The perpetual conflict between cattle and crop farmers is a cause for alarm and a reason to seek lasting practical solutions. Lives and properties have been lost, animosity between ethnic groups deepened, and a coexistence seriously threatened. Conflict resolution of any sort cannot solve this problem in the void of practical technologies.
The aim of this long piece, is to help government and other functionaries in the agricultural sector of our economy to see innovative options in livestock farming.
The piece will lay bare technologies that will keep us apart from the old ways of rearing our cattle. Indeed, livestock and crop farmers can live in peace, respect each other, if the livestock farmers – most specifically cattle farmers – are willing to adopt technologies and yet run a more thriving business of cattle rearing.
First, I would like to draw attention much deeper for all of us to reflect on the importance of seeking a technological solution and eradicate the menacing effect of cattle/cows converging to feast on the crop of another farmer. I know how it feels as I had experienced it firsthand 14 years ago.
The conflict between crops and cattle farmers seems perpetual and is a perilous journey to reach the riches/livelihoods both parties thrive to achieve if our path remains unchanged.
There is a seeming dysfunctional tendency of our society by a failure to expand our conflict resolution mechanisms to involving practical solutions through technology. There is a seeming paralysis in searching for, and having the embracing hearts for technologies as innovative ways to solve our problems. Solutions through technology continue to evade minds of the critical mass. Until a given level of a critical mass is reached, change becomes elusive with the potential of a dangerous trend that will create a dysfunctional society in which people will just simply get stuck in the past. Research and trials will be viewed as alien and a fictitious threat. A dysfunctional society will just follow the old ways of doing things and thus cause a shrinking brain. Albert Einstein, a man of unparalleled achievement record in science once said:
If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.”
In our cattle farming drive, we are still tied to archaic, drudgery ridden and offence causing practices. It is apparent that most cattle farmers operate generation farms and the operators have always leaned towards the old fashioned ways the fathers or great grandfathers left with them. They are simply creatures of habit and follow what was good for their dads regardless of changes in climate and increase in population density whilst land resource remains constantly fixed. If they continue in the path of their fathers/forefathers, conflict with community crop farmers will perpetuate. Let me remind you once more about Albert Einstein’s statement:
If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.”
What I do not understand is the seeming lack of solutions. Is it that we simply lack solutions or we are just too lazy to search for one? For me, it is preposterous to see perpetuation of the archaic way of doing things without pulling strings that will jolt some into positive action.
Cattle farming is a business and so also is crop farming. Whether one is a crop or cattle farmer, the motive is to have an outcome positive for mankind. Livestock and crop farming compliment the human effort to provide the required nutrients for both humans and animals. Animals? Yes, ANIMALS! My reference is deliberate to draw attention to the notion that the old fashioned style of owning livestock and let them roam uncontrollably in search of graze land should now begin to fade. The old ways should gradually be abandoned to give way to new technologies that will aid the cattle farmer in having a dignified position in the heart of crop farming communities. Before stating new technologies to be adopted, let me remind you first about the disadvantages of free range livestock farming.
Disadvantages of Free Range Cattle Farming.
The drawbacks in letting cattle and other livestock roam freely in search of forage are:
1) The first that is clear and a source of conflict, is feeding on the crops of neighbor farmers.
2) The second and almost always goes unnoticed, is the slow growth of the cow as it is always on the move, trekking distances to look for the best graze land and thus lose weight in doing so.
3) Predators, poisonous snakes, thieves, etc are debilitating factors the cattle, whether beef or dairy, will be exposed to.
4) The slavery like circumstances and conditions those accompanying the cattle are exposed to.
5) Another that will be an abstract for many, is convertibility of the grass to nutrients that will fatten the cow. A cow that feeds free range might easily be seen as competitive in price but a thorough analysis of many factors will reveal that a palace cow will be more competitive in price terms.
