Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Improving Dairy Production During Nicaragua’s Dry Season

In general, there are only two seasons in Nicaragua: the “dry season” and the “wet season.” The wet season is characterized by strong downpours that allow plants and flowers to thrive and cattle to have enough pasture to graze. However, water becomes very scarce during the dry season. This is a particular problem in Jicaro, Nicaragua where community members rely on homemade cheese as their primary source of animal protein. During the dry season when forage is scarce, their cattle suffer from low dairy production.

The dry season negatively affects milk production in Nicaragua.
In March, returned F2F volunteer Arlen Albrecht, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Extension (UWEX), traveled to Nicaragua to provide technical assistance on improved dairy production and dairy cattle management during the dry season. During this time, dairy cows are typically fed corn stalks, dried corn husks, and dried sorghum. Arlen stressed the importance of supplementing these diets with other nutrients, as well as water, in order to increase milk production. He assisted the National Cattlemen Commission of Nicaragua (CONOGAN) in a workshop on making mineral and protein lick blocks. Dry matter, calcium, cement, urea, and molasses are packed into a pail until solid and then left to dry. Animals then lick the surface of the block to obtain essential minerals and nutrients. Mineral and protein licks are a low-cost way to supply protein to cattle. 

Community members learn how to make a mineral/protein lick.
Another way to contribute to cattle health is improved pastures. Arlen engaged producers in a conversation about the feed value and zone suitability of certain grasses and small bush plants. The group discussed leaves, stems, and seeds that could contribute to enriching pastures and identified specific plants that could grow well in the area. By diversifying options for cattle feed, producers can ensure prolonged animal health and potentially increase cows’ milk production.

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