International Journal of Livestock Research ISSN 2277 ... - eJManager

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International Journal of Livestock Research eISSN : 2277-1964

Vol 6(5) May’16

A Review on Some Management and Improvement Practices of Natural Pasture in the Mid and High Altitude Areas of Ethiopia Gezahagn Kebede1*, Getnet Assefa2, Fekede Feyissa1 and Alemayehu Mengistu3 1

Holetta Agricultural Research Center, P. O. Box 31, Holetta, Ethiopia Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, P.O. Box 2003, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 3 Forage and Rangeland Scientist, Urael Branch, P.O. Box 62291, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2

*Corresponding author: [email protected] Rec. Date:

Mar 05, 2016 09:30

Accept Date:

Apr 06, 2016 22:38

Published Online:

May 25, 2016

DOI

10.5455/ijlr.20160406103816

Abstract The total grazing and browsing lands are steadily shrinking due to encroachment of crop production as a consequence of the growing human population in Ethiopia. The productivity from grazing land is insufficient for optimal livestock production. Grazing land management, fertilizer application, oversowing of legumes, optimum harvesting stage, feed conservation and utilization are important practices to improve the productivity of natural pasture and used to maintain the nutritive values of the pastures over seasons. Poor production of pasture lands and large herd size on small grazing lands caused overgrazing of natural pasturelands resulting in serious land degradation which in turn leads to invasion by unpalatable plant species and finally a decline in the quantity and quality of pasture. Application of organic and inorganic fertilizers on natural pasture generally showed very good yield responses and have a great effect on botanical composition and quality of pasture species. Over-sowing of legumes on natural pasture can improve the productivity and quality of the pasture throughout the year. There is a need for developing the feed conservation strategy during the period of abundant supply so as to redistribute the feed supply over the year to meet the requirements of livestock across seasons. There are many proven best practices and technologies available locally and globally, therefore, application of these technologies and intensifying the use of natural pasture is quite important to reverse the scenario of poor animal productivity in Ethiopia. Key words: Conservation, Grazing Management, Improvement Practices, Natural Pasture

How to cite: Kebede, G., Assefa, G., Feyissa, F. & Mengistu, A. (2016) A Review on Some

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Management and Improvement Practices of Natural Pasture in the Mid and High Altitude Areas of Ethiopia. International Journal of Livestock Research, 6 (5), 1-14.doi:10.5455/ijlr.20160406103816

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International Journal of Livestock Research eISSN : 2277-1964

Vol 6(5) May’16

Introduction Grazing is the predominant form of ruminant feeding system in most part of the extensive and smallholder crop-livestock farming areas in Ethiopia (Getnet, 1999; Alemayehu, 2004). Livestock in the central highlands graze on communal, fallow and permanent pasturelands during cropping season and on croplands after harvest (Zinash et al., 1995; Lemma, 2002). It has been estimated that 57 percent of livestock feed requirement in Ethiopia is provided by natural pastures (CSA, 2013). The total agricultural land is about 17 million hectares occupied by 14.4 million households accounting for an average of 1.18 hectare per household (CSA, 2011). Out of the total agricultural land the grazing land accounts for 9 percent, fallow land 4 percent and wood lands for about 1 percent. The crop livestock production system in the highland is characterized by an outward growth of cereal crop fields (Gryseels, 1988), which progressively reduced the area of land allocated to grazing (Alemayehu, 2002) thereby marginalizing the grazing lands into areas that have no farming potential such as hilly tops, swampy areas, roadsides and other marginal lands (Alemayehu, 2004). According to Fekede (2013), pasture lands have been significantly dwindled, highly fragmented, limited to areas where conditions are adverse for cropping due to topographic, edaphic and climatic limitations in the highlands and continuously shrinking due to human and livestock population pressure. The herbage yield and nutritional quality of natural pasture is generally low (Adane and Berhan 2005) due to poor management and utilization. Seasonal fluctuation in the availability and quality of natural pasture is a common phenomenon (Zinash et al., 1995; Alemayehu, 1998; Solomon, 2004). Productivity of natural pasture lands ranges very low less than 0.5 t DM/ha up to more than 8 t DM/ha but most natural pasture lands produce about 2 t DM /ha/year. Natural pastures would be adequate for live weight maintenance and weight gain during wet seasons, but would not support maintenance for the rest of the year (Zinash et al., 1995). The energy (ME), crude protein (CP) and dry matter (DM) contents of these natural pastures in most cases have been reported to be below the maintenance requirement of the animal in Bale highlands (Solomon, 2004). IAR (1980) also reported similar findings in other highlands of the country. Generally, there is a severe shortage of grazing resource together with marked decline in the quality of the natural pasture in the highlands of the country (Adane, 2003). This problem inevitably calls for improving the productivity of the grazing lands in the country through appropriate management interventions. Application of improved grazing systems, fertilizer use, reseeding, proper harvesting, conservation and utilization practices are very pertinent (Alemayehu, 2004). Through demonstration and

