Livestock Research for Rural Development 20 (supplement) 2008 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Survey on feed utilization for cattle production in Takeo province

Keo Sath, Khieu Borin and T R Preston*

CelAgrid, Cambodia
*Finca Ecológica,UTA-Colombia, AA#48, Socorro, Santander, Colombia


A survey was conducted in three villages of Treang district Takeo province. The Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) method was applied for collection of data on cattle production, and availability of feed resources by season. Twenty-five farmers both men and women participated in the study. Among the twenty-five families, fifteen households that kept cattle were interviewed to obtain information related to cattle production such as breeds, marketing flow, and management techniques.

The cattle in the area were mainly Bos indicus, among these about 68 % were crossbred with Haryana and 31.8% were of the local "Yellow" breed. Cattle production was primarily for draft power with meat production and manure as fertilizer for crops a secondary consideration. The draft power served for soil preparation for growing rice which is the common practice through out the area. The numbers of cattle per households were: 3-5 heads (73.9%), more than 5 heads (8.7%) and 1-2 heads (17.4 %). The calving rate was 66%.

Food and Mouth Disease and Haemorrhagic Septicaemia appeared to be an occasional problem in this area. During the cropping season, the cattle are tethered at homestead or in small plots of land nearby the house and supplemented with rice straw or cut and carry grasses. Feed resources for cattle are natural grasses, rice straw and shrubs, which are collected from the rice field. The fruits and leaves of the sugar palm, and rain tree, bamboo, manila tamarind and cassava products are used when grass or by-products are not sufficient. No technologies to improve feed quality had been introduced. There had been no introduction of new forage species. All the farmers followed the traditional management system. Low quality and shortage of feed appeared to be the major constrains for cattle keeping during the period February to April.

It is concluded that cattle production in the study area is directly associated with rice cultivation and this relationship is important for optimizing profit. Feed utilization depends on what is grown by the farmer and may be the main factor limiting how many cattle kept in each household. There is a need to focus on ways to improve the nutritive value of feed resources and on introducing forage trees with high nutritive value and biomass yield.

Key words: Management, PRA, small-holder farms


Livestock and crop farming are the major sources of food and income in rural farm households. Farmers are raising different kinds of livestock in order to satisfy their needs. Cattle are found concentrated in the rice growing areas of Cambodia. The majority of the farmers kept 2-3 cattle to provide draft power, organic fertilizer, and cash saving. The sale of an adult animal would be enough to cover the loss of a wet season rice crop (Maclean 1998).

Many different factors affect the profitability of cattle keeping including seasonal condition, nutrition, family labour availability, marketing and health control. Feeding strategy is one component of the overall management strategy for livestock. In traditional system, cattle eat what available. Availability of feed resources is very dependent on season and land utilization. The quantity and quality of available feed resources affects the performance and value of cattle. During periods of abundant feed supply, cattle are in good body condition. Utilization of crop residues and other forages and/or tree leaves is the most appropriate way for production of ruminants according to Preston and Leng (1987) and Leng (1997).

Indigenous knowledge, the socio-economic situation and attitudes of the rural farmers should be taken into consideration when planning for rural livestock improvement. It can help communitarians and outsiders to make the best development decisions. Practical field experiences show that impressive results can be achieved when farmers and outsiders have a strong commitment to work together and share ideas (Haverkort 1991).

To understand the way that cattle production is practiced by rural farmers and how indigenous knowledge is used in their condition need to be investigated. The purpose of this study was to investigate the availability of feed resources by season, the traditional methods practiced by rural farmers for cattle production, and the nature of problems encountered and the solution farmers preferred.

Materials and methods

Location, duration and activities of the assessment

The survey was conducted in three villages of Treang district, Takeo province. The village selection was primarily based on cattle keeping and cassava growing. The village were Damnak Reachea, Phnom Pnock, Krom from different communes of Treang district. Phnom Pnock village represented the area where farmers are growing cassava, whereas Danak Reachea and Krom village represented high and low population of cattle in Treang district.

The duration of the assessment was from April to October 2006. A team of researchers (4 persons) spent 3 days in each of the three villages to collect data using the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools/methods and to interview family households. A week before applying PRA, the local authorities of those villages were informed about the study and asked for their advice.


There were twenty-five farmers, men and women, who participated in the data and information survey in each village. Among the twenty-five families, fifteen who kept cattle in each village were selected for interview. The selection of farmers was done according to their interest and willingness to cooperate with the researchers.

The PRA team was trained for 2 days before conducting the exercise so that the researchers learned to understand the questionnaires and tools of PRA.


