Wednesday April 24, 2024

Mineral molasses blocks keep animals healthy, productive

By Jan Khaskheli
June 11, 2019

HYDERABAD: Sangeeta, a livestock farmer in village Faisal Rajar, near Mirpurkhas city showed the small and big animals licking mineral molasses blocks (MMBs) to regain nutrients. Herders believe that MMBs help increase animals’ productivity, fertility, and their health.

Presently, herders in desert areas are facing multiple challenges like depleting natural grazing fields and vegetation because of persistent dryness and delayed rainfalls for the past many years. Sangeeta is among a few farmer women in rural Sindh.

Researchers attribute this vegetation loss to climate change, which has badly impacted almost the entire ecosystem of the world.

Surinder, a veterinary practitioner in Mirpurkhas city neighbourhood guides farmers to make this supplementary nutrient for their animals. He has more to explain about the benefits of molasses blocks, a complete mixture of vitamins.

According to him, improving productivity of animals with alternative nutrient feed was important to improve the nutritional status of children under five (U5) and of pregnant and lactating women (PLW). “These milking animals are an important source of providing nutrients to minors and their mothers in rural areas f the province,” he said.

Surinder trains herders frequently in making MMBs as supplementary feed for animals. Local farmers understand the importance of MMBs due to depleting grazing fields and vegetation.

Though the MMBs are a better option for farmers to increase productivity of animals, it is not available in the local market. Thus, farmers are being motivated to manufacture this supplement on their own.

Reports gathered by The News show that there are a few farmers in sugarcane producing areas in Mirpurkhas district, who make MMBs for their animals. They have also shared their success stories about the feed. It is a major by-product of the sugar industry.

Ingredients used in MMBs include urea 800gm, molasses 4500gm, wheat bran 3000gm, mineral mixture 400gm, salt 500gm and cement 800gm. Farmers in different areas use different grains in this process. The technique is to mix the different ingredients in a container and pour the mixture in moulds to solidify into blocks.

“Cattle farmers can arrange this diet for milking animals to have more produce,” Surinder said. “One MMB is enough for a small animal to lick for one month, while for bigger animals it is useful for one week, depending on its size.”

Large animals should be given a block for more than two months, while smaller animals should get it for at least a month. The weight of each block is different, ranging from one kilogram to two kilogram.

Researchers in the field suggest using MMBs for animals in drought-stricken Tharparkar and Umerkot districts, where farmers do not have alternatives to maintain productivity and fertility of their animals due to vegetation loss.

Dr Naresh Kumar, another private veterinary practitioner and lead trainer said it was considered a balanced diet for animals mostly for maintaining their productivity and fertility.

He claims that this new product would specifically benefit lactating and pregnant animals. Farmers normally keep it the MMBs in a wooden box or bucket of dimensions slightly larger than that of the block, which restricts the animal from biting it off. Sometimes they hang it in the centre so the whole herd has access to it.

The block containing most vitamins is hard enough to ensure that the animals get a slow release of nutrients through the licking process. Veterinary practitioners believe that bacteria within animals’ body also change into vitamin to improve health of after taking this unique feed.

It is not costly, but herders need to be aware of this feed to make it at home or their cattle farm. Reportedly, the blocks are used more in Punjab.

To develop linkages with all stakeholders, including those working to improve nutrition among children and lactating mothers, the Sindh government has already introduced Accelerated Action Plan (AAP). Programme for Improved Nutrition in Sindh (PINS), an EU-funded programme for the improvement of nutrition in the province, is also providing support to implement the multi-sector designed AAP.

The programme aims “to sustainably improve the nutritional status of children U5 and of PLW in Sindh in line with the second target indicator of the SDG Goal No2".

The overall AAP aims to reduce stunting from 48 percent to 30 percent in first five years by 2021 and further from 30 percent to 15 percent by 2026.

The specific objective of this programme is to implement AAP livestock component to increase the availability of nutritious diet, targeting poor rural families, and to develop strategies to improve the nutritional status of livestock assets, which includes goats in order to increase the supply of animal protein for targeted households.

Taking a step ahead, PINS, Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam and Sindh Rural Partners Organisation (SRPO) are going to organise a joint event for two days at SAU premises, which may attract experts to discuss and assess the status of nutrition and suggest indigenous mineral molasses block initiative to improve the nutritional status of livestock.

Researchers, women farmers, agriculture and livestock entrepreneurs, experts in the field of animal nutrition, community herders from Badin, Tharparkar, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and Tando Allahyar districts are expected to come to share their experiences.

Livestock farmers and veterinary practitioners call it a unique and effective feed for animals, specifically for those inhabiting the arid zones of the province, including Thar, Achhro Thar, Nara valley, Kachho and Kohistan, which need nutrient feeds for sustainability.