Im­por­tance of proper pas­ture man­age­ment

IT PLAYS A VI­TAL ROLE IN HIGHER PRO­DUC­TIV­ITY FROM AND PROF­ITABIL­ITY OF BUF­FALOES

Agriculture - - Contents - BY MA. CE­CILIA C. IRANG

They cor­rectly dis­cern that im­ple­ment­ing good pas­ture man­age­ment prac­tices and graz­ing prin­ci­ples in­creases for­age qual­ity and yield, pro­vides a more whole­some place for the graz­ing of buf­faloes, and im­proves their per­for­mance. They also know that th­ese help pre­vent the oc­cur­rence of nu­tri­tional prob­lems in the an­i­mals that even­tu­ally af­fect their pro­duc­tiv­ity.

More­over, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, healthy pas­tures are ben­e­fi­cial to the own­ers, an­i­mals, and the en­vi­ron­ment. They pre­vent ero­sion and wa­ter loss that lead to land degra­da­tion. In main­tain­ing a good, healthy pas­ture, soil nu­tri­ents and pH are man­aged well, and for­age growth and the an­i­mals’ con­sump­tion are closely mon­i­tored.

In light of this, pas­ture man­agers of two re­gional cen­ters of the Philip­pine Carabao Cen­ter hosted by Visayas State Univer­sity (PCC at VSU) in Leyte and Cen­tral Min­danao Univer­sity (PCC at CMU) in Bukid­non have their cor­re­spond­ing ways of man­ag­ing their re­spec­tive pas­ture ar­eas to main­tain good pro­duc­tion in the buf­faloes of their in­sti­tu­tional herds.

PAS­TURE AREA PCC at VSU uti­lizes some 12 hectares of land for the graz­ing of buf­faloes and an­other three hectares for the grow­ing of grasses that are cut and car­ried to the an­i­mals. The area has a rolling to­pog­ra­phy.

Ac­cord­ing to Prof. Fran­cisco Gabunada Jr., for­mer cen­ter di­rec­tor of PCC at VSU and cur­rently a con­sul­tant of PCC on for­age de­vel­op­ment, pas­ture feed­ing or for­age are the cheap­est and most sta­ble (can be avail­able year-round) sources of feed for ru­mi­nants. Ru­mi­nant pro­duc­tion based on for­age is not only eco­nom­i­cal but can also lead to safe and healthy prod­ucts.

For­age, says Gabunada, can sup­ply all the nu­tri­ents re­quired by the an­i­mal at a rel­a­tively low cost, lead­ing to good pro­duc­tion with in­creased prof­its. The ex­ist­ing for­age in their pas­ture area are com­prised of guinea grass, hu­midi­cola, napier, shrubs, ren­sonii, flemingia, ipil-ipil, and legumes. Grasses that can­not be fed to buf­faloes are up­rooted, he added.

On the other hand, PCC at CMU has 45 hectares of pas­ture area but soon, through a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment be­tween the re­gional cen­ter and the univer­sity, this will be ex­panded to 70 hectares. It has a flat land area of which some parts are sur­rounded by trees.

The pre­dom­i­nant pas­ture grasses present in the area are Brachiaria de­cum­bens or sig­nal grass, Brachiaria brizan­tha, and Brachiaria hu­midi­cola. At least three hectares are now planted to napier grass, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Low­ell Paraguas, PCC at CMU cen­ter di­rec­tor.

GRAZ­ING RO­TA­TION One man­age­ment op­tion to pro­mote a healthy pas­ture and good for­age for graz­ing buf­faloes is to im­ple­ment ro­ta­tional graz­ing, said Prof. Gabunada. This in­volves us­ing cross fences to di­vide the pas­ture into sep­a­rate units which are called pad­docks.

Ro­ta­tional graz­ing in­volves pe­ri­od­i­cally mov­ing live­stock to fresh pad­docks to al­low pas­tures to re­grow. An­i­mals are al­lowed to graze on a pad­dock then are moved to the next pad­dock. As one pad­dock is be­ing grazed, the other pad­docks have the op­por­tu­nity to re­cover and grasses can reestab­lish.

It re­quires skill­ful de­ci­sions and close mon­i­tor­ing of the con­se­quences. Feed costs de­cline, and the an­i­mal’s health is im­proved when they are al­lowed to feed by way of a well­man­aged ro­ta­tional graz­ing sys­tem.

