Performance of growing cattle on poor-quality rangelands supplemented with farm-formulated protein supplements in Zimbabwe
Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition
Department of Paraclinical Veterinary Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Zimbabwe, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe; Department of Animal Science, University of Zimbabwe, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe; Makoholi Research Institute, Masvingo, Zimbabwe
Farmers use different non-conventional protein supplements and different feeding strategies to aid their animals survive the dry season in Zimbabwe. The strategies can be giving supplements once a week or once every other day up to very little supplement daily. Supplements are either legume crop residues or forage legumes. However, the efficacy of the use of non-conventional protein supplements in promoting growth and at the same time lowering the age at first calving is little understood. The study tested whether supplementing with farm-formulated non-conventional feeds could reduce live weight loss during the dry season and promote live weight gain as well as early development of sexual maturity in beef cattle. In a completely randomized design, thirty dams with calves on hooves were allocated to five different treatments which were repeated during the dry season for 3 years. The 3-year study results show that weight loss can be controlled, resulting in positive growth in both the pre-weaning and post-weaning phases of growing cattle. Yearlings fed solely on natural pasture lost significant weight during the dry season as compared to supplemented groups. The period to puberty and first calving was achieved at 18 and 27 months, respectively. Using non-conventional protein supplements could thus improve livestock productivity in resource-poor farming communities. It was concluded that smallholder farmers can supplement cattle with a kilogram per day of low-cost farm-based non-conventional legume meal to improve livestock productivity in semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe. © 2015 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.