Conservation, Processing and Utilization Practices of Cereal Straw as Basal Feed for Dairy Cattle in the Central Highlands of Ethiopia

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Kasa Biratu
Mengistu Urge
Getu Kitaw
Fekede Feyissa
Adegbola Adesogan


The study was carried out to assess the current status of cereal straw management practices, challenges and opportunities to enhance its use as feed resource to dairy cattle across the crop production corridors in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Data were collected from 180 smallholder dairy farmers (85.6% male and 14.4% female-headed households) using a structured questionnaire, key informant discussion and personal observations. Chi-square and one-way ANOVA procedure of the Statistical Analysis System was used to estimate and compare qualitative and quantitative data, respectively. The average cattle herd size per household in the study areas was 14 Tropical Livestock Units (TLU), and the number of total cows and lactating cows owned per household was 4.5 heads and 2.9 heads, respectively with a higher proportion of crossbreds than local cows. Tef, barley, wheat and oat straws were the principal residues conserved and used to feed dairy cattle by all the farmers across the study areas. On average, about 7.4t DM of cereal crop residues were produced per household. Overall, cereal residues contribute to the level of 75% of the basal feed proportion in the late dry season which gradually declines to a lower level in the middle of the wet season. The entire respondents practice collection and storage of cereal residues out of which about 83.5% use under shelter shade loose storage system. Although the farmers use these residues for different purposes, more than 68% of the respondents reported as they use them only for feeding purposes. Moistening (61.8%) with water and salt, mixing (34.4%) with some kind of market available concentrates, molasses and local beverage residues (atella) and treatment (3.8%) with urea were the common processing methods used before feeding. Overall, about 91.1% of the sampled respondents reported as they encounter crop residue loss and the majority (>75%) of the loss occurs during utilization. The cluster-based farming system underway in the area created an opportunity for crop expansion with better straw yield. However, lack of processing, appropriate utilization and absence of regular training supported by practical demonstration were listed as important challenges in their descending order. Commonly, tef, wheat and barley straws were available in the market throughout the year via retailers. Straws are abundantly available at fair price within a few months from the time of harvest but gradually get scarce and expensive towards the wet season across the districts. From the study it was concluded that the conservation, processing and utilization practices of cereal straw as basal feed source for dairy cattle were not fully exploited. Based on the conclusion it was recommended that farmers should be better exposed to efficient crop residue conservation, treatment and utilization techniques. Further studies should be made to adopt straw densification methods utilized and appreciated in some other tropical countries.


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