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Harnessing the Power of Black Soldier Flies: A Sustainable Protein Source for Dairy Cows and Poultry

Harnessing the Power of Black Soldier Flies: A Sustainable Protein Source for Dairy Cows and Poultry

Introduction:

In the quest for sustainable and efficient protein sources for livestock, the humble black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) has emerged as a promising alternative. These remarkable insects are not only efficient decomposers of organic waste but also offer a nutrient-rich protein source for dairy cows and poultry. In this article, we explore the potential of black soldier flies in revolutionizing animal nutrition and contributing to a more sustainable agricultural future.

The Black Soldier Fly Lifecycle:

Black soldier flies undergo a complete metamorphosis, consisting of egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. The larvae, often referred to as “grubs,” are voracious eaters and thrive on a diet of organic waste, including kitchen scraps, agricultural by-products, and manure. As they consume this waste, they efficiently convert it into protein and fat, making them an ideal candidate for sustainable protein production.

Nutrient-Rich Protein:

Black soldier fly larvae boast an impressive nutritional profile, rich in protein, essential amino acids, and fats. Studies have shown that their protein content rivals traditional protein sources like soy and fish meal, making them a valuable ingredient for livestock feed. Incorporating black soldier fly larvae into animal diets can enhance the overall nutritional composition of feed, promoting healthier and more productive livestock.

Benefits for Dairy Cows:

Dairy cows require a balanced and high-quality diet to support milk production. Black soldier fly larvae offer a sustainable solution by providing dairy cows with the essential nutrients they need. The protein-rich larvae contribute to improved milk yield and quality, while also reducing the environmental footprint associated with conventional protein sources.

Poultry Nutrition and Growth:

Poultry farming, particularly broiler production, demands a protein-rich diet to ensure optimal growth and meat quality. Black soldier fly larvae, with their high protein content, serve as an excellent alternative to conventional protein sources like soy and fish meal. The larvae’s nutritional benefits contribute to enhanced feed efficiency, faster growth rates, and improved feed conversion ratios, ultimately leading to more sustainable poultry farming practices.

Environmental Sustainability:

One of the key advantages of using black soldier flies in animal feed lies in their ability to upcycle organic waste. By diverting food scraps and agricultural by-products from landfills to black soldier fly larvae, farmers can simultaneously address waste management issues and produce a valuable protein source. This dual-purpose approach contributes to a more circular and sustainable agricultural system.

Challenges and Considerations:

While the potential benefits of using black soldier flies in animal feed are promising, challenges such as scalability, cost-effectiveness, and regulatory considerations need to be addressed. Ongoing research and collaboration between researchers, farmers, and policymakers are crucial to overcoming these challenges and unlocking the full potential of black soldier flies in livestock nutrition.

Conclusion:

Black soldier flies represent a sustainable and nutrient-rich alternative protein source that has the potential to revolutionize the way we feed dairy cows and poultry. As the global demand for protein continues to rise, exploring innovative and eco-friendly solutions like black soldier flies becomes increasingly important. By harnessing the power of these resilient insects, we can not only contribute to the efficiency of animal agriculture but also promote a more sustainable and environmentally friendly food system.

Easy Ways To Efficiently Feed A Donkey

The donkey is one of the most popular of working animals in Africa, and perhaps the most important working animal in Kenya. Other working animals in the country include the ox and the camel, but these are not common as the donkey. Many people of almost all communities in Kenya own donkeys, which they use particularly for transportation of goods, farm produce and other items. In the farming sector, of particular importance, the small scale farmers rely heavily upon the donkey for transporting farm inputs and produce, pastures harvested for other livestock at home, fetching water for domestic use as well as firewood.

Among the pastoralist communities, the donkey is extremely important most especially to the women. Women stay at home as they watch the children while the men move with their livestock in search for pasture. Women use the donkey while going to fetch water and firewood over long distances. This makes the donkey a darling to them.

There is no doubt that the donkey is a very important animal helping sustain the livelihoods of a majority of the Kenyan population. However, there are concerns about how this important animal is treated and kept. Many people do not really care about the health and well-being of the donkey. This beast is often found wounded by whipping as their owners push them to work extra harder for extra ordinary results. This in turn lead to infections through wounds, traumatic injuries and sometimes death. This in turn affects the productivity of the animal and ultimately the livelihoods of many.

