In a 2016 survey done by the Support to De-bushing Project, twelve farmers/bush fodder producers from six different regions shared their experience on bush fodder production. The survey was aimed at capturing current bush-to-feed practices and identifying key challenges to assist in the development of suitable interventions with regards to the production, effective use, storage and future commercialisation of encroacher bush feed.
Bush-feed is made by mixing milled encroacher bush with additives. The earliest documented production of bush-feed date back to 1972 but its use has been rising in the past decade. Farmers use it not only as a drought emergency feed but 50% of the respondents also use it as a supplement feed throughout the year or as a feedlot feed. Farmers testified that bush-feed production reduces pressure on the rangeland and grazing. It also allows maintaining the herd size during times of fodder shortage. The majority of respondents provide bush-feed to their cattle and sheep. However, some also feed their goats, pigs, donkeys or game with it receiving excellent results. Farmers have tried different bush-based rations depending on the availability and cost of supplements. The use of local pods and drought resistant fodder crops, such as camel thorn pods and spineless prickly pear, as supplements are found to be suitable options to enhance the nutritive value. Commercial supplements like Rangeland Grower and HPC30 have given positive results. Molasses is used as an affordable source of energy and to enhance palatability and reduce dustiness in feed. Sixty percent of the farmers dry the milled bush, store it and only mix it with supplements shortly before feeding. Other farmers mix the milled bush right after harvesting. To further enhance storability, one respondent makes pellets from the mixtures. None of the respondents is ensiling, but it is has been reported as a promising technique.
Some of the successful practices reported by the respondents include using drought resistant fodder crops and feeding according to nutritional requirements.. Planning time for production is a key factor. The farmers produce about 10 to 15 tonnes a month, the total output of production is said to depend on technical equipment used for cutting, chipping and milling and the setup and management of the operation.
To read the full findings, download the survey factsheet here.