The use of cassava leaf silage as a feed supplemental in diets for ruminants and its introduction to smallholder farmers
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Introduction of cassava leaf silage making to smallholder farmers and its feeding to ruminants in cassava crop growing areas were investigated through laboratory and on-farm feeding trials, extension services and training. This with the aim to evaluate the response of the ruminants on cassava leaf silage feeding and the adoption of the technology by farmers. Fifteen male sheep aged 6-8 months with an initial body weight of 15.8 + 2.6 kg were used in a laboratory feeding trial and allotted to 3 treatments with 5 replications in a randomized block experiment design. The sheep were fed on chopped elephant grass and three different levels of cassava leaf silage as treatment. The three levels of supplementation of casava leaf silage (DM in % of body weight) were: 0, 0.75, and 1.5, which represented treatments A, B, and C, respectively, and the rest of the feed was elephant grass to reach a total DM intake in % of body weight of 5. The individual sheep was weighed every second week to measure their body weight changes. An on-farm feeding trial was conducted in collaboration with the farmers as target persons. The results showed that feeding increasing amounts of cassava leaf silage as a feed supplement for sheep significantly increased digestible crude protein (CP) intake and nitrogen retention, and this was also associated with an increase in average daily weight gain from 41.4 to 45.0 and 50.0 g/head/day, respectively, on treatments A, B and C. Cassava leaf has been commonly used as a feed for ruminant animals by smallholder farmers, but only during the cassava crop harvesting season, where the leaf was abundantly available. It was fed in fresh form, either as single or combined feed. Preservation of forages including cassava leaf in the form of hay or silage was not well known by the farmers in this study. The farmers showed good response on the introduced technology of cassava leaf silage making and feeding to their ruminant livestock. They noticed that cassava leaf silage showed higher palatability over the forages they have normally used to feed their livestock. The farmers have practiced the technology, but they lack equipments, especially chopping machine for a larger scale application of the technology.
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