected from degradation in the rumen. It therefore enhances microbial protein fermentation, digestion and improved feed efficiency.

In addition, Dr. Nambi advised  that salt in the range of 5 to 10% is added to the blocks to supply minerals and to control the rate of consumption.  Calcium carbonate and Calcium phosphate (DCP) can be added to provide additional calcium and phosphorus. On the other hand, legume leaf hay provides well balanced protein to the animals. Any legume leaf hay can be used and up 15% can be included in the block.

“Cassava flour/clay/cement is used as a binder to hold the block ingredients together.  About 10% is sufficient.  Higher levels make the blocks too hard.  Cement also provides calcium.  Clay such as that used in brick making can be mixed with cement to improve block hardness and reduce drying time.  It can also reduce cost of the block.

Other ingredients can be added to provide additional nutrients.  Dried poultry litter, oilseed cakes or brewery by-products can be added to supply protein.  Trace mineralised salt can be used to provide additional minerals that may be lacking”. Dr. Nambi explained.

Molasses Urea Blocks can be made on the farm. Production is simple and different processes exist according to the local conditions. The farmers were led through the four production process by Dr. Lutwama Vincent. The process starts from Preparation of the ingredients/components Mixing, Moulding and Drying.

Dr. Lutwama Vincent teaching farmers on weighing ingrediaents at MUARIK

Dr. Lutwama explained that all ingredients should be weighed before mixing. A standard weight can be adopted for each component which would correspond with the weight of the block desired. For example, if each block is to weigh  5 kg and at each mixing 20 blocks are to be produced (a total of 100kg), then, assuming that the feed ingredients available are mollasses. Urea. Maize bran, cotton seedcake, binder and mineral powder, then the formular below should be adapted to prepare the components for mixing.

Basic ingredients in Molasses Urea Blocks

Formula used

Ingredient Percentage  inclusion
Molasses 30 15
Cereal bran 12 6
Cotton seed cake 15 7.5
Urea 8 8
Cassava flour 6 6
Hay 10 5
Mineral powder 8 4
Calliandra / Gliricidia / Lablab or other leguminous hay 6 3
Salt 5 2.5
Total 100 50

“While mixing, the order of introduction of the components plays an important role in the mixing process. The recommended order is as follows: (1) Molasses;   (2) Urea; (3) Salt, minerals etc.; (4) Binder (Cassava flour, lime or cement); (5) Maize, rice or wheat bran; (6) Cotton seed cake or sunflower cake; (7) Calliandra leaf hay and (8) Grass hay.

In that order, a homogenous mixture of the urea, salt and gelling agent in the molasses is assured. Any other components such as minerals and drugs to be included can be introduced together with the mineral powder. When the mixture appears homogenous, rather like peanut butter, the mixture can be molded into desired shape”, Dr. Lutwama said.

Trainees molding the blocks

He emphasized that  good mixing is key for good block making.  Urea must be mixed thoroughly by breaking up lumps to avoid pockets of high concentration that could harm animals.

High levels of molasses and urea tend to decrease block hardness.  Check block hardness after drying and make adjustments to the formula used if necessary.  If the block is too hard, reduce the proportion of cement or clay and slightly increase the proportion of molasses. If too soft, increase cement or clay and reduce molasses.

The farmers were practically taken through the molding, drying, storage and other basics of handling of the Urea Molasses blocks.

Moulding

Once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, place the mixture into muolds.  Any local container, such as tin, cans or small buckets can be used as a mould.  Using a plastic sheet to line the moulds will make block removal from the mould easier.

Drying and Storage of Urea Molasses Blocks

Remove the blocks from the moulds after 24 hours and place on racks to dry. Leave the blocks to dry for at least 5-10 days depending on the weather conditions.

Characteristics of good blocks

  • Ingredients are well – distributed throughout the block
  • They don’t have lumps of urea and lime
  • They are hard enough not to be squashed between four fingers and should be resistant enough not to break when a person steps on them
  • The fingers should feel the sticky molasses when we hold the bloc The amount of molasses needs to be increased the next time if it doesn’t feel sticky.

Feeding molasses urea blocks to animals

Dr. Justine Nambi speaking to trainees during the practical session

The blocks should be fed as licks so that only the top surface is accessible to the animals. They are fed to cattle; sheep and goats above 6 months of age. They should not be fed to calves, chickens, pigs and lambs/kids.

