THE dry season comes not only with a deterioration in rangelands but mineral deficiencies also begin to take effect on animals on a poor plane of nutrition.
It is during this time that animals with mineral deficiencies are observed going for a variety of strange objects which ordinarily do not constitute the diet of an animal.
These are items such as plastics, pieces of fabric and bones. It is important for farmers to note that the cravings for such objects is actually an indication of mineral deficiency and it is easily corrected by giving your animals mineral supplements.
These are available as blocks which your animals will lick and the craving for unusual objects will disappear.
These mineral blocks can also be used as a rangeland management tool especially in encouraging our animals to consume even those grass species which they do not like.
You simply place the blocks in such areas and the concentration of animals in that place as they come for the lick result in animals grazing even the unpalatable grass species albeit in small quantities till the grasses are finished.
Also the tramping of such grasses with hooves and the urine is good for the soil and it opens up the soil for growth of even palatable grasses in the following season.
Salt blocks also can be used in the same manner in terms of providing some of the minerals as well as controlling the grazing patterns of the animals.
Another product which smallholder farmers need to adopt and use especially those in Matabeleland North province and any such province with a lot of trees is the browse enhancing lick.
I am constrained to mention the name of the product on this column primarily because I will be doing unpaid advertising for the manufacturers of the product and also I did not seek their permission to state the name of their product. Farmers will appreciate that cattle are generally very limited browsers unlike goats which are significant browsers.
The reason why cattle do not browse much is because they lack the ability to digest most of the tannins found in tree leaves. This means that despite having a forest full of leaves your animals still die of starvation simply because they are unable to utilise the leaves.
This is where the product comes in, it helps your animals to be able to digest and break down the leaves and utilise the nutrients in these leaves. This browse enhancing product comes in form of blocks which you can provide to your cattle to lick and then improve their ability to utilise the abundant leaves which are in the forest.
This means that even though your rangeland has depleted, you can still benefit from the abundant dry tree leaves.
This should be very useful to farmers in Matabeleland North due to the abundancy of trees and hence leaves.
It is my advice that farmers must adopt the use of browse enhancing products and prevent animals dying because of lack of grass when there are huge reserves of dry leaves littering the veld.
It is the use of such innovative products that distinguishes a farmer from a villager. Farmers keep learning and trying new interventions to protect, grow and improve their herds while villagers just wail and watch their livestock being decimated by the drought.
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