Nutrient Feed Blocks | Livestock and Fisheries Management (Livestock Feeds)
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
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
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.
Table7: Basic costs (in local currency and equivalent US $) associated with application/utilization of the technology or innovation
|Feed||Crude Protein (%)||Inclusion
to crude protein
|Total cost (Ushs)|
|Stover or grass||5||18||0.9||100||1800|
|Total cost of
|Mixture = 14.9% CP|
|Price per Kg = 660 (USD 0.3)|
Estimated returns (local currency and equivalent US$) 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 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.
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.
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.
Dr. Jolly Kabirizi
Lead Scientist, National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI),
P. O. Box 96, Tororo, Uganda
Tel: +256 45448360;
Eng. Florence Namara
Uganda Industrial Research Institute, Kampala
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
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:
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.
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
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
- Turning or cutting out (optional, based on the method adopted)
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.