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Feed and Fodder Challenges for Asia and the Pacific

12 March 2013

Harinder P.S. Makkar, Animal Production Officer with the FAO in Rome explores the options to address feed and fodder challenges in Asia in the coming years. He focuses on making better use of feed resources, seeking alternative feeds and fodders and putting a greater emphasis on ruminants to provide animal protein as they can use food sources that humans cannot.


Feed and fodder play a central role in providing proper nutrition to livestock. The feeding of a diet balanced in all nutrients and at a level that meets the production objective considering the animal’s physiological state is imperative for achieving high and sustained livestock productivity.

According to the author, whose paper was published in an FAO report, 'Asian livestock: Challenges, opportunities and the response', the proceedings of an international policy forum held in Bangkok, Thailand in August 2012, the success of animal reproduction and health programmes rests on proper nutrition. Improper feeding leads to productivity losses and increase in emission of pollutants in the form of methane (up to 12 per cent of feed energy is lost in the form of methane) and nitrogen and phosphorus release (60 to 70 per cent of the nitrogen and phosphorus fed in intensive production systems is lost to the environment) in soil and water channels, which if not managed properly could cause water pollution, resulting in erosion of biodiversity, deterioration of human health and decrease in agricultural productivity (Van Horn 1998; IAEA 2008).

Proper animal nutrition, therefore, plays an important role in addressing ongoing and emerging challenges imposed by increasing human population, global warming, land degradation, water shortage and pollution, biodiversity erosion and increasing energy prices.

During the last couple of decades, both production and consumption of animal products have substantially increased. In 1975, Asia’s contribution towards world meat production was 18 per cent, which increased to 42 per cent in 2010, and the corresponding values for milk production were 12.7 per cent and 35.9 per cent respectively (FAOSTAT 2010). The average per annum consumption of animal products of a person in Asia is lower than the world average – meat consumption is lower by approximately 25 per cent and milk consumption by approximately 40 per cent.

In the next four decades, the world consumption of animal products is projected to double what it is today (FAO 2011a) and a large part of this increase will be in Asia. If we take feed conversion ratios of approximately 2, 4 and 9 for poultry, pigs and cattle, respectively, and also consider carcass percentages, a high demand for feed will ensue by 2050. It is a challenge especially when we are faced with: a) increase in population, b) decrease in arable land for crop production, c) water shortage, d) food-feed-fuel competition, e) limited supply of phosphorus, f) frequent climate extremes, g) increasing animal and human health risks and h) economic instability.

This paper attempts to propose some options to address feed and fodder challenges.


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"The animal industries in emerging economies in Asian are heavily dependent on import of feed and feed ingredients"


Feed Trade and Feed Shortage and Their Implications

In 2011, China imported approximately five million tonnes of maize - in 2012, a decrease in import was recorded - largely for use as feed; and a sharp increase in demand for animal products in China could increase its maize import four-fold by 2020 (USDA 2012). The Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam are also projected to import 1.9, 1.2 and 0.7 million tonnes of maize, respectively, by 2025 (Falcon 2008). In the last 20 years, import of soybean in Asia has also increased by seven-fold (FAOSTAT 2010). The animal industries in emerging economies in Asian are heavily dependent on import of feed and feed ingredients. Any disruption in trade or increase or extreme volatility in cost of feed could be detrimental for the animal food industry and therefore impact food security.

There is a chronic shortage of feed in Asian countries. As an example, in 2009 shortage of feed in India was of the order of 162.6 million tonnes of crop residues and 79 million tonnes of green fodder as dry matter. In 2020, India is expected to need 526 million tonnes of dry matter, 56 million tonnes of concentrate feed and 855 million tonnes of green fodder (as fed) (Dikshit and Birthal, 2010).

In 2011, in China, maize and soybean shortages were estimated to be 15 million tonnes and 60 million tonnes, respectively. By 2015, feed requirement by the swine industry in China is projected to be 75 million tonnes, with a shortage of seven million tonnes (C. Wang, Institute of Dairy Science, Zhejiang University; personal communication). The same is the situation with Thailand, which is, and will remain, a major meat-exporting nation in Asia.

There is need for Asian countries to enlarge their indigenous feed resource base and rely more on locally available feed resources and their efficient use. To this end, Asian countries should also consider increasing fodder production, which would decrease reliance on imported feed ingredients and also decrease cost of feeding. Lower costs of protein and energy supply from fodder/forages than from concentrates has been recorded (Salgado et al., 2012). Development of the animal industry based on locally available feed resources is expected to decrease livestock’s carbon footprint and reliance on the trade.

