| Using fodder from trees and shrubs to feed livestock in the tropics |
77. How can you grow these trees and shrubs to produce the fodder you need to feed your livestock?
78. In many different ways. It will greatly depend on the size of your land; fodder should not compete too much with your crops for valuable land.
79. On small crop land, you can plant trees such as Leucaena or Gliricidia to serve as live fences that separate your land from other land, and protect it from animals.
80. Plant the fence from stem cuttings (Gliricidia) or seeds (Leucaena) placed very close to each other (about 50 cm). Water a lot and take care of the plant as it grows.
81. After six to eight months, start cutting the branches close to the ground, so that more branches can grow to form a strong fence. Keep cutting branches as the tree grows and feed the leaves to your animals.
82. You can also plant fodder trees inside your crop land and your crops under the trees. Your crop will get more nitrogen from the tree leaves that fall and from the root of the trees. Do you remember how some trees are able to fix nitroqen from the air?
83. Some examples you can try are:
- planting sorghum and maize under or in association with Faidherbia a/bide (Acacia albida) or groundnut with Faidherbia or cactus such as Opuntia ficus indica with mesquite (Prosopis juliflora).
84. You must make sure that the tree does not shade or cover your crop too much. So you should plant the trees 5, 7 or 10 metres apart to give you 60 to 80 plants per hectare, depending on how much land you have, and regularly cut down some branches and feed the fodder to your livestock.
85. Another way is to plant the trees inside your crop land in rows and your crops such as maize, cassava, or cowpeas between the rows of trees. This is known as alley farming and is still being discussed among scientists interested in the subject.
86. One method you can use to establish an alley farm is to plant seedlings of the tree (Gliricidia, Leucaena, Sesbania, pigeon pea, etc.) in individual holes arranged in rows.
87. Space the holes in a row 1 metre apart, and the rows 4 metres apart.
88. Plant the seedlings at the beginning of the rains and take care of them as you normally take care of your crops; weed and fertilize them and protect them from animals.
89. Leave the trees to grow for one year without cutting. At the beginning of the planting season of that year, cut the trees very close to the ground (30- 60 cm), and put the leaves in the space between the rows of trees, where you will plant your crops. These leaves will give nitrogen to your crops and serve as mulch.
90. Your crops will grow, and the tree will grow new branches which you will cut when they become too big, so that they do not shade your crops.
91. You have to decide when to cut the branches as this depends on the type of tree, the type of crop, the season, and the climate, wet or dry. A good guide is every six to eight weeks in humid and ten to 12 weeks in drier areas.
92. As your crop matures, , and fewer leaves as mulch for your crop. During the dry season when you have no crops growing and your trees continue to grow, use all of the leaves to feed your animals.
93. You can try other ways of establishing an alley farm. Instead of establishing the trees first for a whole year, you can plant both trees and crops at the same time and take care of them together.
94. You can try smaller row spaces, such as 2 metres between rows, and 0.25 metres between trees in a row, or 2 metres between rows and 0.5 metres between trees.
95. Another way to produce some feed for your animals using fodder trees is to plant trees and grasses on a small piece of land.
96. This is called an intensive fodder garden. On a small piece of land measuring 10 x 20 metres, you may get enough fodder to feed five goats or sheep throughout the year.
97. You can use Gliricidia or Leucaena as trees and elephant grass or guinea grass. Try this system where rainfall is high: you will observe that grasses and trees grow rapidly.
98. After establishment, do not cut the grasses for the first time before eight weeks and the trees before 12 months. Then you can cut the grasses once every four to six weeks and the trees once every two to three months, depending on the rainfall. Cut the tree branches at about 1 metre from the ground and the grasses slightly lower at 75 cm.
99. You can also use a small portion of your land to grow trees and shrubs, alone or with grasses, to feed your livestock., but make sure they do not eat too much; in the end, you can also cut the fodder and tie it up for them to eat.