CATTLE FEED RESOURCES ASSESSMENT AND COPING STRATEGIES ADOPTED DURING FEED SCARCITY IN EASTERN BHUTAN
Keywords:Crop residues, coping strategies, dairy farmers group, feeding practices, feed resources
The study was undertaken to identify and assess cattle feed resources, feeding practices, and coping strategies adopted during the feed scarcity among dairy farmer groups of six eastern districts in Bhutan from October 2021 to February 2022. A total of 405 dairy farmers were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire comprising both open and closed-ended questions. Descriptive statistics, one-way ANOVA, and Chi-square tests were administered to analyze the data. The study findings revealed improved pasture, fodder trees, non-conventional feeds, crop residues, natural grazing, and commercial concentrate feed as the major feed resources available in decreasing order. Amongst the feed resources, improved pasture is recorded as an important forage resource by the majority of respondents. The stall feeding and semi-grazing system dominated the dairy feeding system, and green grasses are the main basal diet of dairy cattle in eastern Bhutan. It is alarming to note that none of the dairy farmers have adopted TMR and UMMB technology even these days. However, most farmers conserved crop residues but maintaining their quality remains a challenge due to a lack of good storage facilities. Significant differences in feeding practices across different farm sizes were observed, χ2 (4, 405) =13.810, p<.05. About 76% of the respondents reported experiencing critical feed scarcity, especially during the dry season. Collection of forages from the forest was the most important strategy adopted by dairy farmers to mitigate against feed scarcity followed by roadside grazing. The study concluded that the pressing issues of feed scarcity particularly during the dry season can be alleviated through the adoption of improved forage technologies, effective feeding strategies, and building the capacity of farmers.
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