During dry seasons, ruminants subsist mainly on high fibrous crop residues such as maize, pearl millet, sorghum and rice straws. Straws are characterized by high indigestible fibre due to increased lignification of cellulose; low crude protein and energy contents which limit its intake and digestibility. Although various chemical, physical and biological methods have been explored to improve the nutritive value, increase intake and digestibility of crop residues, these methods are not fully adopted in Namibia. The recurrent drought in Namibia strongly demands the improvement of roughages (straws and dry season standing hay) to maintain livestock during the time of feed shortage.
During the Feeds and Feeding practical session, third-year students from the Department of Animal Science, Neudamm Campus, conducted a trial to improve the nutritional value of roughages using urea solution which is known to increase crude protein and improve the digestibility of straws. Grass hay was chopped and mixed with 5% urea solution before incubation for 21 days. After incubation, urea treated grass hay were opened to get rid of excess ammonia, and then mixed with molasses before feeding to dairy calves at Neudamm farm. Farmers should be advised and encouraged to improve the quality of hay and cereal straws fed to animals, not only to keep animals alive but also to improve their body condition and animal performance.
Written by: Dr. M. Shipandeni and Prof. J. Mupangwa