By 2020, the projected increase in poultry meat requirement in India is nine million tonnes and in order to meet this requirement, an additional 27 million tonnes of feed would be required (Robinson and Makkar 2012), which translates to an additional protein requirement of approximately six million tonnes (equivalent to 60 million tonnes of cereals or 2.4 million tonnes of soybean; Makkar 2012a).

For meeting the 2020 production targets of meat from poultry and pig sectors in Asia, feed protein requirement is expected to be 132 million tonnes – double that consumed by these two sectors in 2009. To obtain 132 million tonnes of protein, 1.32 billion tonnes of cereals or 330 million tonnes of soymeal are required.

With the currently used monogastric feeding systems, almost 100 per cent of the feed protein required competes with food. A huge increase in the requirement of feed protein for monogastric animals in the future could further adversely impact food security. Policy and research attention must be paid to decreasing dependence of livestock production on feed ingredients that compete with human food.

Options for Enhancing Feed and Food Security

Make the Best Use of Available Feed Resources

Enhance efficiency of available feed resource use: According to a famous management quote, 'If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it' and most developing countries do not have a National Feed Inventory (NFI). The inventory should contain information on type and quantity of feed resources and during which period of the year (when) these are available. Information provided by livestock feed inventories would be of immense use for policy-makers, government agencies, non-government organizations, intergovernmental agencies and development agencies, among others in formulating and implementing sustainable livestock development activities and in preparing and coping with climatic variations such as droughts, floods, severe winter weather events and global climate change.

Spatial and temporal assessments of current and forecasted feed resources, including forages, will assist in disaster management and policy-making. Feed assessments would also enable informed decision-making related to the nature and quantities of commodities, the feed resources that could be traded locally, potential areas for feed markets and feed resources involved in imports and exports.

Estimates of feed resources and demands are needed to assess the fractions of food grain that is used for feed. Although livestock feed shortages have clearly constrained productivity in many countries, the impacts of feed shortages at national levels have been poorly characterised due to the lack of national-scale feed assessments. In addition, information on the availability of feed ingredients at the country level will enhance the efficiency and profitability of the animal feed industry and assist researchers to formulate sustainable feeding strategies. Such information would also be useful for determining the input-output relations for countries, e.g. the estimation of edible protein outputs versus protein inputs.

Estimates of feed resources would also improve the accuracy of assessments of the environmental impacts of livestock resulting from land-use transformations as well greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and element fluxes (e.g. nitrogen) associated with livestock production. Production and consumption of feed significantly affects the potential of ecosystems to sequester carbon.

Country-level feed balances based on feed inventory data will facilitate planning within the livestock industry, e.g. in determining how many animals can be supported or produced based upon existing feed resources, and in identifying what feed resources would and could be developed to achieve production objectives. Such efforts will, in turn, translate into enhanced food security balanced with environmental sustainability.

A manual containing methodologies, tools and guidelines for establishing and maintaining NFIs is available (FAO 2012a), the use of which would assist countries to generate the required feed-related information.


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"In addition to shortage of feed, imbalanced nutrition is one of the major factors responsible for low livestock productivity."


Implement balanced feeding: In addition to shortage of feed, imbalanced nutrition is one of the major factors responsible for low livestock productivity. Balanced nutrition - supply of nutrients based on the physiological conditions of the animal and keeping in view the objective of raising an animal - contributes to improving animal output as well as to reducing both the cost of production and the emission of greenhouse gases per unit of animal product produced.

A number of software programs are available for preparing balanced rations, which are used by professionals looking after big commercial farms, both in the monogastric and ruminant sectors. However, in the smallholder dairy and beef sectors, the feeding of imbalanced feed is widely prevalent as many farmers are unskilled in preparation and feeding of balanced diets. As a result, animal productivity is low and feed C and N get wasted and are not utilised efficiently in animal products, causing excessive release of greenhouse gases. Imbalanced feeding also causes metabolic and behavioural stress in animals.

A ration-balancing programme, being implemented by the National Dairy Development Board of India in 50 villages and on 3,100 animals, has demonstrated an increase in net daily income of farmers by 10 to 15 per cent through an increase in milk production and a decrease in feed cost. Milk production efficiency (fat-corrected milk yield/feed dry matter intake) of cows increased by 34 per cent, implying that more milk was produced from 1kg of feed when using balanced rations.

