3-Strata Forage for Balinese Cattle

In Bali, Indonesia, IDRC-funded research is being conducted to optimize use of small-farm areas for cattle raising. Families on the island of Bali rear small numbers of cattle for draft and dairy, but also as an important source of cash income. The local Banteng breed is specially adapted to the hot, humid conditions on the island. It can survive on sparse vegetation and is highly valued on the export market for its lean, tender meat. Thus far a limiting factor in livestock productivity has been the relatively slow weight gain of Bali cattle, exacerbated by the low availability of grass and leaf feed during the dry season. It takes between four and six years for cattle to reach marketable weight under present systems. Dr. I. Made Nitis' research team is testing a system called Three-Strata Forage (TSF) which allows farmers to feed cattle from grass, shrub and tree forages grown on their own plots.

Between 1977 and 1984, Dr. Nitis showed that Bali cattle can, under supplemental feeding programs, reach marketable weight in less than three years. The demonstrated system, however, was too labour- and cost-intensive to be adapted by Bali farmers. Since 1985, the research team has sought to replace purchased rice bran feeds with selected protein-rich grasses, shrubs and trees which farmers can easily grow on the perimeter of their maize, cassava and soybean fields.

Farmers have been instrumental in the design and implementation of experiments which use 64 plots and 48 head of cattle to compare traditional forage systems with the TSF system. The system replaces traditional boundary crops with fodder-producing shrubs, trees and grasses using the three dimensional area of the fence to maximize forage production. Cattle are stall- fed according to seasonal availability of fodder. During the wet season, they eat grasses and legumes. In the early dry season they are fed green fodder cut from shrubs. During the rest of the dry season, they are fed leaves and previously-stored fodder. In ideal TSF systems, the plot perimeter is lined with trees (Ficus, Lannea, and Hibiscus) and shrubs (Gliricidia and Leucaena), while a 5 meter-wide strip inside the perimeter contains grass (Cenchrus and Panicum) and legume (Centrosema) species. Wherever possible, nitrogen fixing plants are maintained to enhance soil fertility, but the system is adaptable to the individual needs of each farmer.

Results show that cattle do not gain weight as rapidly as originally hypothesized, although they do gain weight faster than traditionally grazed cattle. This may be due, in part, to the variety of cattle used in the study which rejected Gliricidia, a fodder relished by other cattle raised in the test area. The results indicated that farmers could stock more cattle in the TSF test plots. Local farmers are adapting some of the shrub species on their natural fence borders in deference to cactus and also are targeting eroded land for planting fodder-producing trees and shrubs.

Robert Inness, IDRC Reports, 17:3, July 1988 pages 11-12.