Farm productivity depends on the animal, the environment and management. According to Agribank’s technical advisor for livestock and rangeland, Erastus Ngaruka, a successful production cycle is one where the animal is born and raised to survive until it reproduces or is marketed. “Therefore, farmers need to develop appropriate management plans that are responsive to the changing conditions in their production environment.”Farmers should have annual plans for vaccinations to prevent common diseases such as anthrax, brucellosis, pasteurellosis, enterotoxaemia and lumpy skin disease, and to control both internal and external parasites as well as seasonal lick and feed supplementation, he said.General livestock husbandry and welfare practices must also be developed and rigorously adhered to, Ngaruka said. Sufficient supply of nutrientsNutritional supplementation is critical as livestock require a sufficient supply of nutrients throughout the year to respond to seasonal changes in rangeland conditions and body demands, he noted. “Grazing livestock such as cattle and sheep are the most vulnerable to nutritional deficiency – especially mineral deficiencies as a result of the soil-mineral concentration, particularly in sandy areas that are beyond the grass root zones for uptake.”Ngaruka explained that – generally – as winter approaches, grasses stop growing and go into the dormancy period where the nutrients are relocated to the root system as reserves for regrowth in the next season. “During this time, grasses dry up and shed seeds, thus resulting in the loss of vitamin A and much of the protein in the process. Thus, they are the first nutritional constituents to be deficient in animals.”Therefore, farmers need to inoculate their animals with vitamin A and shift to dry season lick supplements to principally provide protein to the animals. Ngaruka said one of the ingredients needed in the dry season supplements is urea, as it enhances the digestion of dry forage materials through increased population and strength of the rumen microorganisms responsible for digestion in ruminant animals. In the latter part of the dry season, the animal’s demand for energy increases as the grass plants become depleted or scarcer or grazed to the maximum and animals will be compelled to walk long distances as the foraging radius increases. “Thus, energy supplements need to be added to the protein supplements, and in certain cases – especially when there is a grazing shortage – roughage feeds or hay will be needed to fill the rumen.”He added that since many farmers have planted crops, they can cheaply use processed crop residues and forage materials such as pods as dry season feed supplements.Critical periodIn many areas, winter is also the period during which goats and sheep will give birth.“This is a critical period that requires extra effort in ensuring that the birth process is smooth and that the lambs and kids survive.”Ngaruka said the most prominent challenge the lambs and kids will face is to survive the cold conditions of the winter months, and therefore farmers need to provide shelters to keep them warm.These include houses, digging pits and enclosures covered with heat-trapping material such as black plastic sheets or conveyer belts (rubber) used in mining, amongst other things.The cold conditions can also result in respiratory infections, mainly pneumonia. “The mothers must have been vaccinated already to pass the immunity to the young ones through milk (colostrum) at least in the first month, or the young can be vaccinated at least at two weeks of age.”According to Ngaruka, another challenge for the young ones will be parasites such as mites, fleas and lice. These parasites will compromise the health and growth potential of lambs and kids, and therefore need to be controlled. Furthermore, dirty kraals are a health hazard, predisposing animals to diseases such as respiratory and eye infections, and parasite infestation, he said.“A clean, healthy, and safe kraal environment plays a big role in the survival of lambs and kids, and the general well-being of your animals.”

[source – Republikein]

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