Feeding a balanced ration to dairy animals reduced faecal egg counts of internal parasites and increased levels of the serum immunoglobulins IgG, IgM and IgA, suggesting improved animal immunity. Furthermore, feeding balanced rations also reduced enteric methane emissions by 15-20 per cent per kilogram of milk produced and increased efficiency of microbial protein synthesis (FAO 2012b; Garg et al. 2013).

Large-scale implementation of such programmes can help improve the productivity of livestock raised by smallholder farmers. It has also been recorded that correction of mineral imbalances enhances animal productivity (FAO 2011b). Similar approaches can also be adopted for adolescent and beef animals, by taking into consideration local feeding and management conditions. Smallholder production systems contribute over 65 per cent of the milk production and over 55 per cent of meat production and hence targeting smallholder farmers should be the priority.

Concerted efforts in other countries and donor participation in the programme will be catalytic to delivering the benefits of ration-balancing programmes to farmers. In addition, implementation of such a programme at the grassroots level will enhance resource-use efficiency and decrease the release of environmental pollutants from livestock production systems.

Integrate quality control system in feed analysis: In preparing and feeding a balanced ration, it is imperative that the chemical composition of feed ingredients is reliably known. Field experiences show that such data originating from many laboratories in Asian countries are not reliable because quality control systems and good laboratory practices are not integrated in the feed analysis. A manual to address these issues has been produced by FAO (FAO 2011c). Science managers and feed industries must ensure that the quality control systems and good laboratory practices are used on a routine basis in feed analysis laboratories.


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"Improving the management of crop residues as animal feed should be one of the main priorities"


Reduce loss of feeds: In many Asian countries, for example India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Indonesia, ruminant production is largely based on feeding of crop residues and agro-industrial by-products. However, these resources need to be properly managed. Straw worth millions of dollars is burned every year in many parts of Asia, causing environmental problems and soil degradation, in addition to loss of this valuable feed resource. In India alone, burning of crop residues releases CO2, CO, CH4, N2O and SO2, equivalent to 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 annually (INCCA 2007).

Improving the management of crop residues as animal feed should be one of the main priorities. There is an urgent need to optimize use of the limited feed resources, including straw for ruminant feeding.

Crop residue management could include the use of specially-designed balers for collection of straw from the field, followed by the use of processing technologies for the manufacture of balanced complete feed for ruminants.

In this respect, the technology for making densified total mixed ration blocks (DTMRBs) or densified total mixed ration pellets (DTMRPs) based on straw and oilseed meals is an innovative approach, which provides an opportunity for feed manufacturers and entrepreneurs to remove regional disparities in feed availability and to supply the balanced feed to dairy and other livestock farmers on a large scale. The DTMRB or DTMRP technology can also be effective in disaster management and emergency situations that arise due to natural calamities, for example floods, droughts and human conflicts.

Feed banks could be set up to overcome the problem of feeding animals during these natural calamities, which are common in the tropics. The method for preparation of DTMRBs and DTMRPs and advantages of their feeding are given in FAO (2012c). Their feeding increases animal productivity and decreases wastage of feed ingredients, including straws.

From the discussions at the FAO e-conference on 'Successes and failures with animal nutrition practices and technologies in developing countries' (FAO, 2011b), it could be surmised that application of technologies such as urea-ammoniation of straw and urea-molasses blocks that aid in enhancing the efficiency of utilisation of crop residues and low quality forages has been success in areas where the extension services and farmers’ linkages to the market were good.

In addition, the discussions suggested that adoption of these technologies would be higher if the straw treatment and preparation of the blocks are conducted at a community/cooperative level or by private entrepreneurs since it reduces the operational cost and relieves the farmers from devoting time and efforts for the treatment of straw or preparation of the blocks. Despite overall negative impression prevailing about the relevance of these technologies, there seems to be potential, under some situations, for generating impact at the farmers' level using these technologies.

In addition, feeding of total mixed rations has also been shown to have several advantages such as decrease in feed loss, higher nutrient availability, lower enteric methane production and higher animal performance over feeding ingredients separately (FAO 2011b; FAO 2012b), which is conventionally practised in most Asian countries. Information on the production and feeding of these rations should be widely disseminated.

