The price of animal feed is always a consideration for a smallholder who keeps livestock. Smallholders should consider vegetable waste and crop residues as animal feed.

The excessive rains in some areas this summer and the relatively cool temperatures have affected the fodder and maize crops. This means that the price of feeds is likely to go up. So we need to consider alternative sources for feed. Start with your own vegetable patch or orchard.

Utilizing Excess Vegetables as Livestock Feed

Most of us, despite our best intentions, sometimes finish up with a glut of vegetables or even fruit. We will then prepare the produce for freezing, drying or bottling. Fruit and vegetable processing produces a quantity of fruit and vegetable waste, some of which can be fed to livestock straight away and some of which can be dried and kept as winter feed.

Fresh cauliflower and cabbage leaves with stems are a rich source of proteins, soluble sugars, both macro- and micro- elements and have good digestibility and dry matter intake. Sheep cope well with these leaves and they can be fed to cattle, but should be introduced gradually to avoid the chance of bloat.

Fresh carrot contains 88 percent water, 10 percent crude protein (CP), up to 60 percent sugars, mostly sucrose and high levels of vitamin C and β-carotene. The cull carrots are palatable and can be fed up to 20−25 kg/day to dairy cows, leading to improved reproductive performance. It is recommended that the tops be left on. Presumably carrot peels can also be used if you don’t have a large number of animals. Consider drying carrots as a treat for horses.

The term straw usually refers to stalks of grain, but it can also mean dry, stalky plant residue.

Pea vines can be fed fresh or after ensiling. The pea straw, with a high protein content and low fibre, has a higher nutritive value than cereal straws. The empty pea pods are rich in macro- and micro-elements. They are relished by ruminants, and can be fed exclusively.

Digestibility and high crude protein of pumpkins make them suitable for cattle and sheep. Again they need to cut up carefully.

Other Vegetables to Consider as Feed

Cull potatoes, a rich source of starch (60−70 percent), can be fed up to 15−20 kg/day in the raw form, without any adverse effect on health of lactating dairy cows. When feeding them to sheep, take care to cut them into small enough pieces, to prevent the danger of the sheep  choking on them. Do not use green potatoes or their peels though, as they have a toxic level of solanin. Breeding sows use cooked potatoes efficiently. Feed them up to 6kg a day. You can also use cooked potatoes as up to 40 percent of poultry rations.

Beetroot, turnips and radishes have also been successful as supplementary feed.

Do not feed animals one kind of vegetable for too long. For example, the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) all produce substances that block the uptake of iodine and when animals graze these crops or the residues for a long, uninterrupted period, iodine deficiency symptoms occur (e.g. abortions and death of young animals).

Storage life of cull vegetables is very dependent on the dry-matter content of the material. Therefore, spoilage of fresh cull vegetables is a concern and we must be on the look-out for mould and decomposition which will cause digestive problems in your animals.

Other Sources of Vegetable Matter

Most smallholders will not have a great quantity of fruit and vegetable waste from their own plots. However some have access to larger quantities from commercial farms.

Pig owners often get food waste from restaurants and other catering establishments. Whilst we can use some food wastes, such as fruit and vegetable matter as supplementary animal feed, the nutrient value is highly variable, and putrefied food waste is extremely undesirable as feed.

vegetable waste, crop resides as feed
Allow your livestock to graze crop residues in the field.

We do also need to ensure that the waste does not contain, nor have come into contact with, meat or other animal by-products.

Smallholders can also consider crop residue as a source of feed. Crop residues are materials left on cultivated land after the crop has been harvested. Using the residues by grazing is also very effective in returning plant nutrients to the soil. However, it is important to bear in mind that crop residues are low quality feeds and should therefore not be used for high producing animals such as lactating cows or animals being finished for slaughter.

To read other articles about livestock click here and for articles about growing crops click here.

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