Improved Forage Chopper | Livestock and Fisheries Management (Livestock Feeds)
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 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.
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.
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.
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/=.
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.
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
Dr. (Eng) Florence LubwamaKiyimba,
Agricultural Engineering & Appropriate Technology Research Centre of the National Agricultural research
P. O. Box 7144, Kampala.
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead Scientist, National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI),
P. O. Box 96, Tororo, Uganda
Tel: +256 45448360
Table 9: Summary of benefits and performance of the chopper
|Benefits of the the forage chopper
|Technical performance of the chopper