This post is particularly put down to inform on how best to keep your donkey healthy and happy. It’s important that close attention is paid to what the donkey is fed to ensure it is healthy and energetic so you rip the most benefits out of your donkey.

Donkey Nutrition

Donkey feeding and nutrition is one of those grey areas that leave owners groping in darkness because they do not know what to really feed their donkeys and there is very little information out there on this matter.

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One of the things that makes donkeys desirable for packing and pulling is their ability to survive on less food than camels and oxen. Donkeys seldom overeat but they can still become overweight. Most donkeys do fine on a good-quality hay or pasture and need their diets supplemented with grain only when working hard or being shown. The recommended ration of grain:hay is 4:5 for a working donkey. Water should be provided in plenty. This is the most important nutrient for the donkey.

Feding Options

Straw
For most donkeys, straw should form the majority of the diet. Straw should ideally be fed at floor level. It should be freely available at all times for animals with good dentition. Straw provides fiber and limited nutrients to the diet but might need supplementation to optimize protein and vitamin and mineral levels within the diet.

We recommend feeding good quality barley straw to donkeys with good teeth as it is high in fiber and low in sugar, and closely resembles what a donkey would eat in the wild. Constant access to straw will allow a donkey to eat to appetite without consuming too many calories and therefore risking putting on excess weight; excess weight carries associated risks such as laminitis.

Oat straw might be useful for old or underweight donkeys with good teeth as this usually has a slightly higher nutritional value than barley straw. Wheat straw is very fibrous and has lower energy values, but may be fed to young, healthy donkeys with good teeth.

Hay and haylage
Donkeys might require dietary supplementation with hay or haylage during when pregnant, lactating or growing, in order to supply extra energy. Hay or haylage for donkeys must be selected carefully as forage made for other livestock is often too rich and might lead to dietary upset or laminitis. Hay or haylage should be late-cut, high in fiber and low in sugar, and will be visibly coarse. Donkeys are able to thrive on hay or haylage with low-energy and high-fiber levels, but physical quality should not be compromised on.

Note: Silage is not suitable for feeding to donkeys because the moisture level is usually too high and it has a low pH and low fiber and high protein levels.

Basic tips to feeding donkeys

  • Feed little and often, and keep feeding times regular.
  • Any change in the feeding regime must always be carried out gradually — over two or three weeks.
  • Always feed according to the donkeys’ age, weight and temperament.
  • Avoid dusty or mouldy feeds.
  • Always provide plenty of clean drinking water available.
  • Access to an equine salt or mineral lick is advisable. We recommend Maclik Mineral Brick from Cooper K-Brands

Milk Fever in the Dairy Cow

Also referred to as parturient paresis or hypocalcemia, milk fever is a common nutritional disorder generally affecting older, high producing cattle.

The demand for calcium in the body of a cow increases at the beginning of lactation, as large amounts of calcium are lost through milk and hence the need to replenish it. This may lead to a decrease in blood calcium levels if the cow is unable to replace the lost calcium fast enough, consequently leading to a disease called milk fever.

Most milk fever cases occur within 48 to 72 hours of calving when demand for calcium for milk production exceeds the body’s ability to mobilize calcium reserves. Fever is a misnomer as body temperature is usually below normal. Low blood calcium interferes with muscle function throughout the body causing general weakness, loss of appetite and eventually heart failure.

Signs seen in cows with milk fever

At first, the cow experiences muscle tremors, lack of appetite and unsteadiness. Eventually, the cow is unable to rise, body temperature falls, and constipation occurs. Cows go down to a sitting position often with a kink in the neck. Death may occur if the cow is not treated promptly.

Causes

The beginning of milk production causes a decline in the animal’s blood calcium levels. If the cow is unable to replenish this calcium quickly enough, milk fever occurs.

Some high producing multiparous (those which have calved before) cows will develop clinical hypocalcemia just prior to signs of parturition. This occurs when there has been changes within the dry cow ration.

Older cows are more susceptible as they produce more milk and are unable to replenish calcium quickly enough.