Other simple technologies, such as chopping of forages, increase animal productivity and reduce waste of forage. Animals consume considerable energy in chewing forage and chaffing allows saving of this energy and its diversion for productive purposes. Intake of chopped forage is higher than unchopped forage (FAO 2011b).

Silage-making, especially using locally available resources as done in Bangladesh (FAO 2011b), is also an attractive approach for reducing wastage of forages whose availability is high in rainy seasons. In some months of the year availability of vegetable and fruit wastes is also high which can also be converted into a valuable resource through silage making. These resources can be used for feeding during the dry season when availability is low. These approaches convert 'disposal problems into opportunities for development'.

Due to lack of proper storage conditions, fungal infestation of feed ingredients such as cottonseed cake and maize is a chronic problem in many Asian countries. Moist conditions lead to production of mycotoxins by the fungus present, which decrease productivity and animal and human health. According to an estimate, losses in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand are approximately US$900 million per annum due to aflatoxin alone (Schmale and Munkvold 2012). Aflatoxin is one of the many toxins produced by fungus. Substantial feed losses in Asian countries can be prevented by using proper postharvest technologies.

The application of afore-mentioned approaches will also contribute to producing more animal products per animal unit.


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"Due to lack of proper storage conditions, fungal infestation of feed ingredients such as cottonseed cake and maize is a chronic problem in many Asian countries"


Tap New Feed Resources

The interest in the search for alternative/additional food and feed ingredients is of paramount importance mainly because of the global demand for grains which has exceeded production and the stiff competition between humans and the livestock industry for existing food and feed.

Biofuel co-products as livestock feed: Much grain is being diverted to biofuel production. For example, in 2011 in the United States, more than one-third of the maize produced was used for ethanol production. However, there are many opportunities for using the co-products of the biofuel industry as livestock feed.

FAO's in-depth study over the last two years in this area has revealed some novel co-products that could be used as livestock feed. These are: distillers’ grains from various grains, glycerol, gluten meal, cassava residue, Camelina sativa meal, sweet sorghum residue, kernel meal from toxic Jatropha after detoxification and from non-toxic Jatropha, pongamia meal, castor meal, palm kernel meal and algae residue (FAO 2012d).

Distillers’ grains from maize are produced in the United States while Europe produces distillers’ grains from wheat and barley. The weight of distillers’ grains that is available from grains is one-third the weight of the grains taken for ethanol production. The distillers’ grains are being used extensively in the diets of ruminants, poultry and pigs. They are rich in protein and can be a good substitute for soybean in animal diets. Among Asian countries, only in China are distillers’ grains produced in considerable amounts (7.0 million tonnes, USGC 2012). However, they are being imported and used by other Asian countries such as Republic of Korea, Japan (in 2011 import increased by 31 per cent in one year), Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam (Hammamoto 2012). Since mycotoxins, pesticides and antibiotic residues present in grains become concentrated in distillers’ grains as yeast used in conversion of starch to ethanol does not degrade these compounds, caution is required in using distillers’ grains.

The potential of other co-products listed above has been discussed extensively in FAO (2012d). During the 1980s, a number of seed cakes, for example neem, castor and pongamia, were detoxified in India for use in livestock feed (FAO 2012d); however none of these methods was upscaled to industrial scale. During the 1980s and 1990s grain and oilseed prices were low which probably discouraged upscaling of the detoxification processes.

Now with the changed scenarios of high cost of feed and grains, there is a need to revisit those technologies and develop a business model for detoxification of unconventional feed resources. India is the largest producer of castor beans. A low-cost detoxification process using calcium oxide is available and incorporation of the detoxified cake in animal diets has shown satisfactory results. Setting up of a pilot-scale detoxification plant and subsequently a large-scale plant could be an option. The same could also be considered for other unconventional cakes.

A number of countries in Asia have planted or are in the process of planting Jatropha curcas as an energy plant. The seed of this plant has approximately 30 per cent oil which can be converted to high quality biodiesel. However, almost all the plantations have been implemented using the toxic genotype and after extraction of oil, the seed cake or kernel meal left cannot be used as a livestock feed because they are highly toxic due to the presence of phorbol esters.

These feed resources could be used after detoxification. On the other hand, a non-toxic genotype of J. curcas is present in Mexico. The seed cake and kernel meal from this genotype have been demonstrated to be excellent protein-rich feed resources for addition to poultry, swine, turkey, fish and shrimp diets. It can also be safely fed to small and large ruminants (FAO 2012d). The seeds of this non-toxic genotype have oil and protein contents similar to those in the toxic genotype. Germplasm improvement for yields and other useful traits and cultivation of the non-toxic genotype of J. curcas should also be considered.