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contribute to improved productivity of livestock. This paper summarizes the research outputs on natural

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scaling up of best practices, better land use policy and improved management, grazing lands could

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International Journal of Livestock Research eISSN : 2277-1964

Vol 6(5) May’16

pasture management and improvement practices in Ethiopia and suggest possible interventions for future application. Natural Pasture Productivity and Grazing Management Most pasturelands in the Ethiopian highlands have suffered encroachment of crop production as a consequence of the growing human population. The demands for high food lead to expansion of arable lands that resulted in shrinkage of land available for grazing and browsing (Alemayehu, 1997). Consequently, livestock are forced to concentrate on very limited pastureland that deteriorates and becomes unproductive in the long run. As indicated by Lulseged (1985), overgrazed grasslands, particularly in the highlands are dominated by Pennisetum shemperi, which is a coarse unpalatable grass. Such weed species are generally not palatable to grazing animals. Close attention to grazing management is critical if the producer wishes to maximize farm productivity. Grazing management involves controlling where livestock graze, when they graze and how much they graze. Overgrazing is not really a function of how many animals are on a pasture, but how long they remain there. In grazing management, time is the most important factor to consider in establishing a grazing system for sustained forage production. Generally, properly managed burning, manuring/fertilization, chemicals, hand weeding and plowing reduce weed population and stimulate desirable species. Grazing of pasture by animals has an impact on the photosynthetic area of the plant, species composition and the soil type. Moderate grazing of grasses results in quick replacement of removed shoots, which promote compensatory photosynthesis, and increases production of green biomass. Biomass production over time varies and therefore causes seasonal variation in forage availability. Likewise, grazing pressure varies across time because of differences in forage production among spatially separated plant communities (Zerihun, 1986). Under heavy grazing pressure, plants may not compensate sufficiently for the biomass removed by grazing animals (Zerihun, 1986). Hence, net primary production, which is the difference between non-grazed and grazed biomass production, is a useful tool to establish the defoliation level of plant vegetation (Mills and Lee, 1990). Different grazing management treatments cause diverse changes in plant growth and these changes affect the quantity of the aboveground biomass produced on pasturelands (Manske, 2004). The timing and severity of grazing determine whether detrimental or beneficial effects might occur. Repeated heavy grazing removes a great amount of the photosynthetic leaf area and causes long-term reductions in the total biomass and organic reserves. Both early grazing and late grazing reduce herbage biomass of pasturelands. In contrast, grazing that is synchronized with grass growth stages is beneficial to plant growth mechanisms and ecosystem processes and stimulates greater

affecting the potential of the pasture to sustain livestock productivity. The changes in botanical [email protected]

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The overgrazing affects the botanical composition of the natural pasture which is the major factor

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herbage production (Manske, 2004).

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composition primarily brought about by animal activities that usually affect the nutritive value of natural pastures and in turn influence the productivity of animals. The botanical composition of natural pasture is dynamic and varies depending on topography, climate and soil type. According to Alemayehu (1998), the proportion of legumes decreases with decreasing altitude in natural pastures in the highlands. Even in the absence of man and animals, it may alter through time due to climatic changes. Girma and Peden (2003) also reported that plant species composition and productivity of the pasture are highly influenced by animal species, intensity of grazing and edaphic factors. Other studies also indicated that grazing animals influence species composition; change the biomass distribution and biodiversity of the grazing lands depending on the grazing pressure exerted (Zerihun and Saleem, 2000). Generally, appropriate grazing management must be practiced in order to maintain a favorable balance in the botanical composition of the available natural pasture species. Fertilizer Application on Natural Pasture Productivity Productivity of natural pasture can usually be increased two to three times or more with a well planned fertilization and management. Once the application of fertilizers is decided upon, there is a need to know chemistry of soil, botanical composition of the pasture species and the economic return. Grasses usually require large quantities of nitrogen and respond vigorously. Both quantity and quality of natural pasturelands can be improved by application of fertilizer. Applications of different management practices such as weed management, organic and inorganic fertilizers application by farmers to improve productivity of natural pasture in the highlands are indicated in Fig. 1. Recent survey studies by Fekede (2013) indicated that the majority of farmers believe that the use of inputs such as fertilizer/manure could help to improve pasture productivity; however, they refrain from using them due to high cost of fertilizers

