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Profitable Ruminant Production in the Post-COVID Era

The possibility that food insecurity would be more severe than the direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that there is the need to focus on food (and ruminant) production.

Our online training that held on the 9th of October, 2020 was to contribute to averting the possibilities of reduction of meat production and to equip livestock farmers on how to face the realities the post-pandemic era would bring as regards ruminant production.

But before we go into the details of the training, meet the training facilitator;

Facilitator:  Dr Adebayo Sopeju

Team Lead, EMMSAR Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Services (EVMEDS)

Dr Adebayo Sopeju finished his DVM and M.Sc. (Virology) from the University of Ibadan in the years 2010 and 2015 respectively. He is a virologist, biomedical researcher, disease diagnostician and project manager.

He has received training in Nigeria, Africa (Uganda) and outside Africa (France and Belgium) on molecular techniques, biomedical research, disease diagnosis, business development, laboratory administration and networking and so on.

He has worked as a Country Diagnostic Manager for Zoetis-ALPHA initiative in Nigeria and has worked in many other organizations as a disease diagnostician. In February 2020, he was invited by FAO to Rome to present on “Tech Transformation of Livestock Industry in Nigeria”.

Dr Adebayo discussed on Profitable Ruminant Production using the following highlights;

  • Introduction
  • Sourcing
  • Nutrition
  • Management
  • Cost Analysis
  • Marketing
  • Health Care

Introduction

With so many things that happened during this pandemic period, most ruminant farmers had complaints in these areas;

  • Feeding: It was hard for some farmers to have access to feed producers, especially those that use concentrate for their farms. Also, because of the interstate lockdown, some farmers couldn’t move from one place to another so they could have access to grasses they use to give to their ruminant animals.
  • Transportation: The lockdown in some States restricted movement for everyone except for the health workers and some other important stakeholder. 
  • Access to Veterinary Services: Some farmers didn’t even have any reason to call a vet. And for some of them that had an emergency, they were not too sure if they could have access to a vet because of the state of the city and the fact that we were supposed to maintain social distancing. The limited access of farmers to vet eventually led to an increase in mortality and decimation of their animal stock because there were diseases and they couldn’t have health services. 
  • Marketing: In livestock production, it is impossible to consume all the stock you have on the farm, or in your yard, as the case may be. So, it was difficult for farmers to market because of all the factors mentioned above. That is, because of the problem of transportation, feeding and access to veterinary services, farmers also had a problem with giving a market-attractive value of their livestock. There were a lot of constraints around marketing.
  • Labour: Some farmers had a problem with labour because the people working for them on their farm couldn’t go to the farm due to transportation challenges. 

There are many other problems people faced during the COVID pandemic period that caused a drop in ruminant production and population. The goal of this training is to look at how we can come out of this as the human population keeps rising in Nigeria and in other countries.

So, human beings must not suffer reduction like we have experienced in the ruminant. And if we do not bounce back in time, eventually we will be having problems with ruminant production in Nigeria. That is the reason we are coming up with this forum to be able to benefit people that are into ruminant production.

Sourcing

The source of livestock is one of the factors that farmers usually overlook. But there are lots of benefits in sourcing aright and there are lots of consequences for wrong sourcing.

Ruminants Sourcing can be from;

  • General markets: This is where people sell some other things such as foodstuff. Some of them also come along with ruminant animals to sell, and they provide a section for that. So, you can go there to buy.
  • Livestock markets: These type of markets are mainly for livestock.
  • Local markets: In rural areas, there are local markets where you can get ruminant animals to buy.
  • Farms: commercial farms and breeders
  • Friends/Neighbours:  You can also source from your friends and neighbours that rear ruminants when they eventually want to sell up.

If you are looking for the most appropriate place to buy your ruminants, you should either get them from the farm or livestock market. The reason is that, if you go to the general market, you may have to get what you only see because you don’t have options. And what you see may not be the best for you. So, instead of getting from the general market, you should go to the livestock market.

It is not advisable to source your ruminants from local markets because the local market is the same as general markets where you will have limited options. That is, the population of animals is not as many as in the livestock market.

