Improved Forage Chopper | Livestock and Fisheries Management (Livestock Feeds)

The problem The zero-grazing livestock production system is characterized by high feed requirements and high labour demands. Forage processing for zero-grazing animals requires planting and caring for forage just like the other seasonal crops, and then harvesting, transporting home, chopping and feeding it to the animals. Forage materials for zero grazing animals require chopping for ease of consumption by the animal, increased palatability and intake. These activi ties Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

The problem
The  zero-grazing  livestock  production  system  is  characterized  by  high  feed  requirements  and  high labour demands. Forage processing  for zero-grazing animals  requires planting and caring  for  forage just like the other seasonal crops, and then harvesting, transporting home, chopping and feeding it to the animals. Forage materials for zero grazing animals require chopping for ease of consumption by the animal, increased palatability and intake. These activi ties are predominantly carried out by women,
often assisted by their children. The high labour demands,  coupled with a lack of sufficient land for forage  production  and  forage  scarcity  for  dry  season  feeding,  means  that  available  forage  must  be efficiently  used,  and  waste  minimised.  Hand  tools  and  head  porterage  are  factors  in  the  labour demands  of  forage  production  and  transportation  to often  distant  cattle  stalls.  Hand  chopping  is  the common practice among majority of farmers. Additional to low output capacity and lack of uniformity
in  length  of  cut,  the  method  is  tedious,  time  consuming  and  quite  dangerous  to  the  operator.  The forage chopper has been developed to address some of these constraints.

The innovation
The initial manual forage chopper (fixed knife) is an all metal machine with a mild steel sheet holding tray for holding un-chopped forage, a hand bar for preventing the operator’s hand from reaching the chopping end and, an adjustable plate controlling the length of cut that can be set within the range of   1–3 inches of cut (Fig 1). This model was developed before ASARECA supported work. 


                                                       Fig 1: Metallicmanual forage chopper

Further use and evaluation of this model by farmers reveled that its uptake and use were limited due to:
a)  Limited involvement of users in development process
b)  All metal hence high initial cost 

c)  Bulky to carry
d)  Limited storage space

Consequently,  the  modifications  were  made  based  recommendations  from  the  users  to  use  wood material instead of steel to reduce the cost of the machine; to reduce the size of the machine to ease its movement and storage; and improve the mode of fixing the machine during operation to make it more portable (Fig. 2).


                                                           Fig. 2: Modified forage chopper

Using  wood  for  most  parts  reduced  the  cost  of  the  machine  that  was  associated  with  the  metal previously used in the first model, making it more affordable. The cost of the wooden model stands at 80,000/= (fluctuated sometimes due to market price of timber) as opposed to 200,000/= of the metallic model. Since it is mounted when in operation, this eased its movement and storability. Farmers’ ability to  set  the  operating  height  (length  of  the  legs)  has  allowed  households  to  accommodate  operating
needs  of  various  users.  The  modified  forage  choppers  were  disseminated to  farmers  in  Masaka  and Ngora district of Uganda,  Makueni and  Machakos districts  in  Kenya, Songa district  in Burundi and Nyamagana and Ilemera districts in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Among the constraints faced by the smallholder dairy farmers is the drudgery associated with forage processing.  Secondly,  there  is  a  need  to  promote  efficient  utilization  of  fodder  which  entails  forage chopping  for  conservation  of  forage,  especially  for  dry  season  feeding,  as  well  as  to  reduce  forage wastage in the rains. The forage chopper has proved very effective in reducing the chopping accidents related to the traditional hand chopping, eliminating the cutting off or hurting the operator’s fingers.
Secondly,  the  forage  chopper  has  effectively  improved the  user  labour  efficiency,  easing  the  forage processing  activity  which  has  allowed  farmers  either  to  reassign  roles  or  time  to  engage  in  other productive activities.

The  forage  chopper  was  developed  at  the  Agricultural  Engineering  and  Appropriate  Technology Research  Centre  (AEATREC)  of  the  National  Agricultural  Research  Organization  (NARO).  The machine is suitable for scaling among zero grazing farmers  in the region (ASARECA countries) and elsewhere in smallholder dairy production systems of the developing world. 

In  Uganda,  the  modified  forage  choppers  were  evaluated  by  sixteen  farmers  in  Masaka  and  Ngora district. Besides the ASARECA project farmers, more smallholder farmers in the western parts of the country have sourced for the machine. Evaluation of the machine by the ASARECA supported farmers has shown that there was comparative advantage when using  the machine to chop forage during the wet season than in the dry season. This is due to the variations in the forage types and texture for the
two seasons; with more green and fleshy forage being available in the wet season. Benefits registered by the users were:
a)  There was a reduction in the amount of time spent in the wet season on chopping forages;
b)  Forage wastage was considerably reduced;
c)  Chopping related accidents were considerably reduced;
d)  The small size of the machine eased its movement.