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Fig.1: Applications of Different Management Practices to Improve Productivity of Natural Pasture. (Source: Extracted from Fekede Feyissa, 2013)

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and the difficulty to transport manure to pasture fields due to its bulkiness.

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International Journal of Livestock Research eISSN : 2277-1964

Vol 6(5) May’16

Application of fertilizer on natural pasture generally showed very good yield responses at Holetta (Table 1). The result indicated that the dry matter yield increased with increasing level of N and P 2O5 fertilizers. Yield was 11.33 t/ha with application of 120 and 160 kg/ha N/P2O5 fertilizer respectively. There is usually an initial linear response when nitrogen is applied. But, there is a phase of diminishing response and a point beyond which nitrogen has little or no effect on yield as the level of N applied increased. The amount of dry matter produced for each kilogram of nitrogen applied depends largely on the species under consideration, frequency of defoliation and growth condition (Miles and Manson, 2000). Fertilizer responses are usually very low on waterlogged pastures and time of fertilizer application remarkably affects yield response in the cooler highlands. Application of manure is one of the management options to improve the natural pasture productivity. However, animal manure in most cases, particularly in the highland areas is used as fuel in the form of dung cakes. However, animal manure could also be used as fertilizer to improve pasture productivity. Studies indicated that application of manure at the rate of 10-15 t/ha could increase yields more than double for a sustained period of time in the highlands. One of the most important issues in the use of animal manure is its residual effect. Once applied, it can be utilized for about 3-4 years. So uniform manure distribution is a key factor in maintaining soil fertility in a grazing system, and is affected by stocking rate, size of pasture, species composition, soil types, soil fertility, drainage conditions, as well as other factors. Fertilizers not only increase yield but also influence species composition of natural pastures. According to Daniel (1987), application of phosphorus alone increases percentage of legumes while heavy nitrogen application encourages grasses by suppressing legumes. The effect of fertilization on the botanical composition is very marked where legumes make up a considerable part of the vegetation. In such areas, the amount of legumes and their phosphorus content increases sharply with phosphorus fertilization (Gilbert et al., 1992). Phosphorus plays role in nodule development and in the activity of the associated rhizobia (Crowder and Chheda, 1982). Hence, the application of phosphate fertilizer on well-managed legume enriched natural pastures often provides an effective factor in increasing productivity. Table 1: Three Years-Average Dry Matter Yield (T/Ha) of Natural Pasture As Affected By Application of Different Levels of N and P2O5 Fertilizer at Holetta

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80 7.92 8.37 8.15

120 9.43 11.33 10.38

Mean 2.46 6.70 7.50 5.55

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N level kg/ha 40 5.76 5.57 5.67

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P2O5 Level kg/ha 0 0 2.46 80 3.68 160 4.73 Mean 3.62 (Source: Getnet Assefa, 2003)

