Harinder Makkar, livestock production officer at the animal production and health division of the UN agency, outlined some of the feed related projects the organization is involved in.
“The FAO has activities in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh on efficient use of locally available feed resources,” he told us.
The FAO is also aiming to develop a national feed resource information system for the Asia Pacific region, similar to its Feedipedia project, as well as strengthening control systems in feed analysis laboratories so that quality data are produced on the nutritional profile of locally available feed resources, said Makkar.
The FAO has been collaborating with Texas A&M (TAMU) in the training of feed laboratory employees in developing countries in an attempt to develop quality laboratory practices and improve feed safety in those markets.
“Additionally, a number of extension workers have been trained to help farmers at their doorsteps to prepare balanced rations for dairy cows using a recently developed FAO ration-balancing tool,” said Makkar.
Vegetable waste to feed
There are a variety of initiatives underway at individual country level, he continued.
“In Bangladesh, assessment is being made on the availability of vegetable wastes in wholesale markets around Dhaka and conversion of such wastes to safe animal feed.
“Furthermore, in India and Bangladesh, we are video documenting the technologies for conversion of vegetable and fruit wastes and by-products as animal feed, so that these could be replicated in other parts of the world,” said the FAO representative.
He said the UN agency has also written an article for a peer reviewed journal on the benefits of using vegetable waste in feed in Bangladesh; that is due for release in the coming weeks.
The FAO is also working jointly with National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) of India, to transfer its densified straw-based complete feed block technology initiative to Bangladesh.
The technology of straw-based densified complete feed as blocks or pellets could play an important role in providing balanced rations to livestock in tropical regions with green forage scarcity, said the FAO. It offers a means to increase milk and meat production in the tropics and can enable a decrease in environmental pollutants, an increase in income of farmers, a decrease in labour requirement as well as feeding time along with a reduction in the transportation cost of straw, said its proponents.
The technology also has the potential to alleviate regional disparity in feed availability, according to the FAO.
The technology has been commercialized in India, where dedicated manufacturing plants have been set up in different states in that country under dairy cooperatives and state level livestock boards, with government encouraging the establishment of such plants by providing subsidies covering 50% of the costs.
Meanwhile, in Myanmar, the FAO said it is helping the government to develop a feed regulatory system for domestic and international markets. The final meeting of that feed project took place this month, and included a session from Professor Tim Herrmann from TAMU giving an overview of the feed regulatory system in Texas, said Makkar.
The FAO has also been working with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to promote the use of cactus as feed for dry areas in the region, especially India.
Makkar told this publication previously that cactus is emerging as an economical and high energy forage option for livestock producers in drylands, though he cautioned that its lower protein content could be a limiting factor.
The succulent is increasingly being used in Brazil, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa as well as India as a feed component: “It is a crop for dry areas; its water use efficiency is very high, it can grow in harsh conditions, and it gives good yields - 20 tons of dry matter or 200 tons of fresh per hectare,” he said.
Its high water content also adds to its appeal for farmers in dry areas; cactus is made up of 90% water and 10% dry matter, which makes it a dual source of water and feed, so animals do not need as much drinking water.
Interestingly though, the biggest and most established user is Brazil to date, where 600,000 hectares of cactus cultivation shields livestock producers from the price fluctuations that grains are subject to.