Nutrient Feed Blocks | Livestock and Fisheries Management (Livestock Feeds)

The problem Grasses and crop residues contribute over 80% of the fodder fed to dairy cattle and goats in smallholder dairy systems. However, the quality and quantit y of the grasses and crop residues decline (<10% crude protein) during the dry season resulting in a reduction of over 40% in milk yield. Farmers therefore miss opportunities to benefit from high prices during the dry season of milk because of inadequate feeding resulting from feed shortages. A number of tech Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

The problem
Grasses  and  crop  residues  contribute  over  80%  of  the  fodder  fed  to  dairy  cattle  and  goats  in smallholder  dairy  systems.  However,  the  quality  and  quantit y  of  the  grasses  and  crop  residues decline (<10% crude protein) during the dry season resulting  in a reduction of over 40%  in  milk yield.  Farmers  therefore  miss  opportunities  to  benefit  from  high  prices  during  the  dry  season  of milk because of inadequate feeding resulting from feed shortages. A number of technologies have been developed to address feed shortages in smallholder dairy systems in the region. These include: forage  conservation  (hay  and  silage  making)  and  strategic  supplementation  of  low  quality  crop
residues such as cereal stover with fodder tree leaf hay and Nutrient feed blocks.

Description of the innovation
Nutrient  feed  block  (NFB)  technology  is  an  innovative  approach  for  supplying  the  necessary nutrients  (protein,  energy,  vitamins  and  micro  and  macro  minerals)  to  ruminants  so  as  to  take maximum  advantage  of  poor  quality  forages  and  crop  residues.  The  blocks  consist  of  locally available agro-industrial by-products (maize, rice or wheat bran, cotton seed cake, mineral powder, molasses);  conserved  forages  (grass  and  fodder  tree/forage  legume  leaf  hay)  and  farm  waste (poultry  litter,  feed  refusals  and  crop  by-products).  Use  of   NFB  is  a  convenient  and  inexpensive  method  of  providing  a  range  of  supplementary  nutrients  especially  suitable  for  commercial  and smallholder farmers animal husbandry.


                   Figure1: Nutrient feed blocks on exhibition stall

The efficiency of utilization of low quality forages such as pasture grasses can be optimized by the use of commercial concentrates or forage legume supplements that provide the deficient nutrients to livestock. Commercial concentrates are expensive to buy  and are sometimes of poor quality. Land shortage,  high  cost  or  unavailability  of  forage  seed  and  l ow  forage  legume  yield  during  the  dry season are major constraints to adoption of forage legumes as a protein supplement.

The  technology  was  developed  at  the  National  Livestock  Resources  Research  Institute  in  n  Uganda  and adopted  in  Burundi,  Kenya  and,  Tanzania.  The  technology  is  suitable  for  small  and  large  scale  dairy production systems in Eastern and Central Africa and beyond.

The technology has been tested on a number of farms in Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania. The results show  an  increase  in  milk  yield  of  over  10%  (Kabirizi  et  al.,  2013).  In  Uganda,  the  technology  has  been adopted  (in  some  cases  with  modifications)  by  smallholder  dairy  farmers  in  Masaka,  Wakiso  and  Soroti
districts not only as a source  of feed but as a source of  income. The technology  has also been adopted in Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania

Assessment/reflection on utilization, dissemination & scaling out or up approaches used

The  primary  targets  for  the  technology  are  the  small-scale  dairy  cattle  women  and  men  farmers. Large scale farmers can also use the technology to  improve feed quality for increased dairy production.

The  approaches  used  for  scaling  up  were:  on-farm  demonstrations,  farmer  nowledge  sharing workshops,  on-farm  trials,  mass  media  and  video  documentaries.  To  date,  the  technology  has reached over 1000 stakeholders in more than 30 districts in Uganda. It was noted that women play a key role in feeding and managing the dairy cattle and were therefore involved in the project.

The most effective approach is the on-farm demonstrations and farmer workshops.

