Management and use of dairy cattle feed resources on smallholder certified organic pineapple farms in Central Uganda
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Formulation of exclusively organic diets that meet maintenance and production requirements of dairy cattle is a major limitation to production of premium organic products of animal origin. This study was therefore carried out to assess the use and availability of feed resources and the coping strategies used by farmers to overcome dry season feed shortages on 64 smallholder certified organic pineapple farms. Data was collected using semi-structured questionnaires and two focus group discussions. Majority of households were headed by males (62.9%) while average age of respondents was 42.5 years. Farmers allocated more land (P<0.05) to organic pineapple production compared to livestock. Beside dairy cattle, farmers also kept chickens, goats and pigs. Tethering was the commonest cattle management system. Fifty three percent of respondents reported using both natural pastures and crop residues as major dairy cattle feed resources while only 19% reported using elephant grass. Banana peels (25.1%) and sweet potato vines (24.7%) were the most important crop residues fed to cattle. Farmers reported high cost of concentrates and scarcity of feeds as their biggest challenges in dairy cattle production. Of the respondents, 51.4% conserved feed for their cattle as fodder banks. As a coping strategy to feed shortages, majority (42.9%) of farmer scavenged for feed resources from both organic certified and nonorganic neighbouring farms which is contrary to organic livestock farming standards. It was, therefore, concluded that management of livestock feeding in the study area fell short of the requirements for organic livestock feeding standards. Research to develop strategies that can use alternative on-farm feed resources through ensiling organic pineapple wastes during the dry season is recommended as a long term strategy to address feed challenges for organic livestock farmers.