Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (9) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Climate variability and dry season ruminant livestock feeding strategies in Southeastern Kenya

Aphaxard J N Ndathi, Moses M Nyangito*, Nashon K R Musimba** and Barnabas N Mitaru***

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, National Range Research Centre, P.O. Box 12-90138. Makindu, Kenya.
ndathi4@yahoo.com
* Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology, University of Nairobi, Kenya.
** South Eastern University College, Kitui, Kenya.
*** Department of Animal Production, University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Abstract

Availability of feeds for livestock production is a major constraint to livestock production in drylands of Kenya. This study was conducted to generate information on the climate of the semi-arid lands of Southeastern Kenya and the livestock keepers’ dry seasons feed provision strategies. Information on climate was generated through analysis of long-term and short-term rainfall and temperature data. The dry seasons’ livestock feed provision strategies were generated through a household survey using a questionnaire.

Livestock keepers have a period of 6 months to grow and harvest feeds to bridge a5 months feed shortage gap. Long-term rainfall amounts showed irregular peaks and troughs and seem to have a stable mean over the years. However, even with the troughs and peaks, the temperatures seem to be increasing. This means that moisture available for feed production may be decreasing. Buying of feeds and using on-farm conserved feeds were the most commonly used feed provision strategies during the dry seasons. However, these strategies were constrained by lack of money, availability of the feeds to buy, inadequate space for conservation and rotting of the conserved feeds.

Key word: constraints, feed conservation, droughts, drylands


Introduction

Livestock nutrition is the major constraint to sustainable livestock production in drylands especially during the dry seasons (Kibet et al 2006, Mnene et al 2004). In the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), rainfall is the key driving factor and is characterized by high diversity and failure that lead to frequent droughts (Anonymous 2006, Goodin and Northington 1985). A drought is a prolonged dry season, two to three or more dry seasons. However, livestock keepers in the ASALs have over the years developed a wealth of dry season livestock feeding strategies. Distressingly, dry seasons and droughts continue to constrain livestock production in the ASALs of Kenya. Apart from dry seasons and droughts, other factors influencing livestock production in Kenyan ASALs are human population increase, land fragmentation and inadequate infrastructure (transport, policy and marketing). 

During the dry seasons, pastoralists incur losses in livestock production, reduced value of their animals and death of the animals during severe droughts. Therefore, meteorological droughts are a major disincentive to investment in the livestock sector. This has held ASALs’ livestock keeping households inside a difficult to break food insecurity and poverty box because droughts jeopardizes most of the natural resource based ASALs livelihoods (Orindi et al 2007). Droughts are becoming a major impediment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Vision 2030 in Kenya. Predicted increase in drought frequencies and abnormal climatic effects under climate change are also expected to increase the pastoralists’ vulnerability to droughts (Morton 2006, IPCC 2007, Seo and Mendelsohn 2006). 

Most of the work done and being done on livestock feeding strategies during dry seasons and drought periods is mainly on the pure pastoral areas. In pure pastoral areas the pastoralists have the luxury of accessing large tracts of land hence can use mobility as a dry season and drought period coping strategy. Unfortunately, little has been done on the effects of dry seasons and drought periods livestock feed provision strategies in agro-pastoral areas. Agro-pastoralists utilizing the semi-arid lands in Kenya are producing livestock under increasing decreasing grazing area hence extensive livestock production systems are becoming increasingly untenable. The ASALs produce adequate livestock feed during the rainy seasons. In addition to the naturally growing and planted pastures, agro-pastoralist also produce crop residue which may be used to boost livestock feeding during the dry seasons and drought periods. However, most of this feed is either extravagantly used or lost through ants and wind because of inadequate feed management strategies in ASALs. 

The major problems to addressing livestock feeding during the dry seasons and drought periods are the lack of adequate information on the climatic condition and low adoption of improved feed production, conservation, processing and feeding technologies being promoted. In addition, traditional dry seasons and drought periods livestock feeding strategies are becoming ineffective due to changing production environments (Galvin et al 2004, Sidahmed A 2008). Dry seasons and drought periods livestock feeding strategies should start with a better understanding of the dryland climatic and the currently practiced livestock feeding strategies (Lema and Majole 2009). Understanding of the climatic condition will assist the pastoralists to develop strategies for bridging the feed shortage gap while understanding the feeding strategies currently being used by the pastoralist will assist in getting a starting point for improvement and development of more efficient strategies. The objective of this study was to avail information on the climate variability and the dry season and drought period livestock feeding strategies and their constraints in Southeastern Kenya. The specific objectives were; 1) to analyze climatic data to get an in-depth understanding of the climate of the study area and 2) to identify dry seasons and drought periods livestock feeding strategies and their constraints. 


