Over 5 000t of urea set aside for baled grass treatment Professor Obert Jiri

Precious Manomano Herald Reporter

Over 5 000 tonnes of urea normally assigned for fertiliser production have been set aside for treatment of baled grass for livestock feed under expert guidance as part of efforts to improve feed and adapt to climate change vagaries amid projections of a below-normal to normal rain in the coming summer farming season.

Under this programme, Government has introduced urea treatment where farmers are urged to bale their grass and treat it with urea so that they can feed their livestock.

It is called “own farm survival” where every farmer needs to preserve their livestock herd and therefore climate-proof the national herd against the vagaries of climate change.

This comes as the Meteorological Services Department has predicted that the country will receive below-normal to normal rainfall with the bulk of Matabeleland North, parts of Midlands and Matabeleland South provinces being the most affected.

Agriculture Advisory and Rural Development Services (AARDS) chief director Professor Obert Jiri urged farmers to prepare urea treatment feed formulations with the help of experts to ensure that the feed is harnessed.

“As we go into the drier season and obviously into normal to below normal rainfall, we need to make sure that we supplement our feed resources for livestock. So the urea treatment thrust emphasises that we need to enrich the grass that we have. Grass generally contains less nutrients and certainly less protein so we need to augment that protein that should be there in the grass to make it a balanced diet. Urea is the fertiliser that contains nitrogen. With expertise that we have in the ministry particularly from our livestock specialists, they know how much protein is required in every feed that is meant for livestock, so definitely the nitrogen can be harnessed to make sure that the feed is enriched,’’ he said.

Prof Jiri emphasised that urea treatment should be done with the help of experts, adding that failure to mix properly can led to disasters.

Livestock specialists know ratios to which to mix so that it becomes a proper feed without urea poisoning, which may happen if not done properly.

In Zimbabwe, livestock production is important in rural livelihoods as a source of meat, milk, draught power and manure

During the dry season (April to November) both the quantity and quality of the range deteriorate, adversely affecting ruminant livestock growth and reproduction.

Farmers are urged to prepare supplementary feeding for livestock as part of drought mitigation response strategies to alleviate cattle deaths during drought conditions.

Prof Jiri said there is a need to protect and preserve the nation’s cattle herd from the vagaries of climate change.

Mr Gilbert Paradza of Marahwa settlement in Zvimba district is one of the farmers who is in the process of using urea treatment to ensure that he maintains the health of his livestock

“We are also making feed formulations. We also do dipping to protect our livestock from various tick-borne diseases. I do this programme to ensure that we have healthy and strong livestock which attracts good market prices because of their appearance. Milk production will also increase if animals are well fed,’’he said.

Tobacco Farmers Union Trust president, Mr Victor Mariranyika indicated that the programme is a positive move if implemented correctly.

He said there is a need to intensify awareness campaigns to ensure that farmers get enough knowledge on how the programme works, adding that it is crucial for them to work hand in hand with experts to ensure good results,

“Proper dissemination of information is needed to ensure that no livestock is lost after excessive or shortfall of chemicals implemented. We do not want to produce negative results but rather support our livestock from the effects of drought,” he said.

On-farm feed formulations are critical in sustaining livestock and farmers are encouraged to adopt the climate-resilient technologies as advised by researchers and extension experts.

Preventing livestock deaths using locally available resources is a sustainable way of livestock production and has the potential to increase the national herd.

Apart from poverty deaths Zimbabwe has lost thousands of cattle to tick-borne diseases.

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