Glycerol, a co-product of biodiesel production, is produced in a volume that is one-tenth of the original oil taken for biodiesel. A substantial amount of glycerol is available for the feed industry. It is a good energy source for animals and guidelines for its safe use for different animal categories are discussed in FAO (2012d). It may be noted that glycerol produced from biodiesel production from oil obtained from the toxic genotype of J. curcas should be used with caution as it could contain toxic constituents (Makkar et al. 2009).

Other novel feed resources: Barley is fed to animals as grain, green foliage and fodder (hay and silage) and often has quality superior to that of other fodder crops (McCartney and Vaage 1994; Abbeddou et al. 2011). It is a rapidly growing crop and has high nutritive value for both food and feed uses and requires fewer supplements for nutritive balance than many other fodder sources. Barley is already a viable green fodder crop in developed countries, e.g. in Australia, Europe and North America, but this use is not widespread in developing countries. Barley occupies specific niches in cropping systems because of its response to cool weather, low water availability and productivity in marginal soil; it offers potential in enhancing land-use efficiency. Also mutants with low lignin, without awns and reduced lodging are available (Meyer et al. 2006; Franckowiak et al. 2010; Sameri et al. 2009). These useful traits could be considered for introduction in local varieties in use in Asian countries.

The improved lines of barley could be valuable feed resources that could fit well in the feeding calendar for the winter months especially in hilly areas where other feed resources are scarce. Winter oat also enjoys many traits common to winter barley and it is also a useful forage (Salgado et al., 2012).

Further integration and incorporation of research work on other food-feed crops such as sorghum, millet, oat, wheat etc being conducted in a number of CGIAR and other international institutions with the aim to enhance nutritional quality of crop residues into the work of National Agricultural Research Systems will contribute to further increasing the utilization of crop residues. In addition, spill-over effects of the intensive research efforts on utilization of crop residues for generation of second generation biofuel is expected to benefit livestock feed industry in future. Azolla also needs to be promoted, and thornless cactus is a good feed for small ruminants in the dry areas (FAO, 2011b).

Leaves of Moringa oleifera are high in crude protein and almost all the crude protein is present in the form of true protein. In addition, the amino acid composition and protein digestibility is as good as soybean (over 92 per cent). Furthermore the leaves are rich in carotenoids, vitamin C and other antioxidants (Makkar and Becker 1997; Foidl et al. 2002). Its intensive cultivation (dense plantation) with the application of fertilizer and water supply, gives a dry matter yield of up to 120 tonnes per hectare, with seven to eight cuttings in a year (Foidl et al. 2002). This is a novel approach in which a fast-growing tree such as moringa was densely planted and was not allowed to turn into a tree by cutting the plant every 45 to 50 days to obtain high forage biomass of high quality for feeding to livestock.

This approach of turning a fast-growing tree into a forage plant after dense plantation and frequent cuttings should also be tried on other fast-growing plants that give high quality forage. Examples of such plants are mulberry and leucaena, among others.

Using forages such as moringa that have high leaf yield with high protein of as good a quality as soybean, an integrated monogastric and ruminant feeding system can be supported. The protein content of moringa leaves is 25 per cent and that of soybean is 40 per cent (both on dry matter basis). The fibre content of moringa leaves is also very low (and so is lignin). Dry matter yield of 120 tonnes per hectare and year of moringa forage, if containing approximately six per cent leaves and the remainder soft stems and twigs, would give approximately 7.2 tonnes of moringa leaves (on protein equivalent basis this equals 4.5 tonnes of soymeal), which could be used as feed for poultry or pigs. The remaining 112.8 tonnes of soft twigs and stems containing approximately 15 per cent crude protein may be used as good quality forage for ruminants.

Average soybean yield is 2.0 tonnes per hectare, while that of moringa leaves on a protein equivalent basis could be more than double. This is one of the examples wherein a feed ingredient that competes with human food can be replaced in the diets of monogastric animals with a lesser-known or unconventional feed resource. Similarly, protein isolates prepared from unconventional oilseed cakes and agroindustrial by-products with the addition of synthetic amino acids, in case they are deficient in an amino acid(s), could be attractive options for feeding monogastric animals. Scientific options are available to implement the concept of 'sustainable animal diets' being developed at FAO which consider the suggestion of reducing grains and other food materials in diets of monogastric animals as they compete with human food (Makkar 2012b).

