Animal integration and feeding strategies for the tropical smallholder farm: Approaches and methods for increasing sustainability and profitability
Copyright © 2019 Keith Mikkelson – ECHO Asia Impact Center
Integrated livestock systems can provide many benefits. With careful planning and by starting small, most farmers will be able to incorporate cows, goats, chickens, or hogs and improve the stability of their farm. Crop residues can reduce feed costs, and manure can reduce fertilizer costs. Manure can also be used to produce biogas for cooking or heating, to reduce costs on the farm. Grazing livestock can help manage weeds and improve soil health.
This booklet was borne out of a need to help smallholder farmers re-integrate animals into their systems and use nutrients and energy wisely in order to reduce external inputs, increasing sustainability and profitability. It gives practical information, starter feed recipes, and much more, showcasing organic best practices occurring at the Aloha Farm in Palawan, The Philippines.
This booklet is based on five of Keith’s prior articles that were written for ECHO Asia Notes, which include AN #20 Fish Feed, AN #25 Hog Feed, AN #28 Poultry Feed, AN #31 Ruminant Feeds, and AN #35 Animal Integration. This book is available in hard copy in our office.
Here are excerpts from Chapter 1 (Asia Note 35) “Livestock Integration”:
Properly managed livestock can bring the tropical farmer higher profits than some market vegetables and most grains. In permaculture, we say “integrate instead of segregate!” An example of this is the way farmers integrate their grazing livestock into seasonal cropping patterns. In traditional upland farmland systems, cattle and goats are left to graze in the forest or taken up onto higher ground away from the cropland during the growing season. When the harvest is over, the animals are brought back to the village to graze on the fallow croplands during the dry season. At the Aloha House Farm, we raise and integrate goats, chickens, ducks, cattle, and hogs. For example, our goats graze pasture and browse as well as feed on legume shrubs, and we feed some crop residues to the goats. With the integrated system, we are able to eliminate many feed costs and (with the manure we collect) also eliminate many fertilizer costs. We cut and carry fresh feed stock for goats, cows, chickens, and hogs; it requires labor, but we are able to minimize inputs.
...from Chapter 2 (AN20) “Integrating Fish”:
With experimentation and careful recordkeeping, a fish farmer can produce his/her own high-quality feed. In many countries, readily available meat grinders and pelletizers have made it possible to create economic floating feeds for tilapia, koi or catfish. Our unit was obtained in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand. It is an un-branded stainless-steel auger-driven meat mincer manufactured in China. We assembled it on a table at home and mounted it with a 1 hp motor. Before beginning, make sure you have a range of plate sizes to extrude your feed, so that feed and stock size can match. The sizes we use are in the 2-8 mm range for our 300-500 gram tilapia production. When we finish making the feed, we immediately dismantle and clean the auger, blade and plates. When done with a good auger-type grinder, very little effort is spent in the production of feeds. At Aloha House, two people can produce ten trays (approximately 45 kg) of moist feed in less than one hour.
...from Chapter 3 (AN25) “Integrating Hogs”:
Corn-fed pork is a phenomenon that came about through a glut of low-cost maize production in industrialized countries. Modern corn has a higher carbohydrate level and a corresponding lower level of protein. By contrast, rice bran has twice the crude protein of corn, and is often less expensive. In a natural feed system, protein is the number one limiting factor in performance and growth of livestock; it is also the most expensive to purchase. If you keep the target protein level appropriate for the age of the animal, everything else will balance out with your natural feed. In creating your pig feed, you pay for protein. Old corn-based feed formulas are based on corn varieties that had more protein than the modern dent corn that permeates our supply chain (which also contains glyphosate residues and is often genetically modified). On Palawan, where Aloha House is located, corn is approximately twice the price and contains half the protein of rice bran, making corn protein four times more expensive than rice protein. We want natural feed supplies for our hogs to be economical and to assure the best end product.
...from Chapter 4 (AN28) “Integrating Poultry”:
The fermenting activity of certain beneficial microorganisms during the production process can enhance the digestibility and shelf life of chicken feeds. According to one study, the use of microorganisms increased the crude protein in copra meal from 17.24% to 31.22%. An amino acid was also found to be greatly improved in quantity. Please note that not all flocks like a wet feed. You can mix feed without fermenting in the morning and use it immediately if your chickens do not appreciate fermented feeds, which tend to be wet. In addition to chicken feed, you can also ferment your feed for hogs, ducks, and fish with the help of diverse probiotic groups of microbes. However, we do not recommend fermentation for ruminant feeds.
...from Chapter 5 (AN31) “Integrating Ruminants”:
Farmers feeding cows, goats, sheep, and buffalo should attempt to keep purchased inputs to a minimum. Farmers must balance the dietary needs of their animals with safety, comfort, and security from theft. No matter how ideal your goals for your ruminant herd, make sure you carefully plan and manage for the overall benefit of the animals and the farmer. Most small farms in SE Asia would do well to develop and manage some amount of pasture for ruminants, combined with a cut and carry strategy. Manure should be incorporated on the farm to maintain soil fertility for the forages and plants, and tighten nutrient cycling loops so that the benefits of integrated livestock will translate into more economical and sustainable food production.