The  critical  and  essential  factors  for  successful  promotion  and  adoption  of  the technology/innovation included:

  • Availability, quality and cost of the ingredients used to make the blocks.
  • High yielding cows to offset the cost of producing the blocks

What essential partners/stakeholders should be involved in the further scaling out/up

  • Private sector (to supply  molasses and other agro-industrial  by products such as maize bran)
  • Dairy farmers
  • Agro-forestry departments to provide calliandra seedlings
  • Consumers of milk
  • Media

Current situation and future scaling up

Over  4000  dairy  farmers  have  been  sensitized  in  Uganda,  Tanzania,  Kenya  and  Burundi  (through agricultural shows and the media) on the role of the technology in improving dairy production.

Challenges  encountered  in  etting  the  innovation  adopted,  lessons  learnt  and recommendations to address the challenge.

  • Good quality molasses, a major ingredient in making the blocks can only be obtained from Kakira sugar factory.
  • Lack of labour saving equipments (mixer and moulder) to make the blocks
  • Poor  quality  of  inputs.  Traders  tend  to  mix  maize  bran  with  sand  to  increase  their  profit margin

In  terms  of  recommendation  to  address  the  challenges,  there  is  a  need  to  establish  centres  where farmers can access good quality molasses and other raw material for manufacturing nutrient blocks and sensitize stakeholders on the importance of using quality inputs.

As a lesson learnt about the best ways to get the technology or innovation to reach and be used by the largest number of users are to ensure that farmers are organized into farmers groups, to train  farmer leaders  to  disseminate  the  technology  and  to  involve  the  y outh    by  training  them  in  making  the blocks as a source of income.

Economic Considerations

Table7: Basic costs (in local currency and equivalent US  $) associated with application/utilization of the technology or innovation 

Feed Crude Protein (%) Inclusion  
level (kg)
 to crude protein
Cost of
Total cost (Ushs)
Stover or grass 5 18 0.9 100 1800
Maize bran 10 15 1.5 500 7500
Calliandra 28.3 15 4.245 200 3000
Molasses 5 30 1.5 400 12000
Cotton Seed 45.2 15 6.78 1600 24000
Bentonite   7 0 1000 7000
Total  cost  of
  100 14.925   55300(=USD 21.3)
Mixture = 14.9% CP        
Price per Kg = 660 (USD 0.3)        

Estimated returns (local currency and equivalent US$) such as cost benefit or gross margin figure
Total cost of production per kilogram of the block = Ushs 600 (USD 0.3). The blocks are sold at Uganda Shillings 1,500 per kilo giving a gross margin of about Uganda Shillings 800 per kilogram.

Gender considerations

Gender  issues  were  considered  in  developing  the  innovation.  Women  play  a  major  role  in smallholder  dairy  cattle  production  in  ECA.  A  number  of  NGOs  such  as:  Heifer  Project International and Send-a-Cow supply in-calf heifers to wi dows to improve household nutrition and income.  It  was  important  to  develop  the  block  technology  to  enable  the  women  improve  milk production and income from sale of milk.

In order to enhance adoption particularly by women who are  heavily involved in livestock feeding particularly in smallholder dairy production units, there is a need to develop simple and affordable labour  saving  technologies  to  improve  production  of  the  blocks.  Promoting  nutrient  blocks production by the youth and women is an opportunity to increase their income, strengthening their social empowerment.


Case study or profiles of success stories

Mr  and  Mrs Daaki  of  Kitenga  village,  Masaka  district  (Tel:  +256774864655)  have  been  able  to improve  milk  yield and  household  income  by supplementing their animals  with the  blocks. They have also been able to increase household income through  sale of the blocks. Mr. Daaki reported recently that he sells a block of 2kg at Ushs 10,000. The demand for the blocks is very high and it they are currently a major source of income for the f armer.

Application guidelines for the users

The blocks must not be fed alone but only as a supplement. They require a minimum amount of roughage to ensure that the animals are not over fed and thereby avoid urea poisoning. The purpose of the block is to improve the utilisation of roughage and not to substitute it.

Species of livestock
The blocks contain urea and therefore they must  only be fed to ruminants (buffalo, cattle, goats and  sheep)  and  NEVER  to  monogastric  species  (chicken,  donkeys,  horses,  pigs,  rabbits)  or  to young, especially pre-ruminant calves, kid goats and lambs.