Lesser known plants: A challenge facing animal nutritionists is to introduce and promote alternative feed resources that have high nutritive value and are adapted to harsh environmental conditions. The ongoing climate change development is also expected to create harsher conditions: high temperature, drought, floods and drastic climatic variations, with the greatest impact to be felt among ‘subsistence’ or ‘smallholder’ farmers in developing countries.

Wild under-utilized plant resources should therefore receive more attention. A number of other lesser-known and under-utilized plants adapted to local, harsh conditions are available today. The neglect of such potentially excellent animal feed resources also results in loss of biodiversity. In lieu of this, the cultivation and judicious use of such plants as feed resources is expected to enhance plant biodiversity. Thus, there is a need to identify such potential feed resources and use them to conserve biodiversity.

Many lesser-known plants with good nutritional values and high palatability are already in use in some pockets of the world; if their use as animal feed is promoted, they would enhance animal productivity in addition to contributing to conservation of plant biodiversity. Twenty lesser-known plants with potential for use as livestock feed have been identified (FAO 2012e). Collaborative efforts among scientists and farmers must particularly be directed towards establishing and developing innovative feeding systems using high-protein fodders from promising species of trees and shrubs that are adapted to harsh environmental conditions. The ultimate objective of future research on lesser-known plants should be to:

  1. improve the availability of feed resources to provide an adequate strategic feed supplement to animals during critical periods
  2. increase biodiversity and
  3. meet the challenges of ongoing climate change.

In addition, tropical and subtropical areas house plants that have a wide range of bioactive compounds. Due to harsh environmental conditions, the levels and distribution of compounds with bioactivities are much higher in tropical areas than in temperate zones. Most developing countries have tropical and subtropical climates and they need to recognize the tremendous plant wealth they have. The use of natural plant products in the developed world is in vogue and tropical plants could be valuable sources of a number of bioactive compounds that could replace synthetic ones that have adverse effects on humans, animals and the environment. Concerted efforts including South-South cooperation are required to exploit these untapped and hidden resources present in the form of lesser-known or lesser-used tropical plants.

Insects: Some insects such as the black soldier fly or Hermetia illucens, maggots (larvae of the housefly Musca domestica), yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor), silkworms (Anaphe infracta) and grasshoppers (e.g. Oxya hyla hyla) are also good sources of protein and macro-and microminerals. The protein content of insects could range from 40 to 60 per cent on a dry matter basis, with protein quality as good as muscle protein (Feedipedia 2012). They are also good sources of iron, zinc, vitamin A and polyunsaturated fatty acids; and have been found to be good feed ingredients for poultry and pig diets (Newton et al. 2005; Hwangbo et al. 2009; Ijaiya and Eko 2009). In addition, insects are considered to be better converters of feed into protein than conventional livestock and they may also release lower greenhouse gases per unit of protein production than ruminants.

The challenge at present is to establish economically viable insect mass-rearing techniques that give large and regular outputs of insects for use by the feed industry. Also, a regulatory framework needs to be developed for safe use of the insects as animal feed, which also includes registration of insects as a feed. Preparation of protein isolates from non-edible insects and feeding to monogastric animals including aquaculture species could also be an attractive option. Preparation of protein isolates from such insects could be a way to eliminate toxins and anti-nutritional factors present in non-edible insects. In addition, insects could also be a source of several bioactive compounds with agricultural and pharmaceutical applications.


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"From the same land area, use of certified or transparently-labelled seeds could double fodder production"


Enhance Fodder Production

Cultivated land under fodder production has decreased in Asia. In India, the area under cultivated fodder has decreased by approximately 10 per cent in the last decade (GOI 2009). This means that more fodder needs to be produced from a smaller area. However, in Asia, fodder production is largely carried out using uncertified seeds. As a result, the fodder yields are low.

A number of steps (e.g. production of nucleus seeds, breeder seeds and foundation seeds) and contributions from a number of organizations such as research institutions, ministries of agriculture, production agencies, seed growers, seed certification and seed marketing agencies are required in the production of these seeds. There is a need to strengthen the fodder seed production system through enhancing coordination between these organizations. Also strengthening collaboration between crop and animal husbandry research institutions and public-private institutions will further strengthen the production and distribution of certified and transparently-labelled fodder seeds. In addition, policies must encourage private companies to produce and market fodder seeds.

