Minerals and vitamins are often ignored functional nutrients for grazing cattle especially in smallholder farming arears due to lack of technical know-how, convenient forms, availability or affordability.
It is reported that over 70% of farmers in Southern-Africa fail to realise the full value of their livestock due to poor nutrition, as a result animals suffer from chronic hunger, poor growth rate and fertility, low milk production and metabolic diseases.
In a research partnership with Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe, the Regional Agricultural and Environment Innovations Network-Africa (RAEIN-Africa) in South Africa and Capital Foods in Zimbabwe, an ash based mineral-vitamin block lick optimised by computer aided feed formulation is being developed and seeded with vitamin A, D and E according to the standard vitamin requirements as spelt out by the Nutrient Requirements Guideline by the National Research Council.
The project is funded by the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) supported by the BioFISA II Programme, and aims to change the micro-nutritional profile of beef cattle and goats by creating an affordable and convenient nutritional supplement that will improve their yield and provide better opportunities for higher returns.
"Minerals and vitamins are important in improving the functional efficiency of enzymes within cells and most cattle and goats especially in the communal areas do not receive these supplements. The body needs macro and micro minerals for various functions in the body but vitamin A, D and E are also critically important for the maintenance of good animal health, enhanced growth and productivity. Most minerals which are already on the market are in powder form as premixes and difficult to administer unless mixed by a mixing machine in compounded rations Therefore, fabrication of a block lick that will correct mineral and vitamin imbalances of grazing livestock. Block lick supplementation allows animals to be supplemented through free choice licking,” Chinhoyi University of Technology Principal Investigator, Professor Irvin Mpofu explained.
Suitable for all types of cattle, the mineral and vitamin block lick which is made from a mixture of the correct amount of minerals, vitamins, water, attractants, fillers and binders can be offered to any animal whether it is known to be deficient or not because free choice feeding will not normally cause any toxicity challenges.
“Vitamins are pro-enzymes that act to help enzymes function more efficiently in metabolic reactions within the cells of the animals; however ruminants (cattle and goats) cannot build vitamins A, E through rumen microbes which are essential for their diets. Supplementing these animals with adequate vitamin A and E is therefore imperative,” Prof Mpofu said.
“Block licks are made through tub setting or by compacting hydraulic formation technology. The local ingredient ash is processed into feed grade and optimised through computer aided feed formation so that the final product supplies the needed micro-nutrients for cattle and goats,” Prof Mpofu added.
To date, the supplementation of the block lick has resulted in the improvement of health, body weight gain and reproductive performance of beef cattle and goats. Furthermore, according to Prof Mpofu, long term testing (currently underway) is expected to show that vitamin - mineral supplemented cattle and goats give larger and heavier off springs and of uniform body weights.
“We have received information from farmers that goats exposed to the block lick showed a tendency to produce twins and we have also observed a tendency that in supplemented goats the ratio of lean meat and fat has increased in an appreciable amount without compromising the total body weight gain. This exploration in this regard is continuing,” he said.
The Research and Development (R&D) of the block lick was displayed for the first time in August at the 2016 Harare Agricultural Show and at the National Universities’ Research and Intellectual Expo – Science, Engineering and Technology Fair in Bulawayo and it received a great deal of interest from farmers, feed manufacturers and research scientists in Zimbabwe.
Subsequently, Prof Mpofu also added that the project has successfully registered the summer and winter vitamin-mineral block licks with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development in Zimbabwe according to the requirements of the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds and Remedies Act and is being patented.
“Our objective is to help farmers maintain their animals in good condition especially towards end of the dry season when drought power is critically needed for land preparation,” Prof Mpofu added.