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Legumes vary in their ability to produce nitrogen, and for the most responsive grasses no legumes can adequately supply the needs of grass. Hence, strategically applying nitrogen to boost the grass component or phosphorus to boost the legume component can achieve a balance between grass and legumes (Bartholomew, 2000). Application of nitrogen fertilizers to grass-legume pastures has dramatic effects on the legume component by altering botanical composition. When legumes are growing with grasses, the grasses are stronger competitors for available nitrogen, and take up most of that applied. This will lead to an increased rate of growth, leaf expansion and tillering in the grasses, often leading to suppression of the legume owing to shading (Miles and Manson, 2000). In grass-legume pastures, when legumes supply insufficient nitrogen, additional nitrogen generally needs to be provided by strategic application of nitrogen fertilizer. Effect of Over-Sowing on Natural Pasture Productivity Legume establishment by over-sowing on natural pastures has not been successful in the highlands except Vicia dasycarpa and Vicia villosa which was fairly established and dominated the pasture within three years when allowed to set seed. The best time for over-sowing vetch is in the short rains (mid-April to May). In the mid-altitude areas, Desmodium uncinatum, Stylosanthes guianesis and Macroptilium atropureum fairly established and gave substantial herbage yield when over-sown in burned native pasture (Alemu, 1990). Vicia dasycarpa and Vicia villosa with and without manure coatings at different seeding rates of vetch (0, 25, 50, and 75 kg/ha) were over-sown and improve productivity of natural pasture in the highland areas around Holetta (Table 2). Manure coating was used as a mechanism to increase seed soil contact and enhance the germination on undisturbed natural pasture. The study generally showed the possibility of improving natural pasture productivity through over-sowing vetch provided that the plots are closely monitored and properly managed. If properly managed and allowed to shatter their seeds in the plots, vicia species have the ability to spread and dominate the plots in the subsequent years. But this may not be possible without enclosing the plots under on-farm conditions due to the prevailing free grazing that could damage the vetches before they set seeds. Increasing vetch seeding rate is most often an advantage for better establishment during over-sowing. Legumes are important in grazed forage systems because they have the potential to extend the grazing season, increase the quantity of grazed forage and reduce the amount of N fertilizer needed. However, there are several challenges for using legumes in pastures. Legumes can have poor persistence (particularly under continuous grazing) and low tolerance to poorly drained soils and low soil fertility.

harvesting conditions. As ecological indicators, species composition provides the essential description of

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the character of the vegetation or forage at a site. As management indicators, most objectives in grazing

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The mixture of plants growing in a field or ecosystem determines forage quality depending on growing or

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Vol 6(5) May’16

land management are directly concerned with the assessment or manipulation of species composition. For instance, carrying capacity is influenced by the relative abundance of desirable forage species at a site. Species composition is used to determine condition and trend of a site, which are valuable tools to judge the impact of previous management and guide for the future decisions. Similarly, species composition can indicate the kind of community that might develop under a given management practice thereby identify alternative management practices that will help increase the percentage of a particular species. The plant species composition on pastureland is used to judge the pastureland condition since dietary quality is dependent upon species composition. According to Holechek et al. (2001), determination of the species composition is important for understanding the fodder value of individual species and their reaction to biotic and edaphic factors. Table 2: Herbage DM Yield (T/Ha) of Natural Pasture Over-Sown With Two Vetch Species With or Without Manure Coating at Holetta

7.36 6.57 7.86 6.97

Vetch seeding rate (kg/ha) 25 50 75 Mean DM yield t/ha 5.66 6.43 5.52 5.61 5.14 5.20 7.72 6.66 10.48 6.20 6.18 6.83

7.61 6.77 12.41

6.69 5.91 13.29

0 Vetch species Vicia dasycarpa coated Vicia dasycarpa uncoated Vicia villosa coated Vicia villosa uncoated Mean DM yield t/ha Coated vetch Uncoated vetch % increment in DM yield (Source: HARC, progress report, 2008/2009)

6.55 5.66 15.64

8.00 6.02 32.89

Mean 6.24 5.63 8.18 6.55 7.21 6.09 18.46

Effect of Harvesting Stage on Natural Pasture Productivity To fill the feed shortage gap throughout the year, farmers should exercise feed conservation practices. The common and cheaper method of feed conservation is haymaking. While hay making the optimum harvesting time of the pasture for both herbage yield and quality should be determined for a particular area. Herbage quality usually depreciates if the pasture is not harvested on time (Table 3). Research results indicated that the resting period for pastureland is from late June to late September and the best month to harvest the pasture is early October in most highland areas of Ethiopia. Efficient harvesting implements like scythe should be used by farmers to facilitate and shorten harvesting times and reduce labor requirements during hay making (Table 4). Studies showed that the working efficiency of Scythe:

agricultural activities. Stage and frequency of cutting significantly influence the yield and quality of

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mitigate the labor problem of the farmers during critical pasture harvesting period and overlapping

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Sickle is 1:7 man-days so demonstrations and popularization of such implements are very important to

