Livestock Research for Rural Development 17 (6) 2005 Guidelines to authors LRRD News

Citation of this paper

On farm dairy cattle feeding experience in eastern zone of Tanzania

P Y Kavana and B S J Msangi*

Livestock Research Centre, PO Box 5016, Tanga, Tanzania,
*Ministry of Water and Livestock Development, Livestock Research Department,
P.O. Box 2066, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


A study was conducted to evaluate the potential of feed resources in smallholder dairy farming in Eastern Zone of Tanzania. 

Results indicated that pasture and forage plants available could support milk production at a level of 5 to 6 litres/cow/day. However it was envisaged that seasonal decrease in milk production was caused by low availability of forage (<30 kg/cow/day) during scarcity periods. Further observations indicated that full potential for milk production from crossbred dairy cows has not yet been realized in Eastern Zone of Tanzania. Economic analysis indicated that aiming at higher gross income from milk production could not necessarily result into realization of high gross margins. This study envisaged that sustainability of smallholder dairy farming in peri-urban areas is in jeopardy as farmers rely on natural pasture without full control of the sources.

It was recommended that there is a need to develop supplementary feeding strategies to boost smallholders' milk production and consequently reduce the gap between actual and potential milk produced by crossbred dairy cows.

Key words: Crossbred dairy cows, feed resources, smallholder dairy farmers, supplementary feeding


Natural pasture species in the communally owned land have been the main source of feed for ruminant livestock in Eastern zone of Tanzania (Msanga 1997; Msangi 2001). However, bimodal distribution of rainfall in some areas within the zone results in uneven seasonal growth and availability of pasture. Seasonal availability of pasture leads to fluctuating milk production. With the increasing demand for food to cater for human population increase there is a need to increase and stabilize dairy animal productivity throughout the year. There is also a need to set aside land for livestock production in urban planning so as to sustain urban and peri-urban dairy farming. It is important to appreciate that communal grazing lands in towns and cities are narrowed by urbanization. Communal grazing lands alone cannot be expected to provide pasture and forage to support increase in milk production in the future. Establishment of pasture for peri-urban dairy production will be inevitable in future.

Endeavours to establish feeding systems that are based on established pasture should consider the necessary requirements. Before pastures are cultivated an assessment should be made of the extent to which productivity is likely to be increased, the amount of capital needed, the livestock system which is intended, availability of labour, management expertise and perhaps the attitude of farmers on pasture development (Aucamp 2000). It is essential before embarking on a pasture development programme to view the forage resource of a venture holistically so that species can be selected to meet identifiable needs within the specific forage and livestock under consideration. A complete inventory of the forage situation on any venture first needs to be undertaken to identify the weak points in forage flow. Then the pasture development programme needs to be targeted specifically at these weak points.

Evaluation of available feed resources in Eastern Zone of Tanzania is concentrated on laboratory analyses and not enough information of the quality of the resources is available in the literature (FAO 1981). Little has been done to relate the estimated quality of naturally occurring feeds with the performance of the animals on farms. On-farm evaluation of available feed resources involving animal performance could provide an indication of the main constraint in a particular livestock-feeding regime. Based on experience gained in that evaluation possible manipulations could be deduced to improve animal productivity and consequently households' living standards.


To evaluate the potential of feed resources commonly used by smallholder dairy farmers in Eastern Zone of Tanzania.

Material and methods

Field visit and selection of farmers

Transect walk was conducted in several parts of Kibaha and Morogoro districts to describe the most common feed resources available. Farmers' meetings were conducted in each district to introduce the purpose of the study to farmers. Contact farmers were selected through District Agricultural Extension Offices. Fifteen contact farmers were selected in each district.

Pasture species

Common grasses and legumes pasture species were collected from roadsides, fallow and common lands, and feed bundles in homesteads. Identification of species was done by scientists at the Livestock Research Centre. Forage samples were taken from feed bundles in homesteads for determination of dry matter, in-vitro dry matter and organic matter digestibility, and estimation of metabolizable energy. Metabolizable energy of forage was estimated according to McDonald et al (1995).