An­other ben­e­fit to ro­ta­tional graz­ing is that new growth will be much more nu­tri­tious and di­gestible for graz­ing an­i­mals, the ex­perts said.

“The pas­tures in PCC at VSU were es­tab­lished veg­e­ta­tively us­ing man­ual la­bor. The species we se­lected was one that was com­monly grow­ing well in the sur­round­ing ar­eas. We used rel­a­tively small pad­docks to as­sure high uti­liza­tion rates. Af­ter graz­ing, we cut back the grass as a strat­egy for the fast re­growth of the for­age, and fer­til­iza­tion is done; both will as­sure ad­e­quate re­growth. A pas­ture that has been grazed will be given ad­e­quate time to re­cover by [be­ing left] undis­turbed for 30-45 days,” Prof. Gabunada ex­plained.

The graz­ing hours for the buf­faloes in PCC at VSU are from 6 a.m. to 10 a. m. It has a to­tal of 66 pad­docks. Af­ter for­ag­ing in the first pad­dock for 4 hours, the an­i­mals are sched­uled to feed in an­other pad­dock the next day. Only the grow­ing, lac­tat­ing, and preg­nant an­i­mals are al­lowed to graze as they need to be fed with fresh grasses. Bulls and dry buf­faloes are con­fined and fed with rice straw and con­cen­trates.

An­dres Ami­han Jr., PCC at VSU sci­ence re­search an­a­lyst and farm man­ager, said that af­ter four hours of graz­ing, the buf­faloes are brought down to the barn for wal­low­ing and bathing. In the af­ter­noon, they are given con­cen­trates and napier grasses through the cut-and-carry sys­tem.

“We have a graz­ing ro­ta­tion for more than one month. Grasses like guinea, hu­midi­cola, and napier re­grow within 45 days, so we have 45 days of graz­ing ro­ta­tion, but we have a to­tal of 66 pad­docks; there­fore, we still have 21 pad­docks as our back-up for this prac­tice,” Ami­han ex­plained.

“Proper feed­ing man­age­ment [plays] a very im­por­tant role in the milk pro­duc­tion and per­for­mance of buf­faloes. If we want pos­i­tive out­comes, we should do proper feed­ing and pas­ture man­age­ment.” For­age rich in pro­tein and fiber are the best feed­stuff for buf­faloes. The av­er­age milk pro­duc­tion of each buf­falo in their herd is about six liters, reach­ing 12-15 liters at peak lac­ta­tion pe­ri­ods.

EX­TEN­SIVE MAN­AGE­MENT SYS­TEM The PCC at CMU im­ple­ments a full-time graz­ing sys­tem for its more than 40 milk­ing cows with an av­er­age milk pro­duc­tion of six liters a day or 19 liters at peak lac­ta­tion pe­ri­ods. The only time the an­i­mals are re­turned to to­tal con­fine­ment is when they reach their dry-off pe­riod. Cur­rently, the cen­ter has a to­tal herd in­ven­tory of 330 buf­faloes.

“The milk­ing cows are fed [a] very min­i­mal amount of con­cen­trates at the time of milk­ing. Af­ter each milk­ing ses­sion, they rest for a while be­fore [be­ing herded] back to the pad­docks to al­low [for] the clos­ing of their teats’ ori­fice. This pre­vents the ud­ders from be­ing in­fected,” Dr. Paraguas said.

The cen­ter has 40 hectares of graz­ing area with 30 pad­docks. Each pad­dock is one hectare wide and is planted to 1-3 va­ri­eties of grasses like sig­nal grass, Brizan­tha, and Arachis pin­toi that can feed 40 dairy cows in a day.

“We are set to es­tab­lish 30 hectares of napier grass plan­ta­tion as ad­di­tional for­age and I…re­cently ac­quired five 25-kg bags of sig­nal grass from Aus­tralia for our plant­ing ma­te­rial. The seed­ing rate of one hectare is 6-8 kg of sig­nal grass. One bag of it can be planted to five hectares of land,” Dr. Paraguas said.

The cen­ter also plans to de­velop a for­age gar­den along the high­way. “We will plant [dif­fer­ent]

va­ri­eties of for­age grasses and legumes. We want to help our farmer-co­op­er­a­tors [by giv­ing them ac­cess to new va­ri­eties] of grasses,” he added.

