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Improved feed formulation (or ration balancing) for livestock holds great promise for improving livestock productivity in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) and making highly nutritious animal-sourced foods (ASF) more affordable and environmentally sustainable.
In this independent dialogue, experts from India, Vietnam and the USA: (1) share successful experiences from the development of software tools to improve ration formulation for dairy cattle in Vietnam and India and (2) explore prospects and current efforts to scale the software applications in other countries and to additional livestock species. The independent dialogue also includes a presentation on nitrogen use efficiency in different regional livestock systems to better understand how use of ration formulation software tools can be integrated with other livestock management tools and policies for global reduction of green-house gas emissions.
The United States Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS) funded the initial partnership between the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) for ration formulation software development in Vietnam. Current research and scaling efforts in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso are being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), funded by donors to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has led development of a mobile application for feed formulation in India. ILRI is currently working on adapting the tool in partnership with the Government of Rwanda which is implementing the project under a loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Expert Panelists: The session was moderated by Adegbola Adesogan (University of Florida, USA). The panelists included Hai Ho Pham (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam); Padmakumar Varijakshapanicker (International Livestock Research Institute, India); Aimable Uwizeye (Food & Agriculture Organization, Italy); and Ermias Kebreab (UC Davis, USA). Invited experts were Nouhoun Zampaligre (INERA, Burkina Faso), Diwakar Vyas (University of Florida, USA), Adugna Tolera (Hawassa University, Ethiopia), Ajebu Nurfeta (Hawassa University, Ethiopia)
Accurate knowledge of the nutrient requirements of livestock is fundamental to increasing livestock productivity. In addition, the nutrient composition of local forages, concentrates and byproducts must be known in order to match availability with requirements. Furthermore, inefficient and/or poor quality feeds can increase the cow’s greenhouse gas emission intensity. Ill-informed feed selection can unnecessarily increase feeding costs. The software tools (presented in this independent dialogue) access information on both the nutrient requirements of local breeds and nutrient composition of available feeds to recommend feed formulations that improve animal productivity, enhance feed utilization efficiency, while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions per unit of livestock product. Continuing research efforts are underway in various parts of the world to support scaling of these feed formulation tools. The nutrient requirements of farm animals are well established in the developed world. However, lack of information on nutrient requirements of indigenous livestock breeds in many parts of the world is one of the challenges limiting the application of ration formulation principles and precision feeding practices. Scaling of the software tool will require continuing implementation research, including scientific efforts to fill knowledge gaps on indigenous breeds and local forages as well as substantial programmatic effort to translate software and identify and train private and public scaling agents.
USDA-FAS funded the initial partnership between the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to strengthen national capacity to provide enhanced feed ration recommendations that would support national low emission development goals for Vietnam’s dairy sector. Knowledge of how to meet the cow’s nutrition requirement with available feed is especially challenging for smallholder farms, which make up about 60 percent of dairy operators in Vietnam. Current research and scaling efforts in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso are being funded by the USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Adopting a balanced rations approach to animal nutrition is expected to substantially increase yields of indigenous animals that supply 97 percent of the milk in Ethiopia and all of the small ruminant meat in Burkina Faso. Even in the more intensive Ethiopian and Burkinabe production conditions where feed availability is less of a problem, animals are typically underfed, which constrains their performance, leading to considerable productivity gaps for milk (4.5 billion L/year) in Ethiopia and small ruminant meat in Burkina Faso (42 million kg live weight).
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) led development of a mobile app in India– the On-farm Farm Advisor (OFA) — for use by extension agents to advise farmers on how to balance nutrients in the diet of dairy cattle and buffaloes. This software app focuses particularly on cost-effectiveness of feed selections balancing use of agricultural by-products such as rice straw with home-grown or purchased supplements. ILRI is now adapting the tool for application in Rwanda. ILRI’s work is funded by donors to CGIAR Trust Fund, while the scaling effort in Rwanda is funded by the Government of Rwanda under a loan from IFAD.