Materials and method

The study area

This study was done in the arid and semi-arid Kibwezi district, Southeastern Kenya. The district is largely covered by Agro-Ecological zones LM4, LM5 and IL6 (Jaetzold and Schmidt 1983). The District is largely inhabited by the Akamba agro-pastoralists who rear goats and cattle as the dominant ruminant livestock species. (Ndathi et al 2011,Musimba et al 2004). The dry seasons come in the months of January/February (short dry season) and August to October (long dry season). Athi River, which is the border between Kibwezi and Mutomo Districts, is the only permanent river in the District with main tributaries being Kibwezi, Kiboko, Kambu, Thange and MutitoAndei streams (GoK 2009). 

The climatic data

The climatic data needed for the study were the rainfall and temperatures of the study area. The long-term, annual, monthly and daily rainfall and temperature data were collected from the Makindu meteorological station. Makindu meteorological station although located in Makindu District provides meteorological data for most of the Southeastern Kenya ASALs. Hard copies of the rainfall and temperature data were sourced from this station for analysis. 

The dry season and drought period feed provision strategies and their constraints

Data on the feed provision strategies and the constraints thereof were collected through questionnaires administered at the household level. The questionnaires were administered to household heads. The households in the survey were selected through a systematic sampling method through a road transect in each of the three AEZs. A willing household was selected on each side of the road after every 1 mile (1.6km). A total of 117 households were covered in the survey with 35, 42 and 40 households being covered in AEZs LM4, LM5 and IL6 respectively. The presence or absence of a practice or a species was done using yes or no response questions. The ranking of the strategies and the constraints was done using the pair wise ranking method as described by Defoer and Budelman (2000). 

Data analysis

Climate data was analyzed using descriptive statistic (means) and graphs tools of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 12.0 (SPSS, 2003). The Likert scale (Vagia 2006) was used for weighting the recorded rankings. The total weighted scores were used to give the final ranking of a strategy or the constraint. 


Results

Climate of study area 
Rainfall

The monthly and annual rainfall amounts in the study area are presented in figures 1 and 2 respectively. The study area experiences above mean annual rainfall from the months of October to April except February (Fig. 1). Only months between May to October experience below the drought line (<60% of normal) monthly rainfall.

Figure 1. Monthly rainfall amounts for Kibwezi District Kenya (Data from Makindu Meteorological Station)

Figure 2. Annual rainfall amounts for Kibwezi District Kenya (Data from Makindu Meteorological Station)

In the past 28 years, meteorological droughts have occurred four times with the 2003 to 2005 being the longest and severest. However, drylands in Kenya have reported three droughts in the last 10 years, 2000 and 2004/5 (Oxfarm International (2006) as cited by Orindi et al 2007) and 2008/9 (Huho and Mugalavai 2010) and are reported to recur once every 2-3 years in the current decade (Howden 2009).The mean for the whole period was 534.3 66.2mm. In the 1983 – 92 and 1993 – 2002 decadals, the means were 527 3 66.2mm and 623.4 53.9mm while the 2002 – 2010 period of 8 years had a mean of 431.6 58.7mm. The eight years mean rainfall for 20002 – 2008 indicate that the decrease was significantly different (P ≤ 0.05). 

 

Temperatures

The mean monthly temperatures are above the annual mean from the month of October to June except the month of February (Fig. 3). The mean annual temperatures seem to be rising over the last 28 years (Fig. 4). This means increasing evapotranspiration potential in the study area. The mean temperatures were 23.4 0.10c with the 1983 – 92 and 1993-2002 decadals having a mean of 23.2 0.20c and 23.3 0.20c respectively. The Mean for the period between 2003 and 2010 was 23.7 0.20c which is higher than the 1983 – 1992 (23.2 0.20c) period (P ≤ 0.05).


