Grain legume residues as a livestock feed resource for smallholders in northern Ghana

PhD project by Daniel Brain Akakpo. Grazing and foraging are the main sources of feed for livestock in Ghana. Livestock keepers are seeing the diminishing importance of grazing and foraging as emerging challenge. So, this study looks for alternative feed resources.

Livestock production increased globally in recent decades. The driving forces behind this increase have been mainly population growth and changes in dietary preferences, both of which are associated with increasing wealth and urbanization. Livestock production, especially in developing countries like Ghana, however, is being increasingly confronted with challenges such as: low productivity, periodic feed shortages in quality and quantity, and diseases. Grazing and foraging are the main sources of feed for livestock in Ghana. However, cattle herders and small livestock producers are beginning to see the diminishing importance of grazing and foraging as emerging challenge. This challenge emerged as a result of conversion of rangelands into cropping lands and prolonged dry seasons with seasonal bushfires. Alternative feed resources are therefore being sought.

Especially where food and feed shortages are common, feeding crop residues to livestock provides benefits to farmers. Feeding grain legume residues which are higher in protein than the lower quality cereal straws can improve animal productivity. Yields of grain legumes and consequently, of their residues, are currently low due to poor soil conditions and lack of improved crop varieties. To improve the declining soil fertility to enhance crop yields, a project dubbed N2Africa (Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa) is being implemented in northern Ghana. This study being part of N2Africa project has the general objective to understand the roles and functions of grain legume residues in livestock farming systems and identify options to improve utilisation by smallholders in northern Ghana. To answer this general objective, qualitative and quantitative surveys, field trials and laboratory analyses will be carried out. Information generated will be discussed with relevant stakeholders along the livestock production chain to enhance livestock production in Northern Ghana.

Specific objectives:
1. To understand the functions, constraints and opportunities for grain legume residues use in crop-livestock farming systems in different farm types in northern Ghana
2. To assess the trends in the use and management of grain legume residues among farm types and other livestock production chain actors in northern Ghana.
3. To evaluate the effects of rhizobia inoculation, phosphorus-fertilizer application and environment on the yield and quality of different varieties of grain legume residues.
4. To study the influences of residue management including optimal harvest stage and storage practices on the quality of grain legume residue.
5. To assess farmers’ perception on the importance of grain legume residues for its function as feed compared to non-feed functions (e.g. mulching, composting and livestock beddings)