Monitoring studies

Frequent farm visits (once in a month) were conducted by scientists from the Livestock Research centre while weekly visits were conducted by Livestock Field Officers from District Agriculture and Livestock Development Office (DALDO) in Kibaha and Morogoro. Farm evaluation data sheets were used to evaluate the farm during each visit.

Estimation of feed offered to the herd

Quantities of forage offered to the herd were measured on the day of the visit. To avoid biased observation, visits were done on an ad hoc basis. The information collected was used to depict the seasonal availability of forage across the year. Forage quality scores were 1, 2 and 3 (i.e., poor, medium and good, respectively). Concentrate fed to the animals was measured during visits of both scientists and field officers.

Records on daily milk yields

Daily milk yields were recorded by farmers while ad hoc Livestock Field Officers' visits were used to crosscheck the validity of the data. Daily milk yield was used as an indication of quality and amount of feed offered to the lactating animals.

Statistical analysis

Analysis of data was conducted by using the Statistical Analysis System (SAS 1999) computer program. Descriptive statistics data were used to draw graphs in Microsoft Excel.

Bio-economics analysis

Determination of biological and economical values that resulted from feeding practices was done according to Quiroz et al (2005).

Results and discussion

The study indicated that peri-urban dairy farming in Eastern Zone of Tanzania mainly involves retired officers, civil servants and businessmen/women who regard a dairy enterprise as one major source of income in their livelihoods. Communal lands that include riverbanks, dam edges, flood plains and fallow lands were found to be major source of dairy animals' feed in the system. Very few farmers possessed pasture plots for their dairy animals. The tendency of relying on communal lands as major source of dairy animals' feed jeopardises sustainability of peri-urban dairy farming in Eastern Zone of Tanzania. Dairy farmers are greatly affected once city or town councils impose different policies on utilization of open spaces (communal lands). The potential grass and legume feed resources observed include Panicum species, Pennisetum purpureum, Cynodon species, Rottboelia exaltata, Leucaena leucocephala, Morus alba, Ipomea batata, Chloris gayana, Tripsacum laxum, Calopogonia muconoides, Stizolobium deeringianum, Urochloa pullulans, Bothriochloa radicans, Bothriochloa insculpta, Pennisetum polystachyon, maize stover and rice straw. Pooled results of chemical analyses of common feed resource used in smallholder dairy farms are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Dry matter, chemical composition, in-vitro dry matter and organic matter digestibility, and metabolizable energy of forage fed to dairy animals



Dry matter, %


Crude protein, % in DM


Ash, % in DM


In-vitro dry matter digestibility, %


In-vitro organic matter digestibility, %


Metabolizable energy, MJkgDM-1


The results shown in Table 1 indicate that the forage fed to dairy animals was of moderate quality.  A medium quality forage has digestible organic matter ranging from 55 to 70% (Meissner et al 2000).

Figure 1.  Quality of forage fed to crossbred dairy cows in smallholder
dairy farms (score 1 to 3; poor, medium and good)

The trend observed in Figure 1 indicate that farmers' assessments of forage quality were in agreement with laboratory analysis results. Forage quality scores were between 2 and 3, which implied that the forage fed to dairy animals was of medium quality. This study indicated that farmers could be able to judge on quality of forage based on visual observation. This experience suggests that farmers could easily apply recommended feed supplementation strategies depending on the quality of the forage in a particular period of the year.

Figure 2. Abundance of forage in smallholder dairy farms

The trend observed in Figure 2 indicates that low amounts of forage (< 30 kg/cow/day) were provided to lactating dairy cows from January to April and between September and November. Forage is normally abundant during long and short rainy seasons. Low provision of forage material could also be reflected in the performance of the cows (Figure 3). Lower levels of milk (< 6 litres/cow/day) were produced within the same periods. This observation entails the need to develop feed supplementation strategies to reverse the trend in milk scarcity periods for the purpose of improving milk production for household food security as well as income generation to households. Unfortunately, the periods of milk scarcity observed during the study coincide with high cash needs to meet school requirements for children studying in private schools. Boosting production during these periods could assist smallholder dairy farmers to meet school requirements for their children after vacations.