From the same land area, use of certified or transparently-labelled seeds could double fodder production. In addition, common lands should be developed for fodder production. Globally, out of 14 billion hectares, 4.0 billion hectares of land are classified as common land. Rao (2012) describes approaches for using common lands for fodder production. Production and use of Napier grass in the dairy areas around Chiang Mai in Thailand, promoted through an FAO project, have also resulted in increased availability of fodder and higher profit for farmers (Waritthitham 2012). The farmers have been successful in reducing the cost of feeding while obtaining the same or slightly higher milk yield (personal observations).

In many situations, the cost of nutrients (protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A) supplied through green fodder is expected to be much lower than that from other sources. Use of green fodder could decrease the cost of feed and contribute to decreasing dependence of livestock industry on imported feed ingredients, thus enhancing their sustainability and making them more resilient.

Increase Nutrient Availability from Intestinal Tracts

Control of intestinal parasites: Internal parasites divert feed nutrients from the production of animal products to their own development. In addition, the presence of parasites decreases intake and digestibility of feed. Apparently, there is no reliable quantitative information on the impact of the presence of internal parasites in animals on decrease in productivity in developing countries, however, the strategic addition of fenbendazole and other anthelmentics in diets has been shown to increase animal productivity and farmers’ profits (Knox 1995; IAEA 2006).

Smallholder farmers find anthelmintics expensive and under such systems the use of validated herbs and plant materials could be used to control internal parasites. A study conducted in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Indonesia showed that the efficacy of pineapple leaves in controlling helminthes is equivalent to fenbendazole (IAEA 2006, 2010), and also feeding of calliandra, sericea and cassava leaves and other tannincontaining plants was also effective in controlling helminthes (Min et al. 2004, 2005, 2008; Athanasiadou et al. 2009). The antiparasitic effect of pineapple leaves is attributed to the presence of bromolein (a cystein protease) (Makkar et al. 2007). These and other tropical leaves could be effective substitutes for expensive synthetic anthelmintics, against which resistance of internal parasites has also been increasingly recorded.

Mineral addition in the diet: For maximum nutrient availability in the rumen for the production of microbial protein and other fermentation products required for productive purposes such as milk production, growth, reproduction etc., optimum rumen fermentation is necessary. Deficiency of minerals such as Co, Mo, Mg, Zn, Na, Cl etc. could decrease rumen fermentation because these are vital for various activities of rumen microbes. Suboptimal rumen fermentation can decrease nutrient availability from feed by up to 15 per cent, which is a loss of valuable nutrients.

It may be noted that for ruminants, 'We feed the microbes and microbes feed the animals'. Correction of mineral deficiency in the field has been shown to increase milk production by 10 to 15 per cent in dairy cows. In sheep 60 per cent of anoestrus females came into oestrus within 15 to 21 days and the remaining 40 per cent after 42 days of mineral supplementation (FAO 2011b).


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"Producing meat from ruminants using feed that does not compete with human food would be a viable and attractive option for enhancing food security"


Greater Emphasis on Development of Ruminants

Conventionally, when compared to ruminants, monogastric animals are considered to have higher efficiency of protein production from feed. However, following the current feeding practices, almost all the sources that provide protein to the diets of monogastric animals compete with human food, while this is not the case for ruminant diets. If we define efficiency of protein production as 'Human edible protein produced/human edible protein fed', the efficiency is higher for ruminants than for monogastrics.

Over one billion people go to bed hungry every day for want. mainly of grains. On the other hand, meat plays an important role in meeting protein and mineral requirements of pregnant mothers and growing children in developing countries. Therefore, producing meat from ruminants using feed that does not compete with human food would be a viable and attractive option for enhancing food security.

Furthermore, in future, increase in cost of cereals, energy and other inputs compounded by increasing competition for arable land for fuel, food and fuel will impose a challenge on economic viability and overall sustainability of the present monogastric production system. Two billion tonnes of straw are produced worldwide and considering feed conversion efficiency of 10:1 potential exists to produce 200 million tonnes of live animal annually (100 million tonnes of meat), which could support four billion people at 25kg per year (Devendra and Leng 2011).