Figure 3. Monthly temperatures for Kibwezi District Kenya (Data from Makindu Meteorological Station)

Figure 4. Annual temperatures for Kibwezi District Kenya (Data from Makindu Meteorological Station)
Constraints to cattle production

Lack of livestock feed during the dry season is the top ranked constraint to livestock production in Kibwezi district (Table 1). Most of the respondents (63%) said that feed shortage normally started from the month of August and ended in November (84%).But as the AEZs become drier, the importance of incidences of diseases and lack of water increases. The livestock feed provision strategies that pastoralists in Southeastern Kenya have used during dry seasons and drought periods are presented in table 2. Buying of feeds and using conserved feeds are the top ranked strategies. However, as the AEZs become drier, the importance of leasing of grazing areas increases. The rankings of constraints that pastoralists in Southeastern Kenya face when providing feed to their livestock during the dry seasons are presented in tables 3. The top ranked constraints are lack of money to buy the feed and the scarcity of the feed to be bought. Rotting of feed and lack of enough storage space and structures become highly ranked constraints in the driest zone (IL6) though not highly ranked in LM and LM5. 

Table 1. Rankings of constraints to cattle production in Kibwezi district Kenya

Constraints

LM4

(n=35)

LM5

(n=42)

IL6

(n=40)

Weighted Score

Combined Zones

(n=117)

Lack of feeds

1

2

1

14

1

High incidences of diseases and pests

2

1

3

12

2

Lack of water

3

3

2

10

3

Small land size

4

4

-

4

4

Poor Markets

5

5

-

2

5

LM4 = Lower Midland: Marginal Cotton zone, LM5 = Lower Midland: Livestock – Millet zone, IL6 = Inner Lowland: Ranching zone


Table 2. Rankings of dry season livestock feed provision strategies in Kibwezi district Kenya

Strategies

LM4

(n=35)

LM5

(n=42)

IL6

(n=40)

Weighted Score

Combined Zones

(n=117)

Buying feeds

1

1

3

13

1

Using conserved feeds

2

2

1

13

1

Leasing grazing areas

4

4

2

8

3

Shifting to distant pastures

3

3

5

7

4

Reducing the number of animals

5

5

4

4

5

LM4 = Lower Midland: Marginal Cotton zone, LM5 = Lower Midland: Livestock – Millet zone, IL6 = Inner Lowland: Ranching zone


Table 3. Rankings of constraints to livestock feed provision during dry seasons in Kibwezi district Kenya

Constraints

LM4

(n=35)

LM5

(n=42)

IL6

(n=40)

Weighted Score

Combined Zones

(n=117)

Lack of money

1

1

4

14

1

Scarcity of feeds to buy

1

2

3

12

2

Rotting of conserved materials

3

3

1

11

3

Lack of storage structures

4

4

2

8

4

Predation by wildlife

5

-

-

1

5

LM4 = Lower Midland: Marginal Cotton zone, LM5 = Lower Midland: Livestock – Millet zone, IL6 = Inner Lowland: Ranching zone

Discussion

The study area experiences moisture deficiency from the month of May to October (6 months). This implies that livestock keepers can produce and conserve feed from the month of November to April (6 months).The grown feed can be used during the months of August to December (5 months) when feed shortage occurs. As recommended by Nassef et al (2009), livestock keepers need to cut and conserve feed materials during the wet season and also plant woody browse species because they keep quality deep into the dry season and droughts (Mogotsi et al 2011). Another important source of dry seasons and drought periods feed is crop residue from failed crops and crop residues. However, these sources of livestock feed are normally overlooked in the ASALs of Kenya. 

The monthly temperatures are above the annual mean during the months of January to May (6 months) and this is the favourable feed growing period. This means that there can be enhanced feed production during these months. Livestock farmers can take advantage of this climatic condition and grow more livestock feed. The long-term annual temperatures seem to be increasing hence this may mean reduced amount of moisture available for feed production. There is need to adopt more tolerant genotypes (plants and animals) and develop and adopt moisture conserving feed producing technologies. 

Buying of feed and using conserved feed are the most important feed provision strategies. Therefore, feed conservation strategies should be encouraged for improved feed provision in drylands. Lack of money and scarcity of feeds to buy are most important constraints. There is need to improve availability of feed and sources of funds to buy the feed. To enhance livestock feeding during dry seasons and drought periods, livestock keepers should also consider selling of surplus animals (Bekele 2008) to reduce the feed demand or conserving enough feed to feed all the animals, whichever is more economical. 


Conclusion


Acknowledgements

We acknowledge funding from the European Union (EU) through the Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid Project (KASAL) and the Director KARI. We further acknowledge academic support given by the University of Nairobi, Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology (LARMAT) and the ASARECA, Regional Universities FORUM. We also acknowledge KARI staff members at Kiboko and the Kibwezi district Akamba community for their assistance and cooperation. 


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Received 20 August 2011; Accepted 27 August 2011; Published 1 September 2011

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