A part of their pas­ture de­vel­op­ment is the plant­ing of legumes like Arachis pin­toi and the uti­liza­tion of an­i­mal ma­nure as fer­til­izer.

“You can [dis­cern the an­i­mals’ needs just by] look­ing at its body. You will know there is some­thing wrong with the feed­ing in terms of its body con­di­tion score (BCS). For me, if you don’t have a good pas­ture area, you will en­counter a lot of prob­lems [with] the an­i­mal’s re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance and milk pro­duc­tion,” Dr. Paraguas de­clared.

Proper feed re­sources should meet the nu­tri­tive val­ues nec­es­sary for the an­i­mals’ main­te­nance, lac­ta­tion, re­pro­duc­tion, growth, and good health con­di­tion. Dairy an­i­mals need im­por­tant nu­tri­ents such as en­ergy (through car­bo­hy­drates), pro­tein, cal­cium, phos­pho­rus, mag­ne­sium, cop­per, and vi­ta­min A. Thus, the cen­ter is fo­cus­ing on min­eral sup­ple­men­ta­tion, es­pe­cially for milk­ing cows.

“We are sup­ple­ment­ing [their di­ets us­ing] con­cen­trates but we are also plan­ning to re­duce [the] cost [of th­ese] so we are es­tab­lish­ing a good pas­ture. We will now in­vest more on pas­ture de­vel­op­ment.”

THE IM­PROVE­MENT OF FEED­ING man­age­ment prac­tices, Dr. Paraguas re­it­er­ated, is very cru­cial, es­pe­cially if the buf­faloes are preg­nant and the feed­ing sys­tem is in­ad­e­quate. The calves pro­duced un­der this in­fe­rior sys­tem might have poor BCSs and be sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­eases.

The cen­ter also is fac­ing some chal­lenges in the es­tab­lish­ment of pas­ture ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Paraguas. They need to ac­quire cer­tain equip­ment and ma­chines for spread­ing fer­til­iz­ers, like a ma­nure spreader and loader. They are also plan­ning to ir­ri­gate the pas­ture area.

For the farm­ers, Dr. Paraguas has this re­minder: “They can­not adopt this kind of graz­ing sys­tem for now be­cause they only have…small pas­ture [ar­eas] but they can adopt the cut-and-carry sys­tem. They will plant napier grass and [the] new ac­ces­sion of grasses. They need to learn how to plant for­age for their an­i­mals and how to main­tain the year round for­age sup­ply, so we need to teach them [about th­ese]. They also need to de­velop their ob­ser­va­tion scale, such that [with] just…one look, they will im­me­di­ately know the prob­lem with their feed­ing sys­tem.”

He added, “They should also know the needed level of dry mat­ter (DM) con­tent [so that] the an­i­mal [will] not be drained dur­ing milk­ing. The rec­om­mended dry mat­ter con­tent is 4-6% of the an­i­mal’s body weight for main­te­nance but if they want to add DM, [this amount] should be based on the an­i­mal’s milk yield.”

He added that be­fore rais­ing buf­faloes, farm­ers should also have an es­tab­lished pas­ture area to serve as a source of for­age and that the sup­ply of grasses should be avail­able year­round. Uti­liza­tion of new va­ri­eties of grasses, and not set­tling for just one variant, is also im­por­tant.

“We planted one hectare of napier as source of plant­ing ma­te­ri­als for our dairy farm­ers,” he said.

NEW VA­RI­ETY OF PAS­TURE GRASS As part of the pas­ture de­vel­op­ment pro­gram of PCC at CMU, Dr. Paraguas ac­quired new va­ri­eties

of pas­ture grasses, namely: Brachiaria Cul­ti­var (Cv.) Mu­lato II and Pan­icum max­i­mum Mom­basa (im­proved guinea grass) from the small­hold dairy cat­tle farm­ers of the Na­tional Dairy Au­thor­ity. The cen­ter started plant­ing them last Novem­ber.

“I took part in some fo­cus group dis­cus­sions with the farm­ers since they have con­cerns on an­i­mal nutri­tion; [dur­ing th­ese ses­sions], I con­trib­uted ideas. I ac­quired the new va­ri­eties of pas­ture grasses from them be­cause they have this RP-New Zealand Dairy Pro­ject, a sup­port pro­gram of the New Zealand govern­ment for [small­holder] dairy cat­tle farm­ers. They brought…this new va­ri­ety of grasses [with them to the ses­sions] and iden­ti­fied fo­cus farm­ers [and their small­hold­ings as the places where they could plant] the new va­ri­ety so that other dairy farm­ers [would] see its nu­tri­tional value. I asked for some plant­ing ma­te­ri­als and planted [th­ese] on a cer­tain por­tion of our pas­ture area,” he ex­plained.

