With the biting drought, feeding is becoming a serious challenge to livestock farmers. Owing to the harsh reality, many animals are not able to meet their daily dietary requirements and combined with lack of fresh drinking water, death is a reality. In most farms I have visited, during dry conditions, poor quality roughages such as post harvest straws, poor quality hay, or dry-season forage that contains a lot of stem but not much leaf is the only product available as feed.
Urea and molasses mix
With urea, the headache on proteins can be solved. This can be mixed with molasses and minerals to form the Molasses Urea Mineral Blocks (MUMB). Research shows adding these blocks to an animal’s diet can increase the total amount of nutrition the animal receives by up to 30 per cent. Molasses provide energy while urea takes care of proteins for the animal. The main stomach of the ruminants rumen has a lot of beneficial microorganisms, which convert Nitrogen, the main component of urea into protein. Therefore, insufficient nitrogen in the diet means rumen microorganisms cannot make enough microbial protein critical for the animal’s growth and immunity.
Molasses a good bet
To animals, molasses provide an easily digestible component that also contributes various minerals and trace elements (but low amounts of phosphorous, key for heat in animals). Because of its pleasant taste and smell, it makes the block very attractive and palatable to animals. Notably, the quality of molasses should be good with high sugar content. The higher the sugar content, the better the solidification of the blocks soon after manufacture and thus blocks of better quality. This is the most important component of the block as urea provides nitrogen that can be used by the animals to manufacture their own protein. This is actually the logic behind feeding dairy animals chicken manure! The advantage of urea is that once it helps increase the rumen bacteria, it may help increase intake of roughage and other low quality forages as well as their digestibility. It is important that urea and molasses are provided together. Usually, the urea used in formulating such blocks is fertiliser grade. Since the urea absorbs water, it is possible that during storage lumps may form in the sacks. To prevent excessive consumption of urea within a short period, which may cause poisoning, it is necessary that such lumps are crushed before introducing the urea into the mixture. This will guarantee a proper mixture of urea in the mass.
Wheat or rice bran and other crop residues
For the blocks to serve a multipurpose role, they need to provide some additional key nutrients including fat, protein and phosphorus. It also acts as an absorbent for the moisture contained in molasses and gives structure to the block. Other products that can be used include residue from sugar cane processing or groundnut hulls which are finely ground depending on their availability.
Mineral salts may be added when appropriate. Common salt is added because this is often deficient in the diet and it is cheap. Calcium is supplied by molasses and by the binder material. Since most forages posses other trace minerals, the animals can survive optimally on this unless a serious deficiency exists.
What about Cement? The most commonly used jelling agent is cement. This is necessary to solidify the blocks. Other products have been tried successfully are magnesium oxide, calcium oxide and calcium hydroxide. Some experts have raised questions about possible negative effects on animals with use of cement. Cement is a natural product that is easily broken down into its compounding substances. It does not solidify in the animals. Goats and urea poisoning In conclusion, despite having good nutritional value, all ruminants are sensitive to a large quantity of urea, as it can cause poisoning. This is especially common in goats that are very fond of concentrates with urea and are therefore particularly sensitive to urea toxicity. So it is essential that the blocks are accurately made so that goats are not fed too much urea at one time. Also, an adaptation period of at least three weeks is required for the animal to utilise urea efficiently. The MUMB blocks have immense capability to support livestock during severe droughts in pastoralist and non-pastoralist set ups or as feed supplements.