As farmers have recently discovered the hard way, feeds play a crucial role in any farming enterprise that involves livestock. At the height of the recent animal feeds crisis, many poultry farmers were forced to sell off their productive stock cheaply because they could no longer afford to maintain it.
Since feeds take up almost 60% of the cost of production in most livestock enterprises, every farmer needs to have a feeds management strategy to ensure they do not get pushed out of business by a sudden change in the price of feeds ingredients such as maize bran and silver fish (Mukene).
Farmers need to know how much their livestock consumes on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.
If your livestock consumes a tonne of feeds a week, that means four tonnes a month, or 52 tonnes a year.
This helps in planning ahead. You also need to closely monitor the seasons and market trends.
Farmers who stocked when maize bran was cheap did not suffer like their colleagues who had nothing in stock.
Sometimes, it even makes sense to get a bank loan to buy feeds when they are cheap.
To ensure that their livestock performs up to their expectations, farmers need to provide them with a balanced diet all year round.
The needs of individual animals are always changing according to internal factors, including the physiological state of the animal (species, breed, growth, mating, pregnancy) and to external factors such as climatic stress and challenges from diseases and parasites.
It is difficult to accurately meet these changing requirements with the limited resources and economic realities facing the small farming sector in Uganda, but there are some basic guidelines that should be followed as far as possible:
Animals that are in full production will respond well to the best diet and it may be economical to give them a feed supplement over the normal diet in order to increase their productivity.
Young animals will grow faster if given a good quality diet and will, therefore, reach slaughter or selling weight faster.
An improved diet may be profitable if it brings animals to the market in time for special occasions like Christmas, carnivals, or other festivals, when animals are in scarce supply and prices of their products are high.
Both males and females should be given an improved diet in the period leading up to mating as this will increase the chances of successful pregnancy. Females should be given a better diet just before farrowing or lambing to boost milk production.
Adult animals that are not in a productive phase have the lowest requirements in terms of feed quality.