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herbage produced. A significant linear increase in the dry matter yield (DM) has been reported in the natural pasture with increasing stages of growth of grasses (Zinash et al., 1995). The frequency and severity at which pasture plants are defoliated also have pronounced effects on the quality of available forage. Harvesting early to get better nutritive value will reduce the DM yield, so the harvest time should balance quality and yield (Tessema, 2003). The more severely and frequently a plant is defoliated or grazed, the more slowly it will recover and the lower will be the overall dry matter yield (Bartholomew, 2000). Frequency of cutting, species composition, and stage of maturity of plants, climatic conditions, soil fertility status and season of harvesting affect forage yield and nutritional quality of pastures. Changes of quality during the growing period of grasses are particularly high under tropical climatic conditions due to the physiological, biochemical and anatomical adaptation of the tropical grasses to utilize high temperature and high solar radiation regime prevailing in the tropics (Nelson and Moser, 1994). Table 3: Effect of Harvesting Time (Months) On Moisture Level, Dry Matter (DM) Yield and Crude Protein (CP) Content of Native Pasture at Holetta Clipping month August September October November December January February March April May June July (Source: Getnet Assefa, 2003)

DM% 20.8 21.4 27.3 45.7 59.3 64.5 77.2 70.2 63.0 51.2 55.0 60.2

Mean for two years DM t/ha 2.8 4.5 6.2 5.1 5.2 3.2 4.8 4.2 3.1 4.0 4.8 5.2

CP g/kg DM 99 94 62 50 41 31 28 30 37 53 50 63

Buxton (1996), and Kidane (1993), reported that forage maturity stage at harvest is identified as the most important factor affecting the composition and nutritive value of pastures especially tropical grasses and legumes. Therefore, careful attention to the stage of maturity of the various forage species is required to capture an optimum level of nutrients. Crude protein content varies widely among forage plants, but in all species, it declines with increasing age of forage plants.

Year

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Sampling area (ha)

Work days/ha

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Table 4: Average Labor Requirement and Cost for Cutting Natural Pasture Using Scythe at Holetta

International Journal of Livestock Research eISSN : 2277-1964 1 0.5 2 0.6 3 0.9 4 0.6 5 1.5 6 1.5 Mean 0.9 Working Efficiency – Scythe: Sickle is 1 to 7 (Source: Getnet Assefa, 1992)

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10 15 21 15 17 23 17

The aging of forage is frequently associated with a decrease in leafiness and an increase in stem to leaf ratio (Van Soest, 1982). In the central highlands of Ethiopia, a significant decrease in crude protein (CP) content in DM of natural pasture from 9.6% to 5.8%, and a reduction of in-vitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD) from 65.9% to 61.2% was reported (Kidane, 1993). For instance, a recent study at Holetta have shown that the CP content and IVDMD were reduced by 30.2% and 17.8%, respectively with the delay in harvesting from mid-October to late November (Fekede, 2013). Hence, delaying harvesting time beyond the late October is not recommendable and preventing access of livestock beginning from mid-June may be adopted as an option to provide the pasture with adequate growing period resulting in the production of large quantity and better quality hay. Natural Pasture Conservation There is a need for developing the feed conservation strategy during the period of abundant supply (rainy season) so as to redistribute the feed supply over the year to meet the requirements of livestock across seasons. Forage conservation basically aims to produce, at low cost, a stable product suitable for ruminant animal feeding with minimum loss of nutritive value. Form of storage and method of storage of hay vary from place to place in Ethiopia. Hay can be stored in loose and bale forms. Studies by Fekede (2013), around Sululta, Girar Jarso and Ejere districts indicated that the majority of households conserve hay in loose form and under open air for the whole duration of feeding and such a practice could inevitably lead to the loss in hay quality as a result of exposure to adverse weather conditions (Fig. 2 and 3). Hay storage losses vary greatly depending upon several factors, but storage technique is of utmost important. Quality losses of hay rise sharply as moisture levels increase above 20%. Losses from bales stored outside under adverse conditions can be much larger. During storage, hay can be subject to dry

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matter losses as well as losses of forage quality.