General data were collected through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods. The secondary data of each village were collected from the local authorities. The farmers were divided into small groups and under the guidance of the researchers they discussed the different activities related to cattle keeping and feeding. The PRA tools that were used included mapping, a transect walk, seasonal calendar, focus group discussion (men and women), direct observation and individual family interview using questionnaires. At the end of the PRA, the results were fed back to the farmers to review and clarify the information collected.

Data collection

The following information and data were collected:

Results and discussion

Description of study area

Takeo province is one of the major rice producing areas of Cambodia. It is about 80 km South of Phnom Penh city. Takeo borders with Vietnam in the South, with Kampong Speu and Kampot in the West and in the North with Kandal province. There are 165,878 households in the province with a total population of 848,953 (440,486 females). From 85 to 90 percent of the population depend on agricultural activities (provincial report 2003). There are two seasons; the rainy season starts in May through to October and the dry season from November to April. The mean temperature is 28 degrees Celsius. Some areas in Takeo province suffered flooding and drought in 2003. Treang district is one of 10 districts of Takeo province. It extents to 41,286 ha of land and is about 9 km from the centre of the province. Rain-fed rice cultivation is the main source of income of the farmers.

Damnak Reachea village is located in Prambey Mum commune of Treang district. There are 157 households with a total of 765 population (53% female); among those women head 25 households. There are 145 households raised cattle of 350 heads, 63.6 percent of households kept pigs among those 12% of households kept adult pigs (3-5 heads) and 76 % of total households kept poultry (5-6 heads). Rice cultivation is the main occupation. Twenty-five percent of total households own less than one ha of rice field. The average yield of rice was 1.3 tonnes per ha and the price 400-600 Riels/kg (Village reported 2006).

Phnom Pnock village has 95 households with a total population of 472 (50% female); among those women head 20 households. The village is located in Prey Slek commune of Treang district. Seventy-three households keep cattle (173 heads), 71.5% of households kept pig among those 17.6% of households kept adult pigs (3-5 heads), and 76.8% kept adult poultry (5-6 heads). In this village, rice cultivation is the source of income followed by cassava cultivated in the backyard mainly for root production. The average yield of rice was 1.5 tonnes/ha and the price 620-650 Riels/kg (Village reported 2006).

Krom Village is located in Sanlong commune of Treang district with a total of 837 people (50.5% female) in 173 households. Among these, 10 households are headed by women. One hundred sixty nine households keep 500 heads of cattle. This village is occasionally flooded in the rainy season. The average rice yield is 0.8 tonnes/ha and the price of paddy was 400 Riels/kg (Village reported 2006). Rice cultivation was also the main occupation followed by fishing as well as animal production. Ten families in this village owned less than one ha of rice field.

Figure 1.  Population and cattle numbers in the village

Figure 2.  Percentage of households keeping livestock in three villages

Cattle production systems

The cattle production is directly linked with crops and farming activities. Most farmers cultivate rice one time per year, starting from May through to October. Among interviewed farmers 17.4 % keep 1-2 cattle, 73.9% keep 3-5 cattle and 8.7 % keep more than 5 cattle (Table 1).  In practice, besides having animals for agriculture work such as plowing, leveling and transporting, farmers also use cattle manure as fertilizer for their crops.

Cattle are kept primarily for draft power with meat production a secondary consideration. Working cattle are like family car/truck. Adult male cattle at 3 years of age are trained to be used in pairs for draft purposes. Males are usually castrated at the age 1.5-2 years. Female cattle are not used as draft animals in the selected villages for this survey. The main reasons are that farmers consider that female cattle are weak, small and they are kept mainly for breeding purposes. In addition, women do not want to see their cows working hard as they wish to care for them mainly for breeding and manure. The main use of draft animals is the soil preparation for the rice crop which is the common practice and has been for generations. In cropping time, draft animals are used for pulling carts, transporting manure to the rice field, plowing and leveling. In harvesting period, they are used to transport paddy and rice straw to the homestead. Some farmers also use them for threshing. Draft animals work from early morning until noon and are then taken to the grazing area in the afternoon.