Cur­rently, the new va­ri­ety is not be­ing fed to the buf­faloes yet as it is in­tended for the for­age nurs­ery. It is still un­der the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion process, but it will be soon planted to a larger area.

The farm­ers ex­per­i­mented with feed­ing the grass to wean­lings 6 to 18 months of age and found that th­ese were the most palat­able grasses for the an­i­mals, whom they said im­me­di­ately con­sumed all of what was avail­able. The farm­ers also noted that the an­i­mals have higher dry mat­ter in­take with the new va­ri­ety com­pared with other grasses.

“They pro­vide a lot of nu­tri­tional value to the buf­faloes since they are al­ready the im­proved va­ri­ety of [grass]. They have high crude pro­tein (CP) and dry mat­ter [con­tent],” Dr. Paraguas said.

Cv. Mu­lato II, ac­cord­ing to the Hancock Seed Com­pany, has ex­cel­lent nu­tri­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics in terms of CP con­tent and di­gestibil­ity. It was de­vel­oped from three gen­er­a­tions of hy­bridiza­tion and se­lec­tion ini­ti­ated in 1989 by the For­age Pro­ject of the Cen­tro In­ter­na­cional de Agri­cul­tura Trop­i­cal (CIAT), in Cali, Colom­bia, com­menc­ing with the orig­i­nal B. ruz­izien­sis x B. de­cum­bens cross prior to be­ing com­mer­cially re­leased by Grupo Pa­palotla in 2004. It is re­ported to be highly palat­able to graz­ing ru­mi­nants.

Al­though both pa­ram­e­ters vary de­pend­ing on the age of the grass and the time of the year, in gen­eral, this grass yields 14-21% CP and its in vitro dry mat­ter di­gestibil­ity in re­growths of 25-35 days is 55-66%.

Be­cause of its su­pe­rior qual­ity and ex­cel­lent pro­duc­tion, Mu­lato II is suit­able for in­ten­sive ro­ta­tional man­age­ment. Vol­un­tary in­take of the grass is high, which re­sults in sig­nif­i­cantly greater milk pro­duc­tion com­pared with other brachiaria cul­ti­vars. The re­cov­ery ca­pac­ity of this grass is high, re­quir­ing rest pe­ri­ods of just 21-28 days dur­ing the rainy sea­son.

On the other hand, ac­cord­ing to the Trop­i­cal Seed Com­pany, Mom­basa guinea grass is a tall grass, sim­i­lar to hy­brid Napier grass in habit, but far more leafy and very suit­able for the cut-and-carry prac­tice. It was in­tro­duced to Brazil from Tan­za­nia in 1993. It is a very pro­duc­tive leafy grass, pro­duc­ing be­tween 20 and 40 tons per hectare (t/ha) of dry mat­ter per year. In Thai­land, it has 8% to 12% crude pro­tein on poor soils and 12% to 14% crude pro­tein on bet­ter soils. It can be ei­ther ro­ta­tion­ally grazed or set-stocked or used on a cut-and-carry ba­sis.

“I am one of the wit­nesses [as to the ben­e­fits that] th­ese new va­ri­eties can bring. I ob­served the im­prove­ment in the milk yield of the cat­tle of the farm­ers [as a re­sult of hav­ing been fed] th­ese im­proved pas­ture grasses. From 5-6 liters, [their milk pro­duc­tion went] up to 10-12 liters,” Dr. Paraguas said.

This rainy sea­son, he said, he is plan­ning to buy sacks of th­ese va­ri­eties from the farm­ers to plant th­ese at PCC at CMU’s pas­ture area. He added that the de­vel­oped pas­ture area can re­sult in im­proved milk pro­duc­tion and per­for­mance of the buf­faloes.

The Philip­pine Carabao Cen­ter at Visayas State Univer­sity (PCC-VSU) in Bay­bay City, Leyte main­tains a 15-hectare pas­ture de­vel­op­ment area for graz­ing of buf­faloes and grow­ing of for­ages.

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