Development of cultivated grass-legume systems for "cut and carry" feeding of dairy cows in Zanzibar

A recent survey showed that at least 72% of the small-scale dairy farmers cultivate grasses for feed dairy cows. All except one farmer cultivated Napier grass and about 25% alley cropped with Gliricidia. A most important observation was that 87% of those who cultivated legumes were able to exploit them for feeding their cows all year round. Growing legumes was found to be positively associated with cow herd size.


Introduction

Like other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, small-scale dairy farming is a popular means of income generation in the rural societies of Zanzibar. Livestock farming, especially dairying, contributes up to 34% of the agricultural GDP and 4% of overall national economy. Within the last two decades ownership in the dairy enterprise gradually moved down to the small-scale sector, as the production inefficiency of the large-scale farms led to their failure. From the early to mid 90's the national agricultural policy started to encourage the use of artificial insemination and, in this way, more offspring were produced through crossing the indigenous Zebu cows with European dairy sires.

The successful eradication of tsetse fly in 1997 proved to be a further incentive. The animal health risks were significantly reduced and more farming opportunities were created in areas previously infested by the fly. More farmers established small dairy units in their backyards and began cultivating grass-legume plots to feed their dairy cows. The number of households which keeping improved dairy cows has been steadily increasing, from 2.4% of the total livestock keepers pre-tsetse eradication to 23.5% in 2002, whereas the proportion of crossbred cows also increased from 2% of the total cattle population in 1993 to 5% in 2003. On average, a typical small-scale dairy household in Zanzibar consists of 7 to 8 family members who keep 4 to 5 head of cattle. Of these farmers, 52% describe livestock keeping as their major source family income.

Common features of the cut and carry system

Forages transportation by using Ox-pulled carts "Cut and carry" or "zero grazing" is a famous feeding system practiced by the small-scale dairy farmers on the island. The name cut and carry emanated from the actual practice of cutting, collecting and transporting the lots of natural forages from as far as 2-5 km away from the farm homesteads. On average, every household owns at least one ox cart for carrying the forages. Under this system, cows are entirely kept indoors and there is absolutely no grazing. A cross-sectional survey carried out in 2003 showed that 83% of the isle's smallholder dairy farmers followed the system.

IAEA interventions and achievements

In 1998 the regional IAEA/FAO Programme' Increasing Food Security in Sub-Saharan African (RAF/5/036) introduced a small project on field propagation and utilization of grass-legume mixtures on small-scale dairy farms. Over 70 Napier-Gliricidia integrated pilot plots were established in three districts of Zanzibar and the same number of farmers received training on basic animal husbandry practices and agronomic principles including role of legumes in fixing atmospheric nitrogen.

Regenerating Napier grass alley cropped with Gliricidia sepium Biwi and his colleagues (1999) reported a gross impact of grass-legumes on milk yield. Offering a Napier:Gliricidia mixture of 75:25 increased the average milk yield from 6.8±2.06kg to 11.2±3.46kg before and after intervention respectively, which was an extra income of US$ 1.67 per cow per day.

Another effect was that a slight decrease in calving interval (approximately 1 month) was noted as well as a significant reduction of the herd mortality from 18.3 to 5.8%. A wider dissemination of grass-legume integration coupled with the use of indigenous multipurpose trees has been undertaken in another IAEA project, URT/5/021. A number of approaches including farmer training and exchange visits were developed. In this way, about 10 new farmer associations have been launched and officially registered. The primary objectives of these groups are; development of grass-legume pasture plots, control of common disease outbreaks and formation and control of the milk selling points.

Cultivation and utilization of grass-legume forages

Members of JUWAFU Before 1998, there were few farmers growing legumes for feeding dairy cows. Gliricidia sepium was widely spread across the island but only used for fencing and as a source of wood for making charcoals.

Mr. Said Ramadhan feeding a chopped mix of Napier Results from a recent survey show that at least 72% of the small-scale dairy farmers cultivate grasses for feed dairy cows. All except one farmer cultivated Napier grass and about 25% alley cropped with Gliricidia. A most important observation was that 87% of those who cultivated legumes were able to exploit them for feeding their cows all year round. Growing legumes was found to be positively associated with herd size (P<0.005).

Utilization of communal legumes is also very common on many farms. Some 47% of informants utilize wild Gliricidia species to supplement their poor-quality grasses during the dry seasons. Other wild species and their proportions of utilization are tropical kudzu (82.7%), wild beans (60%), Calopogonium (36%) and Desmodium species (30%). Fodder from multipurpose trees, mainly Moringa oleifera and Leucaena leucocephala, are also receiving a due recognition.