Cows are commonly mated to produce their first calf at 2.5 to 3 years of age. If fed poorly, they may have their first calf at 4 years of age. There is considerable variation in this according to breed and nutrition. Mating season in these villages is usually in the early rainy season (April- May), when there is plenty of feed such as grasses and forages. Under the farmer condition, a calf slowly weans itself and it is independent from its mother at the age of 12 to 15 months. Some farmers kept their cows in good condition at calving and gave good feed during the post calving period. In this case, cows may come into heat and be pregnant within three months after calving. With good care, management and feeding, a cow may have one calf annually. However, this is not usually the case. Cows are usually in poor condition at calving and lack of feed post calving. Most farmers said that their cows have two calves every three years, or on average 18 months (calving rate 66%). Bouy and Dasniere (1993) reported that calving rate was from 39% to 56% in a village in the river bank area.

Cattle are freely grazed in the rice field at the beginning of rainy season (February to May) and post harvest (November to January). When cropping takes place cattle are usually tethered at home or in the small plot of land nearby the house because there is no available land for grazing and it may damage the crop if cattle are set free. Cattle are commonly kept under farmer's house at night-time. The cut and carry system is used when cattle have no access to grassing areas.

Cattle breeds and breeding

The common breed found in the study areas is Bos indicus. The local breed constituted 31.8% of the total number of cattle in the three villages whiles the crossbreds constituted 68.2%. Local cattle are called Gor Srok or Gor Khmer. This breed has small body size and a small-hump, similar to the local cows of neighboring Thailand. It has a short neck and length between 1.5-1.7 meters. It is characterized by the colour which is yellow, maroon or red and the mature weight about 250-300kg. It can survive in the region with limited supply of feed of poor quality and adapts very well with the local environment, as well as being resistant to diseases including parasites. This breed is predominates in the northeast provinces in both upland and lowland areas of Cambodia.

Haryana and Brahman were introduced to Cambodia from about 1960s and 1980s. Haryana is tall, narrow-shoulder, and is therefore a good walker and popular with farmers for draft purposes. Crossbreed (Haryana x Local cattle) were found in areas with availability of feed year round. Crossbreed of Brahman x Local cattle were less evident than Haryana crosses. Crossbreds are favored because of their good appearance and their draft and walking ability. All farmers in these villages practice natural breeding. Mating cows can occur two ways. It may occur freely in the field, when mixing with other cattle, either from a bull which is a poorly castrate male, or a young male that has reached puberty but not yet been castrated. Alternatively, cows are brought to a bull, which is kept for breeding. To hire a bull for a service, the fee can vary from US$4 to 6.5 depending on the area and quality of the bull.

Photo 1.
 Local yellow cattle

Photo 2.
 Crossbred cattle (Haryana x Local cattle )

Feed resources and feed utilization in cattle production in village

Feed resources and the methods of using them were found to be similar for the three villages (Table 2, 3 and 4). Feed resource included grasses, rice straw, rice bran, sugar palm fruit and juice, banana stems and leaves, cassava by-products, leaves from the shrubs and local plants such rain tree, bamboo and manila tamarind. Working animals, pregnant cows and cows after calving are given better care and attention. The main feeds for cattle in these villages are native grasses and rice straw. Grasses are scare from February to April because they become very dry and die out in the open fields. Rice straw is used almost year round but is scare from October to December. Rice straw is collected from the paddy field and stacked in a high area near the house (Photo 1). Rice bran and tree leaves are occasionally fed to cattle and mainly for working animals during pre-cropping and cropping period. In the case of tree leaves, they are abundant after the first rains. Leaves from the rain tree, bamboo, and manila tamarind are used in cut and carry system particularly when grass and crop by-products are not sufficient. Rice bran is usually mixed with water in ration of 1:3-6 and fed to cattle. Banana stems and leaves were provided during the dry season (February to April). Farmers also use some palm fruit and rain tree ripe fruit for supplementation (Photo 2) to cattle when these are available. Rain tree ripe fruit are available from March to April while palm fruit starts to mature from July to October. Some farmers produce sugar palm juice for human consumption and they may spray the juice on the rice straw before feeding it to cattle. The juice makes the straw more palatable and also provides some energy. The mature fruits are also fed. The fruits are soaked in water and wiry fiber taken out. The suspension of yellow pulp is given to the cattle. Fresh grass is available in the fields after first rains. To take advantage of it, cattle are allowed to graze during the day and then return to the house in the evening, where they are fed rice straw. The feed in the fields disappears progressively when plowing of fields begins. During the cropping season (August to November), cattle are gathered in groups by children during the day and taken to a higher grazing area if available, or they are kept at the house all day. When kept in the house, they will be fed rice straw and some cut and carry feed. During this period the reserves of rice straw start to get low, and there is some rice straw trading in the villages. In the post harvest period, cattle are freely grazed in the paddy fields, consuming stubble which is left over and some shrubs.

