By Angie Veneracion

THe Bureau of Animal Industry Livestock Research and Development Division (BAILRDD) recently conducted a seminar on Forage Establishment, Management, and Utilization at Aven Nature’s Farm in Baliuag, Bulacan.

The seminar was held at the request of the Association of Rabbit Meat Producers (ARaMP) Inc. With this seminar, the association aims to augment the knowledge of its members on the proper care and nutrition of rabbits; it is hoped that this will eventually lead to increased productivity and improved animal health. With increased production, ARaMP hopes to be able to meet the growing demand for rabbits as pets, laboratory animals, breeders, and meat sources.

Albert Astillero, resource person from BAI-LRDD, shown conducting a seminar for ARaMP members.

BAI-LRDD resource person Albert F. Astillero shared that forage—the cheapest feed resource for animals—requires management, and that high yields of forage may be achieved with high soil fertility levels. As the Philippines is a tropical country, local forage (which includes grasses, legumes, and broadleaf non-legumes) are abundantly available. However, there is still a need for the establishment of forage nurseries and plantations to ensure a continuous supply of feed for livestock.

Astillero pointed out that properly managed forage plantations will provide good quality feed, and that this will resulting in better nutrition of livestock. Animal growers must also be educated as to which parts of the plants are edible for particular livestock, since these animals, especially rabbits, have the tendency to be selective. Factors such as digestibility and nutritive value (affected by plant part, age, and specie), and palatability (affected by specie properties pertaining to taste and hairiness) must be considered to determine the plant most suitable for a particular animal.

Photographs from the BAI-LRDD files (provided by Astillero and Jaime San Buenaventura) were included to help association members recognize the forage plants and caution them about their various properties. These plants included ipil-ipil, indigofera, kakawati, and signal grass, as these have toxins and may be harmful or have adverse effects on rabbits and other animals.

Forage may be integrated in plantations and planted under coconut trees.They have several uses on top of providing a source of feed to livestock. They may also be used as living fences, trellises for climbing plants, and ground cover that can help prevent soil erosion and degradation. Some forage plants are nitrogen fixers and can increase soil fertility. They also provide other agricultural products like firewood and charcoal. The sale of these plants’ seeds, seedlings, and planting materials can be a source of additional income to the animal raiser.

Astillero pointed out that animals need to be provided with good food for them to grow and be healthy. Furthermore, they need to be fed well to be able to produce meat and reproduce. Grasses can provide the quantities of food animals need for energy, while legumes being the source of protein provide the feed quality.

Proper feeding management requires good quality feed, a sufficient water supply source, and avoidance of abrupt changes in feeds. Astillero also pointed out that for any animal raising enterprise to be successful, the following are needed:improved breed, good housing, good nutrition, proper health care, and tender loving care (TLC).

The BAI also provided free stylo seeds to ARaMP for distribution to its members. Studies on stylo being undertaken by BAI-LRDD show that it is a good source of rabbit feeds.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s November 2016 issues.