Seasonal nutrient supplementation important for animals
By Erastus Ngaruka
Technical Officer within Agribank’s Agri Advisory Services Division
There is a great emphasis on livestock lick and feed supplementation (cattle, sheep and goats), and this is an expensive exercise that needs proper planning. Positive impacts of providing lick and feed supplementation are conspicuous, but in some cases not because supplementation is irregular, insufficient or given at a wrong time.
The importance of livestock lick and feed supplementation is basically to supply nutrients, enhance feed intake and enhance digestion, thus ensuring good health and productivity. Animals require daily supply of proteins, energy, minerals and vitamins for them to survive.
How can one decide on which licks and feed supplements to give?
Your decision should be based on both the condition of the rangeland/grazing and the animal’s body. This means, you should provide what the rangeland cannot provide, and also provide what the animal needs. As the seasons change, so does the rangeland condition in terms of quality and quantity of forage materials. Therefore, livestock licks and feed supplements are also influenced by the season and prevailing conditions.
Starting with the summer months where the forage materials are green and plenty under normal circumstances, proteins, energy and Vitamin A are in sufficient amounts. The emphasis is on mineral supplementation because during these rainy months, minerals are leached deep down the soil, thus they are less available to the plants and grass.
Amongst the minerals, phosphorus demand is higher. Apart from being deficient in the soil, the animal body’s demand for phosphorus increases with more food because it is needed to release the energy (in the form of Adenosine tri-phosphate) that will be used for enhancing metabolism or digestion, and feed intake. Therefore, farmers can look for mineral supplements such as P14 and P6 which are readily available on the market.
In the early winter months (May-July), the most deficient nutrient is protein for grazing animals. The protein in the grass is in the seeds, so when the grass dries out and starts shedding seeds, the protein is also lost.
Therefore, during that period, the farmer should look for protein supplements such as the dryveld concentrate, amongst others. Very important to note is that when the grass is dry, it has no Vitamin A, and it should therefore be supplemented. The most common way is to use the injectable Vitamin A, which can be repeated every three months during the dry season only.
Grass is the energy base for grazing animals, and if it is depleted, then the energy supply to the animal is affected. From August onwards, the quantity of grass becomes less as the dry season progresses. Grass can be taken away by grazing, trampling, wind, termites and baboons during this period and hence the energy supplements should be introduced or increased.
They can be added to the regular protein supplements as mixed ingredients. One of the good energy sources is yellow maize meal. In critical cases, hay is also fed to animals to help fill the rumen or satisfy the daily dry matter intake.
Lastly, it is very important to give the right supplement to the right animal at the right time, in the right amount. Supplements are expensive, and wastage should be avoided. Do not buy the name or colour of a licks bag but the contents inside it. Supplementation should not substitute the rangeland, thus, sustainable rangeland management practices should be adopted.