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Fig. 2: Form of storage of hay according to the respondents (Source: Extracted from Fekede Feyissa, 2013) Dry matter losses during storage result from plant respiration (the continuation of normal plant processes), microbial activity, and weather deterioration. Even at low moisture levels (20% or less) there is some loss due to respiration and low numbers of microorganisms. This is constant across hay types and essentially unavoidable. At higher moisture levels (above 20%) where mold growth is likely to be visibly detectable, dry matter losses are greater, and significant levels of heating (which can also lower forage quality) occur due to microbial activity. Although numerous bacteria are present in hay, fungi account for most of the microbial growth. Heating of hay is related to moisture content. Some of the dry matter loss which occurs during outside storage is caused by leaching. Storage conditions can also have a dramatic effect on hay chemical composition and feeding value. Even if there were no dry matter losses or additional feeding losses with weathered hay, changes in forage quality would be great concern. Total crude protein declines with weathering. A recent study at Holetta indicated that the CP content in natural pasture hay was reduced by 23.3 and 36.7% between the prestorage period and eight months after storage when stored under shelter shade and under open air, respectively (Fekede, 2013). Soluble carbohydrates, which are highly digestible, decline during weathering as shown by increases in ADF and decreases in IVDMD; thus carbohydrate levels differ greatly between the weathered and un-weathered portions of hay bales. Studies indicated that declines in hay quality from weathering are usually greater for legumes than for grasses. Microbial activity associated with heating uses soluble carbohydrates, which reduces digestibility and increases fiber levels. A reduction in voluntary intake accompanies excessive increases in NDF. The longer hay is exposed to

protein and more than 25% of the total digestible nutrients can occur in the most highly weathered

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portions of baled hay. An important associated factor is that the palatability of weathered hay is decreased, which lowers intake and increases refusal.

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unfavorable weather conditions, the greater losses will be. Losses of more than 14% of the total crude

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Climatic conditions obviously play an important role in determining the extent of spoilage loss of hay stored outside. Rainfall can cause a greater storage loss when the harvested hay is stored outside. Other climatic factors such as high humidity, which slows drying of wet hay, likewise enhance storage losses. Temperature also has an effect, because microbial activity within the bale is favored when warm, humid, overcast conditions prevail. Hay which is stored in a sunny area which receives the benefit of unobstructed breezes dries more quickly and tends to have lower spoilage losses than hay stored in shady and/or less ventilated areas. Dry matter storage loss of dry hay (usually around 5%) during inside storage is very low when compared to the 30% or more dry matter loss of hay stored outside in the high rainfall areas. Outside storage affects the appearance of hay even when actual losses are minimal. Appearance is not closely linked to only nutrient content or feeding value, but it is often also important in marketing.

Fig. 3: Methods of Storage of Hay According To the Respondents (Source: Extracted from Fekede Feyissa, 2013) Natural Pasture Utilization and Marketing Hay is extensively prepared from native pasture for dry season feeding. In the highland agro ecological regions, it is common practice to make hay from fallow land or waterlogged areas and preserve it for dry season livestock feeding. The number of farmers making hay is increasing from year to year. According to Getnet et al. (2002), hay making by farmers is limited by inadequate grazing land availability to rest the lands for hay making and lack of hay making tradition. Most farmers’ use year round grazing and

production by contracting pasture land on top of own holding and prices for contracting standing hay are negotiated based on land area and visually assessed stand performance of the pasture in some parts of the [email protected]

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higher cattle herd size with increased proportion of crossbred cows might have necessitated more hay

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some farmers make hay while others use standing hay for dry season feeding. Recent studies showed that

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highlands (Fekede, 2013). The farmers were also complaining about the extremely high cost of hay production from contracted land which they estimated to range from 50-60 USD/ha for harvesting alone. Natural pasture is marketed in different forms such as in-situ, in human and donkey loads, heaps and small square bales and prices are highly variable over the seasons and most expensive during the late dry and early rainy seasons. Sometimes dairy producers lease in plot for hay production and manage the plots by themselves to produce good quality hay. Commercial hay production is also practiced in some areas where the sale of hay generates good income to the farmers. The price of a bale of hay (14-16 kg) ranges from about 1 USD during the harvesting season to more than 3 USD in the dry and rainy seasons implying the potential for commercialization (Fekede, 2013). Fekede (2013), reported that the sources of baler were private owners and the average baling costs reported were 0.19 USD/bale in Sululta and 0.21 USD/bale in G/Jarso, with an overall average of 0.20 USD/bale (ranging from 0.15-0.25 USD). According to this author a farmer has to pay at least 75 USD in order to bale hay produced on 1 ha of land and such a high cost of baling was the major reason for not producing baled hay by the majority of responding households. Some farmers also sale their forage on their pasture land to peri-urban dairy farmers in advance during the rainy season when farmers are short of cash. Conclusion and Recommendations Most of the farmers are aware of the contribution of natural pasture to the supply of feed for their livestock. They are also aware that the pasture alone is not sufficient to support the maintenance requirement of their animals and the need for supplementation especially during the dry season. Generally the natural pasture is low in productivity as most of the grazing lands are located either on waterlogged and highly degraded areas. It is clearly seen that the distribution of the productivity on grazing lands is highly variable, indicating the uneven distribution of feed availability over the months of the year, the extent of which varies with agro-ecology. Hence there is a need to design strategies to use the extra feed produced during the wet season by conserving as hay to complement the deficit during time of shortage. There is critical shortage of feed and high demand for animal products, which calls for improved productivity and efficient utilization of pasture lands. However, the current management and utilization of natural pasture and grazing lands are very poor. But, there are many proven best practices and technologies available locally and globally, therefore, application of these technologies and intensifying the use of natural pasture is very crucial to improve livestock production in the country.