Prevention

Managing the diet can be a valuable aid in preventing milk fever. The key to prevention is managing a dry cow nearing parturition, which should be kept on a low calcium diet. Such a diet stimulates the calcium regulatory system to keep the blood levels normal by mobilizing the body stores from the bone. Lucerne, a feed high in calcium and potassium, should thus not be a major ingredient in close-up dry cow diets to avoid too high calcium levels before calving.

When the demand for calcium increases at calving, calcium can be mobilized much more rapidly thus preventing milk fever. In early lactation, high-yielding cows should receive as much calcium as possible. High-risk cows can be injected with vitamin D3 2–8 days before calving.

Diets providing less than 15 g of calcium per day per cow and fed for at least 10 days before calving will reduce the incidence of milk fever.


Feeding Options For the Dairy Cow

The dairy industry in Kenya is the most developed of the livestock sub-sectors and is relatively well developed compared to other sub-Saharan countries. This industry is dominated by Small-scale farmers. Dairy utilizes pasture more efficiently than other ruminants for production of human food.

Despite the Kenya dairy industry being fairly advanced, average milk production is still below expectation. This is due to various challenges facing the industry. One of these challenges is the lack of adequate feed resources and where available, it is seasonal and quality is poor. This is also coupled with high cost of concentrates as a result of competition with the human population since these are derived from human food.

Many small-scale dairy farmers struggle to identify the correct feeds to give to their cows. Other potential investors in this business hold back from venturing into dairying because they lack ideas as to what feeds to use. This is despite the fact that many feed resources are naturally available and only little effort is needed to obtain them. In this post, we’re going to look at some of the local and readily available feeding options you can utilize to start or further develop your dairy business.

Forage Feeding

These are mainly green feeds such as Napier grass, Lucerne and sweet potato vines among others. All forages should be chopped and fed in feeding troughs to avoid feed wastage. Forage have a total crude fibre (CF) of more than18%. They have low nutrient density and usually have low digestibility except for the lush young forage. Crude protein in forages is variable with a range of 2-4% in straws to 20% in legumes such as lucerne. Mineral content (Ca, Mg, K high, P may be limited) also varies from good to poor.

Other forages include: oats, sugarcane, sorghum and brassicas.

Straw

Straw refers to the agricultural byproduct consisting of the dry stalks of cereal plants after the grain and chaff have been removed. These include materials such as wheat straw, rice straw and maize Stover. It is recommended that these are first soaked in water and molasses to soften them before being fed to cows. A cow should be given about 40-70 kg of straw daily.

Ration

Ration or better known as Total Mixed Ration or simply TMR refers to a feeding system in which weighing and blending all feedstuffs is done to come up with a complete ration with balanced and containing high nutrients. In this system cows are fed based on production for the milking herd and growth rate required for young stock, growth rate and fat deposition for the beef animals. It has several advantages over the adlib non planned feeding system; among these are:

  • Minimizes wastage, enhances voluntary feed intake,
  • All feeds roughage and concentrate are mixed together allowing no selection,
  • Feeding done with an aim of meeting specific needs,
  • Grain mixture can be liberally fed without fear of grain overload,
  • Its’ cheap in relation to feeding labour cost
  • It’s possible to estimate the feeds requirement etc.

Dairy cattle ration should contain 70% energy source, 30% protein source and required minerals.

Concentrates

Concentrates are rich in nutrients (energy and/or protein) and provide far more nutrients than an equivalent weight of roughage. They are low in fibre and usually have higher dry matter content. Their production entails processing of raw feed materials. Energy concentrates are prepared from materials such as Cereal grains and by-products such as maize, wheat, barley and cane molasses; Root crops, such as potato and cassava; and fats and oils. Protein concentrates are usually plant derived from soya residue, sunflower, cottonseed, groundnut and leguminous seeds. They can also be animal protein derived from fish, meat, blood, milk products and poultry waste.

Concentrates should always be given to lactating cows especially during milking. Dried off cows and heifers should be given concentrates beginning 2 months before calving.


To Better settle with the best feed for your dairy cow. Consider consulting your veterinarian. This will go far in ensuring the success of your dairy business.