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

The  targeted  users  are  smallholder  dairy  farmers,  with  less  than  three  (3)  animals.  The  dissemination approaches used have been: on-farm evaluations, on-farm  demonstrations, agricultural shows. The critical factors  for  successful  adoption  is  the  users’  involvement  in  the  entire  technology  development  process: needs  assessment,  designing  of  intervention  and  effective  feedback  during  the  evaluation  process.  The research team created a feedback processes than enable the design and development process to tap into the innovativeness of the users. The change of fabrication material was responding to the users’ need to reduce  the cost of the  machine. Acknowledging the users’  need to  move the  machine  in  and out of storage, the constraint  to  storage  space  and  the  need  to  accommodate  varying  heights  of  users,  the  research  team involved the users in determining what works best for them , hence the emergence of the table-like model. In scaling up the technology, there is need to built capacity of the local communities (with emphasis on the carpenters and welders) so as to ease the prototyping process of the technology. This though will require the development process to build an effective monitoring  of the proto-typing process to ensure quality of production is maintained.

Current situation and future scaling up

Currently,  10  more  farmers  from  Mbarara,  Sembabule,  Wakiso  and  Masaka  districts  have  accessed  the machine in Uganda as well as farmers in Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi.

In terms of lessons learnt, the fluctuating cost of timber makes it difficult to fix the cost of the machine, especially when materials are to be acquired within the communities. There are also challenges of local welders who can take up the fabrication of agricultural machinery. Many of the local welders are mainly engaged  in the production of window and door frames. If the uptae and use of the  machine  is to be increased, there will be need of training carpenters and welders within these participating communities
to provide backup services to farmers.

Involving  farmers  in  evaluating  the  modified  chopper  and  promoting  its  wide  use  through  extension support will promote the use of the chopper beyond borders in the region. Facilitating access to timber from hard wood will also contribute to popularize the chopper.


Economic Considerations

The forage chopper’s contribution to improving the zero grazing livestock production system has been twofold: saving on  labour costs/requirements and a contribution to increased  income  from  milk  yield. The  forage  chopper  has  eased  the  forage  chopping  role,  altering  a  balance  between  family  and  hired labour  hence  reducing  a  dependence  on  hired  labour.  An  increase  in  the  intake  of  properly  chopped forage  was  noted  by  farmers,  which  has  a  direct  implication  on  milk  yields  and  hence  household incomes. Estimation of actual increase in household incomes attributed to the forage chopper has been difficult  to  establish  because  there  other  factors  contributing  to  this  as  well  like  improved  forage.  In Uganda, the change of fabrication materials lowered the  cost of the machine from about 200,000/= to approximately 80,000/=.

Gender considerations

In modifying the technology, it was important to take into consideration the following gender aspects: financial attainability (to facilitate buying, repair and maintenance of the machine) and portability of the machine (given the ever changing household composition and roles).

The dynamic nature of household composition and roles means that the person operating the machine may  not  be  the  same  always.  Women  were  involved  in  evaluating  the  efficiency  of  the  modified chopper,  resulting  into  a  prototype  easily  manipulated  by  women  and    children  as  they  are  heavily involves in livestock feeding under smallholder dairy producti on systems in the region. 


Application guidelines for the users

Guidelines for utilization (for the users) to support capacity building of target beneficiaries  

  • For household safety, always remove the panga when machine is not use
  • Timely maintenance and repair is key to keep the machine functioning well


Contact details

Dr. (Eng) Florence LubwamaKiyimba,
Agricultural Engineering & Appropriate Technology Research Centre of the National Agricultural research
P. O. Box 7144, Kampala.
Email:  or

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

Additional information

Table 9: Summary of benefits and performance of the chopper

Benefits of the the forage chopper Technical performance of the chopper
  1.  Reduces labour and fodder wastage
  2. Reduces chopping time
  3. Enables timely feeding of the animals
  4. Minimizes possibilities of accidents during chopping
  5. Chops all types of grasses, legumes and crop residues
  1.  Output of chopped fodder is 170 – 220 Kg/hr depending on fodder type and user’s experience
  2. Can chop fodder for up to 20 head of cattle when it’s operated for six hours daily
  3. Has a guard bar that protects the user
  4. The chopper  is  designed  in such a  way that it  can easily  and  quickly  be  dismantled  into  component parts for easy transportation


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