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Script 25.5

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Content: Why not use a small part of your land for growing forage shrubs and trees? You can use the leaves for livestock feed. Don Pancho and his friends share some ideas in a radio script from Venezuela.

Script

The National University of Tachira and the radio station Ecos del Torbes in Venezuela present “Don Pancho and his Farming Friends”, a program of practical information to help farmers improve production.

Don Pancho:
Good day to all my dear farming friends. Today we will talk about several low-cost ways of improving your livestock feed. We will be discussing how to plant and manage forage trees and shrubs. Many of you probably consider these plants to be useless. My friends, your milk and meat production can be increased by improving the diet of your livestock with these leguminous plants. It is very easy, my friends. Leave a small part of your land or farm for growing these plants, without cutting down the ones that are already growing wild. Right now I have with me the Veterinary Doctor, José Rafael Valdez, an important contributor and the educational co-ordinator for this program, to speak to us about forage plants.

Doctor, what is your opinion on using forage plants in livestock feed?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Don Pancho, feeding cows, goats, and sheep with forage trees and shrubs, especially leguminous trees, that are grown on your own farm, is a simple way to improve the meat and milk production. These plants provide proteins, which are necessary in the diet of all animals. I’m saying, Don Pancho, that forage shrubs and trees are an alternative to expensive concentrated feed.

Don Pancho:
I have also heard that these plants are ideal for reforesting parts of your farm.

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Yes Don Pancho. Forage plants are used for reforestation even though very few livestock breeders do this. That is to say, these plants help preserve the natural resources. And they improve soil fertility because they “fix” nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential nutrient for plants.

Don Pancho:
What about the nutritional composition of leguminous forage plants? Is it different from commonly used feeds?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Yes Don Pancho, it is different. The leaves and fruit of forage trees have similar nutrients as most feeds used for grazing animals, and at much higher levels.

Don Pancho:
Which locally grown forage trees can you recommend for use as livestock feed?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Here in Venezuela, Don Pancho, we have excellent sources of proteins for livestock, such as gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) (called mataraton in Spanish), jackbean (Canavalia ensiformis)(called machete or frijolon in Spanish), saman (Pithecellobium saman), cassia (Cassia siamea), and ramie (Boehmeria nivea). Another forage plant with high nutritional value is leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala), also called the forage acacia. The University in Zulia has had great success with this plant on its farms.

Don Pancho:
Which parts of the plants are the most nutritious for livestock, Doctor?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Don Pancho, the leaves have the most protein. The leaves are between 17 and 25 % protein. Almost all of the tree can be used. The petiole, the stem, the bark, seeds and seed pods also have a high quantity of protein.

Don Pancho:
What about the care of these forage plants?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Forage trees and shrubs can be grown like any other crop. They can also be grown between the rows of a permanent crop, like coffee, cacao, or citrus trees. You must prepare the land before planting. Then, of course, you must add nutrients to the soil by applying compost. Make sure that the young plants are not trampled or damaged by people or livestock. You must also watch for pests and diseases during the early stages of growth.

Don Pancho
: Yes Doctor, I have heard that intercropping is beneficial because it limits the spread of pests and diseases. This is because most insects and diseases attack only certain kinds of crops. Insects and diseases spread more quickly if you have planted a large area with a crop they like to attack. If you grow different crops and plant them in small plots or rows mixed in with other crops, it’s not as easy for insects to find the crops they like.

Veterinarian José R. Valdez
: Exactly Don Pancho. The control of pests, as with any other crop, is fundamental, especially in the first months of growth. Also, planting between the rows of a permanent crop makes better use of the nutrients that are recycled by the trees.

Don Pancho:
Doctor, I know that these trees and shrubs, among others, are species that preserve and protect the soil and water sources. And many of them like gliricidia and leucaena are used to shade coffee plants and to make living fences. Now, can you explain to me how some of these plants “fix” nitrogen?

Veterinarian José R. Valdez:
Well Don Pancho, leguminous trees with the help of bacteria of the Rhizobium genus, form on their roots little balls or nodules. The bacteria in these small nodules take nitrogen from the air and make it available for the plants to use.

Don Pancho:
I have heard that the most important thing about growing trees and shrubs for forage is to grow these crops in small areas where they can be cut back fairly frequently in order to be given to the cattle. What is your opinion on this, Doctor?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Yes, Don Pancho, for the trees to be an alternative for livestock feed, we recommend establishing what are called ‘protein banks’, which simply means keeping a small area for these forage plants. It requires 200 square metres of land to feed 5 to 6 heads of native goats and about 400 square metres to feed a cow. There are already many farms that are supplementing their livestock feed with forage trees and shrubs, especially with leucaena, jackbean, and gliricidia.

Don Pancho
: And to finish up Doctor, can you give us an example of a combination of forage trees and shrubs and other plants that can be given to dairy cows?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
A good combination, Don Pancho, would be jackbean and gliricidia with beans and sugar cane. These produce proteins and energy, two basic and indespensible elements for improving milk and meat production.

Don Pancho:
Thank you very much Doctor for your valuable ideas. Because this is such an important subject, it’s worth continuing to talk about forage trees and shrubs and about other aspects of leucaena, jackbean and gliricidia, don’t you think?

Veterinarian José Valdez:
Yes. For me, it is interesting because these plants are easy to grow and significantly improve milk and meat production.

Don Pancho:
Thank you very much my dear farming friends for your attention and I invite you back for our next program. Until next time!

Information Sources

  •  This script was sent to us by Pedro A. Zambrano, producer of the radio program “Don Pancho and his Farming Friends”, and Veterinary Doctor José R. Valdez, Universidad Nacional Experimental del Tachira, Apartado 463, San Cristobal, Tachira, Venezuela, 5001A.