Animal Feeding / China / Indonesia / Kenya / Rwanda / Tanzania / Vietnam

Sweet potato roots and leaves for ‘cow cafeterias’ and ‘pig pantries’ in East Africa

RTB East Africa1-6

An East African researcher holds handfuls of sweet potato roots and leaves, to be used as animal feed (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

‘Pressures from climate change and population growth are increasing the competition for grains as food or livestock feed in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. But sweet potato, which can grow in harsh climatic conditions with minimal inputs, can provide a healthy and easily accessible solution.

Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute, International Potato Center, and multi-partner East Africa Dairy Development project are teaming up with other public and private partners to experiment with different sweet potato varieties and feed formulations that can expand options for livestock producers.’

‘Though sweet potato has been used successfully in livestock systems in Asia, it still raises eyebrows in Africa.

“In China, 25 to 30 percent of sweet potato crops are used for animal feed,” says Ben Lukuyu, a livestock specialist who spearheads the project for the International Livestock Research Institute. But he laughs as he describes the response he typically receives from colleagues in Africa: “You’re a livestock specialist. What are you doing working with sweet potato?”

Ben Lukuyu, Postdoctoral Scientist, Market Opportunities

ILRI livestock feed scientist Ben Lukuyu (photo credit: ILRI).

‘East Africa has the highest per capita consumption of livestock products (e.g., dairy cattle, pig, and goats for meat and milk) in Sub-Saharan Africa. But major feed shortages occur during the dry season, and quality feed concentrates demand a price many cannot afford. Napier grass, which is used in Kenya as a primary feed for dairy farming, requires significant allocations of land and is suffering from a major disease outbreak.

‘In comparison, sweet potato vines offer more protein and dry matter per unit area and require less land than other commonly used livestock feeds. For example, Kenyan researchers have found that 4 kilos of vines could replace 1 kilo of dairy concentrate feed. Sweet potato roots also make good feed. And both the roots and vines are a healthy source of food for people, too. . . .

The program sometimes draws the nickname “cow cafeteria” or “pig pantry”. Lukuyu explains the program’s purpose: “We want to give farmers options for mixing feed and feeding strategies to best respond to their needs and demands.” . . .

‘By putting sweet potato on their families’ tables and now even in their animal’s troughs, African farmers are able to have more climate-smart and affordable options for keeping everyone healthy and fed.’

Read the whole article at AlertNet: Putting sweet potato in the trough, 18 Oct 2012.

If you’re interested in making sweet potato silage yourself, consult this colourful and comprehensive brochure: Making High-quality Sweet Potato Silage compiled by Ben Lukuyu (ILRI), Charles K Gachuiri (University of Nairobi), Sammy Agili (International Potato Center), Carlos Leon-Velarde (International Potato Center) and Josephine Kirui (World Agroforestry Centre), 2012.

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