Figure 3. Milk production in smallholder dairy farms

Results shown in Table 2 indicate that the feeding regime practiced by smallholder dairy farmers in Morogoro enabled exploitation of 83% of the animals' potential for milk production. 

Table 2. Bio-economics of crossbred dairy cattle feeding regime in Morogoro and Kibaha Districts (# Data generated after running the computer program "Livestock Feeding Simulation Model (LIFE-SIM)" developed by Quiroz et al 2005)



Morogoro (Inland)

Kibaha (along the coast)

Potential milk production

2683 kg/lactation

2683 kg/lactation

Actual milk production

2229 kg/lactation

1899 kg/lactation

Gross income

380144 Tsh./cow/lactation

527613 Tsh/cow/lactation

Total cost

285811 Tsh./cow/lactation

357032 Tsh./cow/lactation

Gross margin

140943 Tsh./cow/lactation

170581 Tsh./cow/lactation

Price of milk

278 Tsh./kg of milk

278 Tsh./kg of milk

Daily gross income

107 Tsh./kg of milk

90 Tsh./kg of milk

Cost per kg of milk

171 Tsh

188 Tsh.

Income/cost ratio



Manure excretion #

1026 kg DM/cow/year

1148 kg DM/cow/year

Nitrogen in excreta#



Total methane emission#

105 litres/cow/year

90 litres/cow/year

Gross income accrued from milk production was higher in smallholder farms of Kibaha than of Morogoro. However, total cost of milk production was higher in Kibaha than in Morogoro leading to a smaller difference in gross margins as compared to the difference in gross income between the two districts. This observation indicates that aiming for higher gross income could not necessarily result in realization of higher gross margins as well. The results of  running the computer program known "Livestock Feeding Simulation Model (LIFE-SIM)" (Quiroz et al 2005) generated data which indicated that the feeding regime practiced in Kibaha district was likely to result in relatively higher excretion of manure, and less methane,  than the feeding regime practiced in Morogoro.  This observation implies that efforts to exploit full production potential of crossbred dairy cows through feeding could also be associated with some detrimental effects to the environment. Evaluation of different feeding scenarios for improvement of milk production is necessary for identification of the best scenario with regard to multidisciplinary factors.



Aucamp A J 2000 The place and role of cultivated pasture in South Africa. In: Pasture Management in South Africa (Editor: Neil Tainton). University of  Natal Press, pp 1 - 6.

FAO 1981 Tropical Feeds. Feed Information Summaries and Nutritive Values (Editor: Bo Gohl) FAO Animal Production and Health Series No. 12 FAO, Rome, Italy. 

McDonald P, Edwards R A and Greenhalgh J F D 1995 Animal Nutrition. Longman Singapore Publishers Pte Ltd, pp 607.

Meissner H H, Zacharias P J K and O'Reagain P J 2000 Forage quality (Feed Value). In (Editor: Neil Tainton) Pasture Management in South Africa. University of Natal Press, pp 66 - 88.

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Msangi B S J 2001 Studies in smallholder dairying along the coast of Tanzania with special reference to influence of feeding and supplementation on reproduction and lactation in crossbred cows, PhD Thesis. The University of Reading, United Kingdom.

Quiroz R, León-Velarde C, Osorio J, Potts M and Gonzalez E 2005 Simulation models to assess year-round feeding strategies in smallholder crop-livestock systems: Use of sweet potato. Paper presented on training workshop organized by International Potato Centre-NRM Division, International Livestock Research Institute and System-wide Livestock Institute, 28 February - 4 March, 2005 Nairobi-Kenya.

SAS 1999 SAS User's Guide Statistics, SAS System for Windows Version 6.12. Cary North Carolina SAS Institute Inc.

Received 17 March 2005; Accepted 13 May 2005; Published 1 June 2005

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