Non-conventional feed resources: rational solution for inadequate supply of feedstuff

Most of us will know that India is pre-dominantly an agricultural country with around 70 per cent of its population lives in villages. The livelihood of most of the rural population of India depends on agriculture and animal husbandry. It a concerning fact that although we have about one-fourth of the total cattle population of the world, we are highly deficient in various livestock products. India has a huge livestock population of slightly over 340 million, besides poultry, yet the average production of milk and other livestock products is almost the lowest in the world. Studies have indicated malnutrition, under-nutrition or both, and low genetic potential of the animals as the key reasons for the low productivity of livestock in the country.

Going by industry reports, there are sufficient inputs which indicate a consequent rise in animal feed demand, including cereals and other feeds and particularly proteins. While use of cereals for feed might not be a regular feature, certainly there will be more requirement for protein feeds. Recent years have experienced a consistent rise in the demand for animal products, especially from poultry and pigs. There is a steady jump in the animal feed requirements from oil cakes and meals as well. With countries agreeing for enhanced global trade, there has been a steady rise in the production and export of poultry as well as cattle meat from developing countries. This, in turn, has raised the necessity of feed raw materials to be produced with higher quality.
The gap between demand and supply of all kinds of feeds and fodders is increasing. It is worth noting that the average area devoted to fodder production is below 5 per cent of the total cultivated area. Also, the area under permanent pastures and cultivable wastelands is approximately 12.50 and 15 million hectares respectively. It is worth to note that total area under forests is 2.50 crore hectares roughly, while area open to grazing is 2.2 crore hectares. It may be mentioned that the grazing animals are able to meet their forage requirements from these resources only during the monsoon season. Therefore, the animals have to depend on the crop residues or straws of ragi, wheat, paddy, barley, jowar, bajra, sugarcane trash etc. for the remaining period of the year. These crop residues can be either in the form of whole straw or “Bhusa”, supplemented with some green fodder, and as sole feed also.
The limitations associated with the conventional type animal feeds are quite serious as maximum portion of the available grains in the country goes for human consumption. As such, with increasing demand for livestock products (in response to rapidly growing world economies and shrinking land area), adequate feeding of animals and safeguarding their food security shall depend largely on better utilization of unconventional feed resources, that are not competing with human food. In most of the developing countries this situation is more serious where chronic annual feed deficits and increasing animal populations are common. Therefore it becomes very essential to supply feed nutrients through non-conventional feeds in the developing countries such as India.
Non-conventional feed resources (NCFR):
The feeds which have not been used traditionally in animal feeding or are not commonly used in rations, produced commercially for livestock. NCFR normally consist of a variety of feeds from perennial crops and feeds of animal and industrial origin. They can also be categorized as new sources of feedstuffs as palet oil mill effluent and palm press fiber (oil palm by-products), single cell proteins, and feed material derived from agro industrial by-products of plant and animal origin. NCFR also includes poor-quality cellulosic roughages from farm residues such as stubbles, haulms, vines and from other agro-industrial by-products, for example slaughter-house by-products and products processed from sugar, cereal grains, citrus fruits and vegetables.

Advantages of NCFR
I. NCFR are the end products of production and consumption that have not been used. Additionally these are mainly organic and can be in a solid or liquid form and its economic value is often very less.
II. Its consumption can be increased further if converted into some usable products. It also have considerable potential as feed materials.
III. Feed crops generating valuable NCFR are excellent sources of fermentable carbohydrates. Example in this case will be sweet potato and cassava for ruminants, this is an advantage as they are able to utilize inorganic nitrogen.
IV. With respect to the feeds of crop origin, most of it is bulky poor-quality cellulosic roughages, having high crude fibre and low nitrogen contents – suitable for ruminant consumption.
V. Fruit wastes like banana rejects and pineapple pulp comparatively have a high sugar content therefore beneficial from energy point of view.
Feedstuff supply in India has been inadequate amid low level of feeding till now. As a result, India’s animal production has been poor. Since a wide gap exists between the requirements and supplies of nutrients for feeding of animal, use of the non-conventional feeds could be a rational solution in this regard. But one has to acquire more information on its chemical composition, nutritive value and utilization and also need to involve local extension agencies in technology development for efficient utilization of NCFR need to be popularized among farmers since our farmers are not aware of a) the nutritive value of some feed sources, b) methods of efficient of integration in livestock feeding.
Till now the use of NCFR has been limited mainly due to seasonal availability, higher handling and transportation (from the production site to the farm) cost, lower nutritive values etc. The problem of feed shortage can be addressed by growing more fodders, propagating agro and social forestry, improving the nutritive value of crop residues apart from utilizing other NCFRs.
Examining cheaper non-conventional feed resources that can improve intake and digestibility of low quality forages is the need of the hour for the feed industry. Feedstuffs such as fish offal, duckweed and kitchen leftovers (i.e., potato peel, carrot peel, onion peel, and cabbage leftover), poultry litter, algae/spirulina, leucaena leaf, local brewery and distillery by-products, sisal waste, cactus, coffee parchment and coffee pulp, which are commonly used in India, can prove to be important feed resources for small and medium size holders of livestock. Use of NCFR is likely to gain more weightage in years to come, as it can fill the feed supply gap largely, in addition to ease competition for food between humans and animals and will be effective in lowering of feed cost, and contribution in providing self-sufficiency in nutrients from feed sources, available locally.

Abhijeet Banerjee, Religare Commodities