Contact details

Dr. Jolly Kabirizi
Lead Scientist, National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI),  
P. O. Box 96, Tororo, Uganda  
Tel: +256 45448360;  
Mobile: +256-777912716

Eng. Florence Namara
Uganda Industrial Research Institute, Kampala

Additional information

Leaflet on Nutrient feed block

Nutrient feed Block Supplement for Goats and Cattle

Multi-nutrient  mineral  blocks  are  lick  blocks  containing  energy,  protein,  vitamins,  minerals  and other nutrients. The feeding of the blocks is a convenient  and inexpensive method of providing a range of nutrients required by both the rumen microbes and  the animal, which may be deficient in the diet. Strategic ruminant supplementation is one of the technologies to reduce methane gas which is also responsible for global warming.


Nutrient Feed Blocks

Why Blocks?
Supplementation systems based on liquid molasses are difficult to use under extensive or intensive livestock  production  systems.  The  main  reasons  are  the  necessity  to  have  a  minimum  of infrastructure  to transport  and  distribute  the  liquid  mixture  (tanks  for  transport  and  storage,  feed troughs etc.) and the difficulty to manipulate this by-product, which  is a  very  viscous and sticky liquid. Therefore, in many countries where there is a surplus of molasses it is either underutilized and, or, exported even when there are problems in animal feeding during the dry season.

What are the basic feed ingredients of the blocks and what nutrients do they provide?
The  choice  of  the  ingredients  will  depend  on  their  availability,  nutritive  value,  price,  ease  of handling and the effect on quality of block. Some of the ingredients that may be used are: molasses, urea,  bran  (rice,  wheat  or  maize),  oilseed  meals  and  caes  (soybean,  sunflower,  groundnut,  and cottonseed  cake),  agro-industrial  by-products  and  miscellaneous  non-conventional  feeds  (citrus pulp, cassava waste, milled groundnut shells, brewers grain, bagasse and poultry manure), cement or lime, mineral powder and minerals.

A standard block consists of the following:

1.  Molasses
Molasses  is  a  major  by-product  of  the  sugarcane  industry.  It  is  a  good  source  of  energy  and  a widely  available  concentrated  form  of  `fermentable  carbohydrate'  that  has  no  role  in  human nutrition. Because of both its taste and smell molasses makes blocks appetising for animals.

2.  Urea
Urea  is  a  product,  which  after  hydrolysis  into  ammonia  in  the  rumen  can  be  used  as  a  nitrogen source  by  the  microbes.  Therefore,  a  supplement  containing  molasses  and  urea  can  stimulate  the development of  microbes  in the rumen, permitting a better digestion of the  forages and  a greater production of microbial protein, which could provide essential nutrients in the intestine.

3.  Cereal bran  
Cereal  bran  such  as  rice,  maize  or  wheat  bran  are  high  in  phosphorus, trace  minerals  and  also  a range of vitamins. They absorb moisture from the molasses and gives structure to the block. Bran can be replaced by other sources of fibre such as bagasse or finely milled groundnut hulls.

4.  Oilseed meals 

Oilseed meals provide both soluble and insoluble proteins and are a good source of phosphorous. It is appropriate to add such ingredients when blocks are given to animals in production.

Table 8. Major ingredients in a MNB

Ingredient Quantity(Kgs)
Molasses 30
Maize, rice or wheat bran 12
Cotton seed cake 15
Poultry litter 8
Cement, cassava flour, clay soil (as a binder) 6
Dry Sweetpotato peels 4
Sweetpotato hay 4
Mineral powder 8
Calliandra leaf hay (or any other leguminous hay) 6
Dry chopped grass 7

5.   Cement, clay soil or cassava flour  
These are used as a binding agent. The use of cement has raised questions about possible harmful effects on the animals but studies in USA, USSR and Canada have shown no negative effects, over long periods of time, when it constitutes up to 1 % of the total daily intake of dry matter.

6.  Mineral powder  
Mineral powder provides much of the macro mineral requirements (sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus) of the microbes as well as those of the host animal. 

7.  Calliandra leaf hay  
Calliandra leaf hay has well balanced amino acids that are protected from degradation in the rumen. It therefore enhances microbial protein fermentation, digestion and improve feed efficiency.