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Acknowledgment

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The Pasture and Rangeland Forum Ethiopia (PaRFE) has been highly acknowledged for financial and technical support to review this manuscript. We are deeply grateful and indebted to all sources of materials used for reviewed this manuscript have been duly acknowledged.

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1. Adane Kitaba. 2003. Effects of stage of harvesting and fertilizer application on dry matter yield and quality of natural grass land in the high lands of north Showa MSc Thesis. The School of Graduate Studies, Alemaya University, Alemaya, Ethiopia. 96p. 2. Adane Kitaba and Berhan Tamir. 2005. Effect of harvesting frequency and nutrient levels on natural pasture in the central high lands of Ethiopia. Trop.Sci. 45: 77-82. 3. Alemayehu Mengistu. 1997. Conservation-based forage development for Ethiopia. Self Help Development International and Institute for Sustainable Development. Birhanna Selam Printing Press. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 4. Alemayehu Mengistu. 1998. Natural Pasture Improvement Study around Smallholder Dairy Areas. MoA Small Dairy Development Project (SDDP), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 5. Alemayehu Mengistu. 2002. Forage Production in Ethiopia: A Case Study with implications for livestock Production, ESAP, Addis Abeba Ethiopia, 2002. 6. Alemayehu Mengistu. 2004. Pasture and Forage Resource profiles of Ethiopia. pp 19. Ethiopia/FAO. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 7. Alemu Tadesse. 1990. The unexploited potential of improved forages in mid-altitude and low land areas of Ethiopia. In: proceedings of PANESA/ARNAB, joint workshop held in Lilongwe, Malawi, 59,December, 1988. PANEL/ARNAB, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 8. Bartholomew, P.E. 2000. The management of planted pastures. In: Tainton, N.M. (eds.). Pasture management in South Africa. University of Natal Press. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. 9. Buxton, D.R. 1996. Quality-related characteristics of forage as influenced by environment and agronomic factors. Animal feed sci. & Tech., 59(3): 37-49. 10. Crowder, L.V. and Chheda, M. R. 1982. Tropical grassland husbandry. Longman London, PP.315316,346-352. 11. CSA. 2011. Agricultural sample survey. Land utilization. Statistical bulletin 505, Volume VII, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 12. CSA. 2013. Agricultural sample survey. Livestock and livestock characteristics. Statistical bulletin 570, Volume II, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 13. Daniel Keftassa. 1987. Improvement and management of natural grass lands. In: IAR proceeding of 1 st National Livestock Improvement Conference. 11-13.February1987, pp.170-172.Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 14. Fekede Feyissa. 2013. Evaluation of feed resources and assessment of feeding management practices and productivity of dairy cattle in the central highlands of Ethiopia. PhD. Dissertations, National dairy research institute, karnal-132001 (Haryana), India. 15. Getnet Assefa. 1992. Scythe: an efficient farm hand tool for small-scale farmers. IAR, Newsletter, 7(1). Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR). Addis Ababa. 16. Getnet Assefa. 1999. Feed Resource Assessment and Evaluation of Forage Yield, Quantity and Intake of Oats and Vetches Grown in Pure Stands and in Mixtures in the highlands of Ethiopia. An MSc thesis submitted to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. pp.83. 17. Getnet Assefa, Abreham Gebeyehu, Fekede Feyissa and Tadesse T/Tsadik. 2002. On-farm performance of forage crops and assessment of natural pasture productivity in West Shewa Zone. Towards Farmers` Participatory Research: Attempts and achievements in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Proceedings of Client-Oriented Research Evaluation Workshop, Holetta, Ethiopia.

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DOI 10.5455/ijlr.20160406103816

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