Photo 3.
 Storage of rice straw for feeding cattle
during season of feed shortage

Photo 4.
 Farmer shaking ripe fruits of Rain tree
(Adenanthera pavoninal Leguminoseae) to cattle

Photo 5.
 Feeding rice bran with water to working cattle

Photo 6.
 Cut and carry grasses from the rice bunds

Farmers in Phnom Pnock village also feed cassava foliage to their cattle. After harvesting roots of the "6 months" variety the leaves are collected for their cattle. Normally, villagers grow cassava in May or after first rains. The harvest of roots starts from September through to November. Roots are collected and cooked for selling in the roadside while the outer skin of the root is fed fresh to the cattle.

Photo 7.
 Feeding cassava foliage to young cattle

Photo 8.
 Farmer cleans cassava root outer skin for feeding cattle

The extent of feeding management largely depends on the farmer's activity, household income and is greatly affected by crop seasons. The cattle are in a certain place at certain time and what they eat is a function of what is available in that place at that time. Feeding of fibrous residues such rice straw to cattle in this area are appropriate and economical for smallholder farms (Preston and Leng 1987; Leng 1997) but it is inadequate for efficient rumen fermentation when used alone due to lack of essential nutrients and low digestibility (Leng 1997). There have been many studies on enhancing digestibility and nutrient availability of straws (Singh et al 1988; Preston and Leng 1987; Wanapat 1985; Nuyen Xuan Trach et al 2001). In the survey villages it was observed that the farmers try to improve intake of straws by mixing greens feed, soaking the straw in water and spraying sugar palm juice or salt solution on the straw.

Disease control and prevention

The main diseases of cattle in these areas are Food and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Haemorrhagic Septicaemia that appear during rainy season, especially in early rainy season. An outbreak of these diseases appears to be due to sudden change in the weather in early rainy season, the hard work of plowing, or appropriated conditions for large-scale spread of the disease. The clinical signs of FMD are sore feet, lameness and salivation while Haemorrhagic Septicaemia is indicated by swelling of the throat, head and stomach, with high fever. Mortality rates of FMD are low except in young calves. Disease appearance in cattle has significant economic effect due to cost for treatment, or death. An outbreak during the plowing or other working periods causes delay in cropping activities resulting in a shortage of working animals and some farmers have to hire cattle from other farmers to plow. To prevent an outbreak of these diseases, cattle are occasionally vaccinated by provincial veterinarians. Among interviewed farmers 15.2 % of households did not vaccinate their cattle (Table 1). Some farmers do not understand the importance of vaccinating their cattle, or not enough information made available in time so that farmers are prepared for the vaccination campaign. De-worming is not practiced in these villages because animals appear to be healthy and de-worming requires cash.

Marketing and market accessibility of cattle

Markets for cattle are plenty, both locally and for export. In the last few years, cattle have been legally and illegally exported to Vietnam with a higher price than when sold locally. However, there is now a strict control for animals for export. Normally, buyers visit the villages at the beginning of rainy season and after harvesting to look for farmers who want to sell their cattle. In the study area, 40.2 % of farmers preferred to sell their cattle through middlemen, 48.9 % to other farmers (producers) and 0.9 % to slaughter house. Sixty six percent of working cattle are sold to middlemen while 34.3% are sold to farmer (producer), whereas cows, heifers, steers were sold to mainly among farmers (Table 5). Farmers sell cattle when they need cash for the wedding of their son or daughter, for buying fertilizer or other immediate needs. Cattle are not sold by weight but usually through an agreement between the owner and buyer. The prices of the local breed were lower than for crossbreds. A heifer about 200 kg may cost approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 Riels for local breed and the 1,200,000 to 1,500,000 Riels for crossbreed cattle in 2006. The price of local cattle during the period of this study was four times higher than reported by Khieu Borin et al (1996) (200,000 to 250,000 Riels). Young females command a premium price, which may be up to 30% higher, than the price for young males. The price of cattle varied depending on judgments on body size, tail, color, teeth, temperament and behavior, and marks on the body. The local knowledge of farmers was important for keeping cattle and they believed that when cattle appear with good marks, they bring prosperity and happiness for the family. Cattle are also sold to markets when they die by an accident or diseases.


Based on the survey, it is concluded that:


The authors are grateful to the MEKARN project, financed by the Sida-SAREC agency and the PRA team for data collection. Thanks are also due to farmers in Treang District, Takeo province, who spent their valuable time to provide information during the Participatory Rural Appraisal exercise. Thanks also due to the local authorities for help in selection of villages and provision of secondary information.


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