The blocks  should  be  introduced  to  animals  slowly  and  should  be  fed  after the  animals  have consumed adequate forage. This prevents animals from consuming too much at any one time. The blocks are meant to be a supplement to a basal diet of forage. It is advisable to give access to sheep and goats for one hour during the first week of adaptation, two hours during the second week and free access after the third week. It is also advisable to give access to cattle not more than 1 – 2 hours per day for adaptation.

Block hardness will affect the rate of intake. If too soft, it is consumed too rapidly and there is a risk of toxicity. If too hard, intake may be too little. Urea at high levels is unpalatable. High levels of urea in the blocks may reduce intake of the block as well as that of the basal feed due to the bitter taste. High levels or imbalances in minerals may result in excessive consumption in a short time also leading to urea poisoning. Precautions should be taken to avoid overconsumption in drought prone areas particularly towards the end of the dry season when feed is scarce.

Precautions while supplementing with MUB

  • Do not feed to monogastrics i.e., horses, donkeys, or pig
  • Do not feed to young ruminants less than six months of age (kids, lambs).
  • The blocks should be used as a supplement and not as the basal rati
  • A reasonable amount of coarse forage in the rumen is essentia
  • Never give blocks to emaciated animals with an empty stomac There is risk of poisoning due to excessive consumption.
  • The amount of blocks fed to sheep and goats should be limited to 100 grams/day while for cattle; limit to 500-700 grams/day.
  • The blocks should never be supplied in ground form or dissolved in water as this can result in over consumption
  • Supply sufficient water on ad libitum basis.

Materials required to prepare different compositions of molasses-urea-blocks (MUBs)

Ingredients Alternative MUB Composition Formulae
A B C D E F G
Wheat bran 25 25 23 25 35 22 35
Molasses 37 37 40 48 39 50 20
Urea 0 10 10 10 10 9 7.5
Salt 3  3  4 5 5 5 7.5
Cement 5 3 5 6 5 5
Limestone 10  5 10 5 5 9 5
Oil seed cake 15 15 10 2
Clay 20
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Farmers speak out on the training

Farmers display their moulded blocks

TOT Mubende district Jodrio Geoffrey from Kisombwa ranchers   said as TOTs they are looking at an ordinary beef farmer who is going to go into beef fattening and, at the end of the day has to attain the market weight in a shortest time possible so that they can sell at better prices.

“We learnt how to make multi-nutrient blocks as a feed nutrient so that we can supplement on the roughage and pasture that animals feed on. The instructors were elaborate in their teaching and used very simple language because we are not only here as ToT but with farmers and owners ranches.

It is always good to incorporate theory  into practical. The theory session was very fine  and as a result we have made the blocks. We believe that when we leave here as TOTs, this knowledge will be shared with farmers surrounding the nucleus farmers that we are going to deal with so that at the end of the day, those that will be dealing with beef fattening we can aid them add value to the money they put in” Mr. Jodrio said.  Mbabazi Nirikukiriza , a farmer from Nakasongala said she came to learn more on nutrition for cattle.

“I find this training very beneficial because it is looking at the background of animal nutrition and the resources available and what is lacking in those resources and hence the need to do supplementary feeding.  We have gone through lectures on how to analyse feeds, in terms of availability of protein, energy and minerals that guides you how to come up with the feed supplement”, Mbabazi noted.

She said the advantage of the training is that she was able to go through processes of making the Urea Mollases blocks   and the theory behind its ingredients and reasons for putting more ingredients like bentonite preservatives and  cement as a binder.

Mbabazi added that she has been taken through the whole process of preparing ingredients, and mixing.

Trainees mixing the dough for the blocks

“We have seen that it’s good to begin with liquid ingredients and then small ingredients like urea until you get to the biggest amount of ingredients. We have done laboratory and field practical demonstrations looking at locally available resources and farm grown ingredients of blocks”. Mbabazi said.

Mbabazi said working in groups was very useful as they were able to practically make the blocks, advise and guide one another that will eventually make it easy to pass on the knowledge and skills to the farmers in respective districts.

Charles Akamanya from the Green Elephant  Smart grass energy solutions  and co- implementer in the MOBID program described the training as amazing. As a trainer he said, he found  it more interactive and hands on.

“This is something to learn from because the groups have been cooperative and engaging in hands on which is important for the trainees and farmers because they can go back and replicate what has been learnt.

The participants are headed for tough times because they are ToTS. They are going to face challenges. There are farmers out there who do not know what they have learnt   and they will be exposing them to new knowledge and they are going to be ambassadors of change”, Akamanya stated.

Article compiled by:
Jane Anyango,
Principal Communication Officer,
Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, CAES



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