In the rumen of cattle, there is what I would simply call positive germs that will break the sugar and nutrients in the grass and release them for absorption by the body. The finer and faster that process of digestion is achieved, the greater and faster will be the growth. Otherwise, the cow would have passed much of the nutrients locked up as dung. One of the technologies exposed here will solve such a problem.
All of the above, most especially No.1, should give us sufficient ground to settle for a technological solution that will make both parties thrive in peace.
The Technologies that will Make the Difference.
In prescribing the technologies it is hereby assumed that the cattle will be contained in a palace like condition. I believe, a land area of the size of two football fields can house hundreds of cattle in a palace like condition. An area to exercise, house for feeding and milking, shade of trees to rest and sleep, abundant water supply will be the systems functioning in that palace.
Technology, in my definition, is a search for solutions using the human software (neurons in the brain) to make the physical/hardware that will create a positive change in the suffering of the user. Running FINIC (Fomel Industry and National Industrialization Centre), a technology generation Enterprise, for over 2 decades, has given me an insight deep enough to see the importance of practical Science and Technology. Vividly, my practical engagement with technology has given me the unshaken notion that a nation that does not attach importance to science and technology, is a nation that condemns its economy to a donor driven one and is a nation that lets the brains of its youthful population to be the devil’s workshop and negativity manufacturer.
Whilst they, who sit and negotiate conflicts see and dwell in the psychological, I see the technological as it is that which gives peace and dignity. At the end of the day, it is that which brings practically applicable solutions on the table, and is that which endures.
I will talk about 2 technologies here:
1) FODDER CULTIVATION
2) SILAGE PROCESSING
Fodder is plant grown within days (4 to 8 days) and fed to the animals. It can be sorghum, corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, elephant grass etc. Please see attached, the pictures and videos. We at FINIC started experimenting on fodder 10 years ago and can state that it is the best technology that can save our current situation.
Trays, preferably plastic ones are used to grow fodder without soil. When the sprouted grain is transplanted, it will take a maximum of 8 days to reach a level to be fed to the animal. One great attribute fodder has is that it multiplies by nearly 6 times the weight of the original seeds it grows from. You plant 1 cup of sorghum, in 8 days, you will have 6 times the weight. The other good thing about fodder is that, it is good for digestion and absorption of nutrients that will make your livestock grow faster and live healthily.
Working out the mathematics in accordance with cattle population and how many kilograms each eat per day, will help to have a fodder system that will feed cows or sheep as they want without letting them loose to search for food.
It is important to note that fodder solutions can be adequately provided in the country by FINIC and any other skill persons trained to do so.
Silage is grass chopped and kept in a condition that does not allow the entrance of air. By so doing, the sugar in the grass converts to acid and keeps the bacteria at bay.
The purpose of silage is for long storage of grass without spoilage and thus allows production in peak season – in our case, during the rainy season.
Silage processed following correct procedures, will last as long as 2 years.
It is now easy to imagine that, in the midst of abundance, we can produce enough to last for the rest of the year with the livestock in a palace like confinement.
In short, fodder cultivation and silage production are the technologies that will save Sierra Leone and many other African countries from the menacing and perpetual conflict between crop and cattle farmers.
Enlisting Government Support
The adoption of the technologies should be private sector led and supported by government. FINIC therefore urge all influential stakeholders in the agricultural sector of our economy to start pulling positive strings for the attention of government.
I advocate for demonstration farms which at the same time, will serve to teach other farmers. Linking this with ATVET (Agricultural, Technical and Vocational Education and Training) will create synergies that will be positively explosive for the development of our nation.
Let me reiterate that it has to be a private sector led thing and government supported. In this vein, I would like to urge all those in the cattle rearing business to try these technologies for a thriving beef and dairy cattle farming. FINIC is available for the design and manufacturing of equipment and systems for fodder and silage.
FINIC IS GOOD FOR AFRICA
Foday Melvin Kamara
Chief Executive Officer of Fomel Industries and National Industrialization Centre (FINIC) ,