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Dairy cattle nutrition and feeding

The assignment was carried out as part of ORGUT’s subcontract with Chemonics International within the USAID/Sida project –FARMA in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The purpose of USAID/Sida FARMA is to provide technical assistance in agricultural sub-sectors through demand driven assistance aimed at improved competitiveness of agricultural products. USAID/Sida FARMA is a development project jointly funded by USAID and Sida and implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. USAID/Sida FARMA is to expand environmentally sustainable production, processing, and sales of value-added agricultural products. The expected result of FARMA is contribution to poverty reduction. USAID/Sida FARMA is implemented by Chemonics International with ORGUT as a subcontractor. ORGUT provides consulting services aiming at increasing agricultural competitiveness, meeting EU accession standards, reducing poverty by expanding environmentally sustainable production, and increasing sales, exports, and employment. USAID/Sida FARMA’s approach focuses on four integrated components: Building sustainable market linkages for producers; Increasing access to finance; Building the capacity of producer organisations and other counterparts; and Enhancing the policy environment to benefit competitiveness of agricultural goods. In order to attain project goals, USAID/ Sida FARMA use various tools, including a Development Fund and Partners Fund for targeted subcontracts to local partners.

USAID/Sida FARMA is actively working in the dairy sector to improve the quantity and quality of milk production and increase profits to farmers and processors. Profitability on dairy farms is largely dictated by the ability to manage feed costs and the efficiency by which feed is translated into milk production. Feed and other commodity prices can be very volatile; hence farmers are typically concerned with these price trends and how to cut feed costs. However, the feeding objective should not be how to minimize feed costs per litre of milk produced but rather how to determine whether or not feed ingredients support a desired level of milk production.

Approximately two thirds of all the nutrients fed to cows come from forage. Forage quality receives little attention when determining ways to manage feed costs. Yet, forage quality is the single most important factor in putting together a ration. Forages determine what amount of concentrate is needed in the ration to support a desired level of milk production. One aspect of ensuring forage quality that can be improved is bunk silo storage of corn silage and haulage. Dry matter losses are a hidden cost compared with the use of an additive that will directly increase diet cost. Dry matter losses can be more costly in terms of lost nutrients and reduced feed quality and also can lead to appearance of mycotoxines (including aflatoxins).
Forage quality is a critical factor – the recent problems in the dairy industry due to the appearance of aflatoxins highlight the importance of this topic both in terms of food safety as well as economics and trade.

ORGUT trained agricultural extension officers and farmers on a range of management options that are available to improve the feed quality while managing feed costs, including feeding protocols and use of farm record keeping, through classroom and practical training.

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