| Animal husbandry: Feeding and care of animals |
Many animals feed on grass.
A farmer must grow good grass.
A pasture is the field where animals find grass to eat.
A pasture can be improved by encouraging the good grasses to grow and multiply, that is, grasses which are richest in fodder units.
To do that:
• Animals must not be allowed on the whole of the pasture.
In the rainy season, grass grows fast.
The animals eat only a part of the pasture.
The other part of the pasture is left to rest. There the grasses grow well, they multiply and this part of the pasture will be better the following year.
• Weeds left by the animals must be cut.
The animals stayed on one part of the pasture, but they left uneaten certain weeds. These weeds must be cut down before they make seeds. Then they will not multiply.
• Good use must be made of the pasture.
Some farmers put too many animals on a pasture.
Some farmers do not put enough animals on a pasture.
You must put on a pasture the number of animals that will use it without spoiling it, but at the same time will be well fed.
Pasture that is not used is wasted wealth.
To make new pasture, sow or plant grass.
Wait till the grass has grown and become fairly tall before putting animals on it. When the animals have eaten the grass, take them to another pasture. The grass will grow again on the first pasture. Wait till it has fully grown before putting the animals back on the first pasture. Sown or planted pastures can yield plenty of grass.
To make a new pasture, sow Pueraria, Centrosema, Stylosanthes, Crotalaria, Melinis, Napier grass (elephant grass). Ask the extension worker what plants to use and where to buy them.
Many of these plants continue to grow during the dry season. So you have a reserve of pasture grass, and the animals are well fed all the year.
These plants protect the soil and make it richer. When you plough up this pasture, the crops that you grow afterwards will yield good harvests. The pasture is part of the land allocation (see Booklet No. 5, page 27). The pasture acts as a fallow.
Divide the field into four parts.
Each week put the herd on one part.
The grass grows meanwhile in the other parts.
At the end of four weeks, start again on the first part.
You can sow millet, maize, or selected grasses (see Booklet No. 3, page 22), such as Guatemala grass or Digitaria, as fodder crops for animals.
Do not wait until the seeds form. Cut the plants when they are still green and give them to the animals to eat.
Do not let the animals go among these crops.
You must cut the plants at the right moment. If you cut them too soon, they will not have grown enough and will give less food. If you cut them too late, the plants will be hard, and not easy to digest (see page 11).
Many farmers are not used to growing millet or maize to give to animals.
But if they feed their herd well, they earn more money.
Just a few kilogrammes of this food will enable the animals to do better in the dry season.
Do not sow this millet or maize to eat the grain or to sell it, but to give the green plants to the animals to eat. The animals change this millet and maize into milk, into work and into meat, for the use of people.
During the rainy season, grass grows a lot. The cattle do not eat all of it. Grass can be stored in the form of silage or hay.
Dig a pit 1.50 to 2 metres deep and 1.50 to 2 metres wide.
This pit is called a silo. It has to be made rather long, so that all the cut grass can be put into it. At the bottom of the silo put some large stones. On these stones put the grass to be stored. Tread the grass down well by trampling on it. On top of the full silo, on the pressed- down grass, put earth and stones.
The silo must be well closed, so that air and rain cannot get in, and the grass will not rot. Grass so kept stays good for a long time, for several months. Animals eat it readily.
So that the grass stays good, you must not take more than two days to fill, tread down and close the silo.
You can also dry grass. Cut the grass when it is green and let it dry. The dried grass is called hay.
Many farmers keep the dried stalks and leaves of groundnuts in order to feed them to animals. This is groundnut hay.
Hay is nearly as good a food as green grass.
For hay to be good food, you must cut the grass when it is still green, before it starts going to seed, and before it becomes too hard. Cut the grass when it is young, and you'll get good hay. If you wait too long before cutting the grass, you will get not hay, but straw.
Animals do eat straw, but it is not easy to digest. Straw is used for making manure.
• How to make hay
You can cut grass with a machete. But you will get the work done more quickly if you cut the grass with a scythe.
When the grass is cut, let it dry in the sun.
Then turn it over and leave in the sun the parts that are not yet dry.
This work is done with a fork. When all the grass is quite dry, make it into a big heap next to the animal shed.
Then you can give the animals food during the dry season.
Sun is needed to dry grass.
So you must wait for the end of the rainy season before you make hay.
In addition to grass and hay, give a feed supplement (see page 14).
Give oil cake to oxen when they are working, to cows when they are pregnant and are feeding the calves with their milk.