How to manufacture the blocks?
Manufacturing can be divided into 5 stages:

  • Preparation of feed ingredients
  • Mixing
  • Moulding
  • Turning or cutting out (optional, based on the method adopted)
  • Drying

Preparation of feed ingredients
All components should be weighed out before mixing. A standard volume or weight can be adopted for each component which would correspond with the weight of the block desired. For example, if each block is to weigh 5 kg and at each mixing 50 blocks are to be produced (a total of 250 kg), then  assuming  that  the  feed  ingredients  available  are  mol asses,  urea,  maize  bran,  soybean  meal, binder and mineral powder, then the following formula can be used to prepare the components for mixing. Double the quantity if each ingredient will be required for 100 blocks.

Equipment for mixing
Different types of mixers can be used. If adequate labour is available and only few blocks (say 50-150)  are  needed  then  manual  mixing  is  possible.  With  3  labourers  and  one  supervisor,approximately  150  blocks  of  5  g  each  could  be  made  over  a  period  of  8  hours.  However,  a concrete mixer is recommended for producing over 150 blocks/day. The cylinder of this concrete mixer  should  turn  horizontally  and  as  slowly  as  possible,  to  avoid  the  molasses,  which  is  highly viscous, sticking to the side of the mixer. Spillage of the mixture should also be avoided.

Introduction of the components
The  order of  introduction  of  the  components  plays  an  important  role  in  the  mixing  process.  The recommended  order  is  as  follows:  (1)  Molasses;  (2)  Urea;  (3)  Salt,  minerals  etc.;  (4)  Binder (Cassava  flour,  lime or cement); (5) Maize, rice  or wheat bran; (6) Cotton seed cake or sunflour cake; (7) Calliandra leaf hay and (8) Grass hay

Following this order a homogenous  mixture of the urea, salt  and gelling agent in the  molasses  is assured. Any other components (e.g., minerals, drugs) to be  included are introduced together with the mineral powder. When using a concrete mixer the bran must be introduced in small quantities at a  time,  in  order  to  ensure  a  homogenous  mix.  After  a  few  minutes,  when  the  mixture  appears homogenous, rather like peanut butter, the mixer is emptied  (e.g. into wheelbarrows if large scale production is being undertaken) and the mixture transported to the moulding area.

Moulds are necessary to set the blocks in an acceptable shape. Once set the frame can be removed for  reuse  and  to  allow  the  drying  process  to  continue.  The  size  of  the  mould  will  depend  on  the preferred  size  of  the  block(s).  The  most  appropriate  for  small  scale  manufacture  of  blocks  are frames made out of a number of wooden planks with slots cut to enable easy assembly and removal. Each compartment measures 25 x 15 x 10 cm and can hold a urea-molasses block weighing 4.5-5.0 Kg.


This  type  of  mould  is  most  suitable  when  drying  and  storage  area  is  limited.  Small  plastic containers  have  been  used  successfully  for  preparing  the  blocks.  They  produce  blocks  with acceptable solidity and are suitable for use in small units. An advantage of this type of mould is that the block can  be offered to the animal  while  it  is  in the plastic container and once the  block  has been consumed the container can be re-used.

Mixer and molding machines

Turning out and cutting the blocks
Turning out and cutting is necessary when using large quantities of ingredients. The board can be taken away the day after moulding in order to facilitate drying. The cutting will take place later with a flat spade. The spade should be wetted in a bucket between each cut to avoid the mixture from sticking to it. With small plastic moulds, the blocks can be offered to animals while in the mould or the  blocks  may  be  removed  simply  by  turning  the  containers  upside  down  and  tapping  on  the bottom of the container.

After removal of the moulds and cutting up, blocks are arranged on a drying area. Blocks must not be exposed to direct sunlight, but placed under a shade with good ventilation. After 24 to 72 hours the blocks are dry enough to be transported. 

How do you utilize Multi-nutrient blocks?
The blocks must not be fed alone but only as a supplement. They require a minimum amount of roughage to ensure that the animals are not over fed and thereby avoid urea poisoning. Remember that the purpose of the block is to improve the utilisation of roughage and not to substitute it.

Species of livestock
Because the blocks contain urea they must  only be fed to ruminants (buffalo, cattle, goats and sheep) and NEVER to monogastric species (chicken, donkeys, horses, pigs, rabbits) or to young, especially pre-ruminant calves, kid goats and lambs.


comments powered by Disqus