The reason why sourcing ruminants from the farm is recommended is that farms have history. Some of them keep the record of individual animals. The cost maybe more if you go to the farm to get your animals, but yet it is still far better. Not only because of the pedigree, but also because you are sure of the source. You can go back to them and tell them about your experience. Some of them can give you advice, palliatives support etc. Though it may be more expensive, it is still much better to source your ruminants from reliable farms.

Pros and Cons of Sourcing in Ruminant Production

Pros: When you are sourcing, consider;

  • Pedigree: When you talk about pedigree, some traits may be of importance to you. When you’re going out, look at the breeds, parent stocks, if you have access to that. Considering this will inform you of the likely stock you are going to be getting from such a purchase.
  • Health: Is the animal healthy? Is it having any sign of disease that you are not going to be bringing diseases to your farm?
  • Fertility: You may not be able to decide that immediately. But there are some things professionals will check and ask so that you can understand if the animal is fertile or not.
  • Fecundity: There is a difference between fertility and fecundity. Fertility is simply the ability of the animal to give birth. But for this post-pandemic period, you need more than fertility you also need fecundity. Fecundity talks about the number of times or the number of children (offspring) that the animal can give to you. Some goats can give you three parturitions per birth. And some goats would not be able to give more than one. You may want to consider the fecundity (the rate at which they give birth to offspring) too when you are making your choice.

Cons: You want to be very careful of these;

  • Disease
  • Dwarfism: There are some animals that if you do not pick in the right place, you may eventually suffer what is called dwarfism. The animal will be fed and would be consuming food without growing.
  • Infertility
  • Lack of history

Approach: As much as possible, you can use some of these approaches to be able to get good quality animals for your farm;

  • Reliable Source: Use a reliable source that can be verified by 2 or 3 people and the one that you recommend. 
  • Use of Experts: Animal experts know what they’re going to look for because they have been working with animals.
  • BSE: You can also use the expertise of veterinarians because they can help you conduct what is called BSE (Breeding Soundness Examination). 
  • History: Try to get the history of the animals as much as possible. Know the source, the father or mother, past diseases, vaccination records, treatment options, treatment records, and every other thing that would be necessary for you so that you would not be bringing animal diseases into your farm.

Nutrition in Ruminant Production

ruminant production

There is a difference between nutrition and feeding. Nutrition is about feeding the animal the right proportion, the right quantity, and at the right time. It is having sufficient what you are providing as a feed for the animal.

Whatever the system of production you are using (intensive, semi-intensive, or extensive), the feed has to be provided in the right proportion, quantity, and time.

Always remember that ruminant animals are herbivores, and grasses are one of those things they consume. So, make that also available for them.

Try to explore, as much as possible, the cheaper methods of providing nutrition for your ruminants.

Also, explore what we call Region-based nutrition approach. It is a new method of feeding that involves combining things close to you in your vicinity and mixing them to provide feed for your animals in the right proportion.

Management in Ruminant Production

When you are managing your farm or stock of ruminants, these are some of the factors you should consider;

  • Housing/Shelter: It is not everybody that can provide a house for the animals. But at least, you should be able to provide shelter for them. So, how is the design of the housing/shelter of the animal? What is the make or what are the materials used for the housing or shelter? 
  • System of Production: Some people practise free-range (extensive) system, some semi-intensive, and some intensive. But at this post-COVID period where there may be a lot of deaths and diseases ranging around, you should look for a way of modifying your system of production. Try to make it either intensive or semi-intensive. Let them be in a confined environment or garden where they can move around and have access to grasses and light. Restrict the movement of your ruminant animal to avoid contact with other animals outside the farm to prevent them from bringing in diseases into the whole flock.
  • Animal Health Services: It’s either you have a vet that is coming once in a while to help you check on your animals, or at least you should be able to have access to all the opportunities that are around to get access to veterinary services.
  • Waste Disposal Process/Site: Where are you disposing of their wastes or dungs? Are you trying to preserve them to process them as manure?
  • Quarantine/Cull Section: When you’re bringing in new animals, have a place where you put in the animal for like two weeks to observe and to do all the necessary tests/treatments. This is important.
  • Record Keeping:  Keep a record so that when you’re selling your animals, you will also have a record. Keep a record of all you do with your animals: vaccination, treatments, where you receive them when the animal gives birth etc. 

