Pig farmers in Uganda have embraced sweet potato silage feeds which enable animals to add close to half a kilo of weight per day and proving to be more affordable than the commercial feeds.
The new feeds which are made from locally available materials is being championed by researchers from International Livestock Research Institute ILRI. After having realized that most farmers are at crossroad with overcoming the challenge of access to affordable and quality feeds, the scientists’ ear marked feeds as an urgent factor to be addressed. Feeds play a very big factor in animal rearing and that too applies to pig farming. In fact it is estimated that as a major constraint in pig production can account for close to 80percent total production costs. This therefore explains why Danillo Pezo and his team dedicated most of their resources into the search of a sustainable solution.
“We found out that 35 out of 36 farmers in villages use food remains as feeds for the pigs. However, the feeding pattern was not the best as the animals are left at the mercy of whatever food remains available and therefore this affected the growth and final products from the animal,” explained Danillo. In most cases the farmers were left cursing because of the low prices their animals attracted from the market. To reverse the situation and help improve the livelihoods of these farmers, the scientists sought to empower the farmers with knowledge on how to prepare and preserve quality feeds from sweet potato vines, cassava and yam leaves.
According to Danillo, the farmers were already using these materials as feeds for the pigs although they were ignorant on how to best maximize the returns from them. For instance, the farmers could only avail these feeds to their animals during specific times of the year like harvesting time and when they are in plenty therefore rendering these feeds seasonal thus affecting the animal growth. “Animals do not require feeds on a seasonal basis but every day in order to have a uniform growth, noted Danillo.
The scientists have availed to pig farmers the affordable technology of ensuring use of crop feeds throughout the year and therefore scrapping of the seasonal factor. The process of making and preserving these crop feeds is known as silage making. The silage that is well prepared and last for over 20years and unlike the crop feeds used directly, silage is available throughout the year.
To prepare the silage, farmers cut the potato vines, cassava leaves or yams. Its then placed under sun shine for sometime in order to reduce the moisture. Too much water brings in mould or fungi which may end being toxic .The vines or leaves should be chopped into smaller pieces to ease the compaction process. Compact the vines in an air tight container or polythene and leave it for 40 days after which it will be ready to be served to the animals.
Silage avails all the nutrients in the crop to the animals. For instance, sweet potato vines contain 16percent proteins. However, if served to the animals immediately after harvesting, then it may have a negative effect to the animal. This is because the fresh vines also contain trypsin enzyme which blocks enzymes from breaking down the proteins. Danillo advises that the best option is either to cook the vines or prepare silage which enables the bacteria to feed on the anti nutrition enzyme. Animals fed on these products can acquire all the available protein from the vines.
As a result of the high proteins available for absorption by the animal, Danillo noted that more farmers adopting these crops are all smiles given the positive results they are witnessing. For best results the silage is mixed with 5percent maize bran, salt, cassava flour and some other additives containing the vitamins and calcium needed by the animal for a balanced diet registration. Farmers can record over 400grams body weight increase on their animals daily.
Dairy farmers in Uganda are also using the technology to feed their animals and they too are recording impressive results. Currently farmers in the country are being sensitized and empowered to adopt the technology. In China where the technology was first adopted, farmers record as high as close to a kilo of body weight increase among their pigs.