Small Ruminant Production and Nutrition Systems
Dr. Andrés Cibils developed and presented a graduate student seminar: “Feeding Grazing Ruminants in the Tropics” to 17 master’s students in agricultural economics at the University of Ségou. The short course consisted of a 40-hour training delivered over six days. The course involved discussions and readings covering the basics of forage quality, ruminant physiology, grazing management and feed supplementation. During the afternoons, Andrés Cibils, Common Pastures Project Director Bara Kassambara, and Dr. Konimba Bengali held lecture and discussion sessions on each topic, and in the mornings Matt McIntosh and Janet Ott met with the students to help with reading assignments and to answer questions pertaining to the previous day’s lecture.
A short four-day course (from 8 a.m – 12 p.m.) on grazing management and supplement feeding strategies was also provided to secondary and technical students at the Agri-Sup school of Ségou. This program included morning lectures and discussion, and hands-on exercises involving calculation of stocking rates by Andrés.
Alternative feeds: Specifically cassava foliage silage was discussed and demonstrated as a supplement to increase digestibility of low quality hay and/or straw fed to large and small ruminants during the dry season. Farmers were educated on overgrazing, inadequate grazing and erosion threats. Improving pastoral land use and identifying local feed supplementation options are important first steps to improving food security.
Preparing and feeding cassava residue was demonstrated at two villages, Dougoukouna and Ouendebougou. The training included information about foliage green matter yield and weight of silage obtained at each site. Cassava foliage processing steps, from green leaf and stem harvest to silage, were explained in detail. Participants were able to see photographs on a tablet that showed each stage of the process. Also discussed was the chopping, addition of a soluble carbohydrate source, bagging, storage, and recommended proportion of cassava in small ruminant rations. Before the volunteers’ arrival, cassava foliage had been harvested, chopped, and ensiled, but not enough time had passed to allow lactic fermentation to take place to demonstrate the product and last step of the process.
Women in both villages were excited to learn about the availability of a forage chopper to reduce the time and effort needed to prepare the cassava foliage for ensilage (see photos below). In the village of Ouendebougou, Mr. Dembele, the chief of the village, suggested that the women associations should be involved in learning the technique of cassava foliage silage due to its potential for providing a new revenue source to support household economies. Dr. Bengaly and his assistants indicated that the University of Ségou would provide follow-up support to help train the women in the development of silage as an alternative feed to be used, especially during the dry season.
On the last day of the volunteers’ stay in the Ségou region, a ceremony was conducted in the village of Dougoukuna to celebrate the donated forage chopper. Members of the Women’s Association and the village chief expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the donation provided from private U.S. citizens. Meeting feed and forage requirements of small ruminants is the most urgent need for Malian farmers according to a meta-analysis of documentation associated with 36 USAID-funded F2F volunteer assignments and involved input from over 1,100 smallholder farmers (Cibils et al. 2015, Challenges and Opportunities for Agro-pastoral Livestock Smallholders in Mali. Outlook on Agriculture 44: 69-80). Utilizing cassava residue will help alleviate this constraint.