A study on the effects of supplementation of a low-quality pasture hay with cottonseed meal (CSM), barley or sorghum grain (young cattle were given poor quality pasture hay and minerals and then given graded amounts of the various supplements according to their live weight - McLennan et al. 1995, cited in Leng 2004) showed: a) efficiency of conversion of the supplement to live weight gain with increasing amounts of CSM was approximately four-fold greater as the increments were increased progressively to 0.5 per cent of live weight when compared with the efficiency of conversion above this level, and b) the response with CSM meal was higher than that with sorghum or barley grains.

Using data from a number of growth trials on the effect of supplementing young cattle (200 kg live weight, grazing dry pasture or given straw) with a protein meal such as CSM, the analysis of Leng (2004) can be summarized as:

  • With up to 0.7kg per day of CSM meal, the response in live weight gain would be approximately 0.84kg per day or a conversion efficiency of supplement to live weight gain of 1.2kg live weight gain per kg CSM consumed. It may be noted that 0.7kg per day of the seed meal supplementation to a 200-kg live weight steer is 0.35 per cent of the body weight per day.
  • Above this level of supplementation, the improvement is approximately 0.35kg live weight gain per kg CSM.

In practice, a supplement such as oilseed meal, which is usually more expensive then the basal feed (here basal feed being crop residues), should rarely be fed at above 0.5 per cent of the animal’s live weight. Interestingly, daily oilseed cake supplementation in the diet at a level of 0.5 per cent of the body weight of the animal produced four-fold growth, a response of 1.2kg live weight gain per kilogram of the supplement (up to 0.35 per cent of the body weight).

When used strategically, the utilization of oilseed cakes as useful products in ruminants should not be undervalued. The absolute value of the efficiency of oilseed meal conversion into body weight will depend on the type and quality of the crop residues and genetic potential of animals, and hence call also for enhancing the genetic potential of local ruminant livestock.

In a similar vein, rabbit production also needs the attention of policy-makers and science managers as they can be reared on a diet containing high content of forages (Makkar and Singh 1987; de Blas and Wiseman 1998) and their reproductive efficiency is very high.

Greater emphasis on development of ruminants and rabbit production for meat production would also contribute substantially to pulling smallholder farmers out of poverty and in making economic growth inclusive because these species are generally reared by poor farmers.

It is evident from the aforesaid discussion that technological options are available to meet the high demand for animal products while conserving the environment, biodiversity and natural resources; however for optimal delivery of solutions proper institutional support and sound policies are required. Technology and institutions must work together, and policies must provide an enabling environment for this to come about.

Main Messages and General Remarks

Make efficient use of available feed resources by:

  • establishing national feed inventories through institutional support and infrastructure
  • implementing the concept of feeding balanced rations in the field and
  • integrating quality control systems in feed analysis laboratories.

Reduce feed losses by:

  • securing crop residues from fields and converting them to densified complete feed blocks
  • promoting use of total mixed rations and methods for silage making and chopping of forages and
  • using proper postharvesting technologies to prevent losses due to mycotoxins.

Enlarge the feed resource base by:

  • using co-products of the biofuel industry and conducting R&D on efficient use of the co-products;
  • scaling up proven laboratory-scale detoxification processes to pilot and industrial scales;
  • promoting the use of forages such as moringa leaves, thornless cactus, azolla and winter barley and
  • tapping local knowledge to identify lesser-known feeds adapted to harsh climates and by creating business models to use them.

Enhance fodder availability by:

  • strengthening certified fodder seed production and marketing systems, including bringing on board the private sector
  • strengthening extension and training of farmers on good agronomic and cultivation practices to grow high-yielding fodder varieties/hybrids and
  • developing policies and mechanisms to develop common land for fodder production.

Increase nutrient availability from intestinal tracts by:

  • preventing ‘grabbing’ of nutrients by helminthes and
  • using mineral mixtures.

Give greater emphasis to ruminant production by:

  • supplementing strategically oilseed meals/cakes to low quality roughages;
  • enhancing fodder production and
  • enhancing use of agro-industrial by-products that do not compete with human food, as animal feed.

General remarks

Common sense must prevail. Animal diets have the same importance for animals as human diets have for humans. Animal nutrition must get due attention, especially at the policy level and funding by donors.

So far this area has remained neglected. As a result of this neglect the full genetic potential of animals is not realized in the field and the animal health and animal reproductive interventions are not as effective as they should be.

Animal feeding is the foundation of livestock production systems and animal breeding and reproduction and animal health are the two pillars. If the foundation is weak, the building is likely to crumble.

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March 2013



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