NAKURU, Kenya, Mar 22 (IPS) — Using naturally occurring microbes, a Kenyan entrepreneur has developed a molasses-based supplement that pre-ferments animal feeds to unlock all the necessary nutrients that would otherwise find a way out of the animal through cow dung, and dairy farmers have fallen in love with the product.
According to Henry Ambwere, the Nakuru-based entrepreneur who developed the organic supplement, the naturally occurring pro-life bacteria help in predigesting the animal feeds to make it easy for the animal to utilise all the nutrients, thereby increasing the body mass and milk production, but reducing the amount of the dung produced by the animal.
Juma Kiboi, the Dairy Farm Manager for Rawhide Ltd in Nakuru County, says that the use of the microbes has enabled his farm, which holds hundreds of lactating cows, double the milk production without increasing the amount of feeds.
“When Ambwere introduced this product, we were a bit hesitant to take it up because Bio Food Ltd, which is our main customer, is usually very strict when it comes to the quality of the milk,” said Kiboi. “But he offered to try it on 10 animals, and in less than 24 hours, the milk volumes had improved tremendously, and further tests showed that the quality of the milk remained high,” said the manager.
Mercy Nyokabi, who runs an AgroVet shop at Kiganjo Market in Kiambu County, says that the supplement, which retails in Kenya as MolaPlus Livestock Microbes, is one of the most sort-after products, particularly by smallholder farmers. Kiambu is the highest milk-producing county in the country, delivering over one million litres of milk daily to the Kenyan market.
Usually, explained Ambwere, all ruminants ferment the fodder they eat during a rumination process before sending the same to a different chamber of the stomach for digestion. “However, our laboratory examination of the dung has shown that the animals always fail to fully digest some feeds; hence, they end up producing cow dung that is full of energy and proteins and other essential micro-nutrients,” explained the entrepreneur.
“This is wrong because when we purchase animal feeds, we are actually buying energy and proteins to help the animal increase the body mass, and as well produce sufficient milk, and therefore we shouldn’t be disposing of important nutrients through cow dung,” he said.
But when the microbes are applied to the feeds a day before being fed to the animals, they usually kick off the natural fermentation process outside the stomach, thereby unleashing the nutrients that could be hidden, say in overgrown grasses, which the rumen could otherwise not be able to break down.
According to Bockline Omedo Bebe, a Professor of Livestock Production Systems and the acting Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension at Egerton University in Kenya, such microbes, as long as they are safe for animal and human consumption, have the ability to break down a plant enzyme known as lignin, thereby unlocking and making hidden nutrients available to the animals.
In plants, lignin is a class of complex organic polymers that form key structural materials in the support tissues of most plants. But in animal nutrition, lignin is considered an anti-nutritive component of forages as it cannot be readily fermented by rumen microbes.
“Scientists are also in the process of studying microbes from different wild animals such as buffalos, gazelles among others, to understand how they manage to use very low-quality fibrous feeds but realise outstanding digestion performance,” said Bebe.
According to Abwere, the MolaPlus Livestock Microbes has been tried on very dry maize stovers and overgrown Napier grass, and as a result, it was able to turn the fodder into high-quality feeds for enhanced livestock production.
“At the Rawhide farm, we only use the supplement in the dairy meal. And whenever we use it, we milk 28,000 litres. But if we stop even for a day, the production goes back to the factory setting, which was 14,000 litres before we started using the microbes,” said Kiboi.
At the farm, the dairy meal is inoculated with the microbes and left to ferment within 24 hours before it is fed to the animals.
“During the fermentation period, the microbes multiply in trillions every few hours, and those that expire usually form what we call microbial protein, which can be utilised by the animals without further digestion,” he said.
A recent study by scientists from Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang, and Shanxi Agricultural University, Jinzhong in China, found microbial fermented feeds to be an important part of the feed industry, despite the fact that little research has focused on the solid-state fermentation of complete feed.
The study led by Xiaopeng Tang, a Livestock Research Scientist, found that fermented complete feeds had a certain effect on the improvement of growth performance, serum biochemical profile, carcass traits, meat proximate composition, amino acid and fatty acid profile.
During the study, fermented complete feeds also significantly reduced the relative abundances of presumably pathogenic bacteria of phylum Proteobacteria and genus Escherichia-Shigella and enhanced the relative abundances of likely beneficial bacteria of phylum Firmicutes and genus Clostridium.
In the same vein, according to Kiboi, Rawhide Company subjected the feeds inoculated with the microbes to a laboratory test for aflatoxins in comparison with dry feeds, and the result showed that such feeds had more suppressed aflatoxin levels as compared to dry feeds from the same stock of feeds.
IPS UN Bureau Report