The program aims at developing and disseminating appropriate technologies that integrate trees on-farm to optimize crop yields, livestock production and conserve the natural resource base.
Smallholder dairy development can be a catalyst to agriculture-led economic development. Planted grasses, forage legumes and improved fodder trees and shrubs on the other hand, can enhance forage availability and subsequently milk production. Forage legumes, shrubs and trees provide protein that is required for milk production and supplement animal diet, as well as reducing methane emissions. The relatively high biomass yield renders planted grasses and forage legumes reliable sources of vital nutrients for dairy cattle. Forage trees and shrubs can also withstand extended periods of water stress as their deep root systems enable tapping of water and nutrients from deep into the soil profile (Kabirizi, 2004). In spite of these attributes, use of improved forage in Uganda’s livestock systems is limited, and animal feed supplies remain largely dependent on wildly existing stands, which limits livestock productivity (DSIP, 2010).
In Uganda, however, most smallholder farmers realise low milk production due to poor nutrient composition of the fodder used, which mainly comprises natural pastures, browse and crop residues. Seasonal shortage of such feeds, especially during dry spells, further impedes growth of the dairy sector in Uganda (DSIP, 2010).Though rich in fibre roughage, these feeds are deficient in proteins and other vital nutrients, which compromises the quality and quantity of milk produced (Gerrits, 1999). In addition, protein-deficient animal diets are not considered climate-smart since they result in high emission of methane as a by-product of digestion (Mugerwa et al., 2013). This study investigates current forage options and will inform farmers on the appropriate forage management practices to ensure optimal milk production.