Other factors you should consider include Biosecurity, Feeding ration, and Farm operation.

Cost Analysis

Aside from keeping a record of information about your animals, there is what we call cost analysis. It is essential if you want to be commercially safe and profitable in whatever you are doing with your ruminant animals.

By analyzing the cost of your production, you can know what you’re going to be receiving in the next one month, two months, six months, and or year. You can plan and make your arrangement on all the necessary spending, and factor them into what you are going to do to know what your profit will be.

After you have deducted all the expenses, be aware of what you are going to be receiving and what will be your profit within the next year from either the meat, milk, offspring etc. 

Cost analysis in ruminant production has to do with input and output cost. 

Input: These are some of the things you need to consider;

Output:  When you are selling out the animal, you should also consider;

  • Logistics: It’s not all the time that you will be selling your animals on the farm. We do not advise that, because we don’t want anybody to have access to your farm and eventually bring diseases to your farm. We recommend that you should take your animals either to the person that wants to buy or to a neutral place where they can take their flock. So, consider logistics. 
  • Bank Charges: For those people that have bank accounts, you should consider this, especially if you make a bank transfer when you are selling.
  • Insurance: There is what is called goods-in-transit insurance. You may need that, especially if you have the commercial capacity. 

These are some of the things you should consider when you are doing your analysis so that you can have a clear picture of what you’re gaining as a profit over a set period. 

Marketing

Just like sourcing, marketing channels are also vital in ruminant production. Immediately after cost-analysis, go into marketing analysis and look at the marketing channels through which you are going to be selling your stock. These marketing channels include;

  • Livestock open market
  • Online livestock market 
  • Agro-commodity aggregators: (e.g. caterers, meat processing plants, suppliers of fast Foods etc.). Have a partnership with them. Let them know when your livestock will be ready for sale and have a contract agreement with them. Arrange all these things before you commence your venture.
  • Abattoirs/Slaughterhouses
  • Farms


Health Care

If you have any mind of profiting from your ruminant business and getting something in return, you cannot do it the way you like. So, when you’re planning for commercial purpose, always have a standby veterinarian that you can always call upon for;

  • Early diagnosis
  • Preventive measures
  • Biosecurity
  • Routine treatment
  • Vaccination
  • Treatment

Ensure that all these are handled by a veterinary professional as the long term losses incurred by using quacks can be very unbearable. For instance, when one animal dies, and you break down the number of losses made or the value of that loss, you will realize that it is far more expensive than if you have already consulted a veterinarian, not to talk of when you have an outbreak.

Also, there may be situations when your animal may have given birth to stillbirth or a dead fetus, or a fetus with genital abnormalities, and then it could not survive. You can be making a loss if you do not care about some of these things.  

Therefore, as a ruminant farmer, ensure you have an experienced veterinarian who will give you professional tips on your animal health. If you want to have a profitable venture, have a standby veterinarian. Don’t look at the cost, because what you’re eventually going to lose without having a vet would be much.

So, if you are experiencing animal losses, share your experiences with a vet and let them guide you on what you’re supposed to do. They may not be able to give you everything that you need, but at least, they can help you reduce all these losses through their professional advice.

Questions

Question: “What is the type of food and the appropriate proportion of food to give to ruminants” – Ishaayaje
Response: Different types of food are available in the market. But I will want to advise that you give them grasses because they are herbivorous animals. Try to also get concentrates from reliable sources and give to them. 

Question: What age of ruminant should I invest in? What sex should they be? Is breeding goat for milk and meat possible even from a backyard farm?” – Helen 
Response: Ruminants generally, if you invest in them, is a profitable venture. Start from somewhere. You can concentrate on milk or meat. Or you can start with milk and then go later to rearing for meat. You can also decide to go for mixed (milk and meat) production.

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  1. Can you help me with a good breed of African dwaf goats?

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