Dual-purpose crops in Senegal improve milk and livestock production

In Senegal, AICCRA is demonstrating feed formulas that have been adapted to maintain or increase milk and meat production in the dry seasons.

Like the Sahelian countries, Senegalese agriculture is of the mixed type where animals play a central role in restoring soil fertility, but also in agricultural work and in the household economy.

Despite the importance of animals in production systems, their diet remains largely dependent on the productivity of natural pastures and, secondarily, on crop residues.

In the rainy season, for example, production performance (milk and meat) is high thanks to the good quality of the feed, which is itself favored by abundant vegetation.

In contrast, during the dry season, livestock suffer from malnutrition and malnutrition due to the disappearance and impoverishment of the grass cover and bush fires.

Milk production is drastically reduced compared to the rainy season and considerable weight loss is recorded on the animals.

In response to these challenges, the AICCRA team in Senegal is working on the demonstration of feed formulas adapted to maintain, or even increase, the zootechnical performance and milk and meat production of animals in the dry season.

The objective is to encourage large-scale adoption of these formulas.

These activities are part of the integrated agriculture-livestock approach advocated by Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) in Senegal to improve local livestock habitat, nutrition, and health during the dry season.

This approach aims to demonstrate how such improvement can significantly enhance milk production and/or weight gain of cattle and sheep, and even their reproduction.

Feed ration formulas are formulated based on crop residues, without any external inputs, to improve the diet of stalled animals for cattle, sheep, and goat fattening or for milk production.

The organic manure collected from the stables (manure, urine, and animal waste) is used as compost to improve the fertility of the fields.

This model of sustainable agriculture-livestock integration is therefore a real opportunity to improve the socio-economic conditions of rural populations in a sustainable manner.

 Figure 1: Model of agriculture-livestock integration for a sustainable improvement of food and nutritional security for humans and animals in Senegal

Why interconnect crops and livestock?

An agro-ecological principle, crop-livestock integration is an agricultural practice that consists of combining agricultural production (crops) with livestock in the same system. This approach is based on using the complementarity of the two activities to improve the productivity and sustainability of the system.

"By integrating livestock into agricultural production, producers can benefit from many advantages, such as the use of livestock residues as fertilizer for crops, diversification of income sources through the sale of animal products such as meat and milk, and the use of animals for other agricultural activities."

Fafa Sow, Researcher, Senegal Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA)

In addition to this, according to Sow, this system can also help improve soil quality while avoiding soil degradation and increasing the organic matter and nutrients available for crops. Nevertheless, its adoption is not without challenges.

Farmers need to be trained in good agricultural practices and production management techniques.

They must also have access to quality seeds, animal feed and veterinary care to guarantee the health of the animals and hope for performance in terms of milk and meat production.

To achieve this, AICCRA has relied on the use of several crop varieties adapted to climate change, including the dual-purpose forage cowpea, which is now very popular for animal production in the project's intervention areas.

Forage cowpea experimentation field for livestock and food at the Méouane-Thiès technology park (Senegal)

Dual-purpose cowpea forage is key to improving livestock performance

During the 2022 agricultural season, AICCRA Senegal has been experimenting with improved cowpea seed varieties adapted to climate change. Producers judged the performance of these new varieties to be satisfactory, particularly variety 58-74, during a field visit during the farmers' exchange and experience-sharing days. In addition to its interest for human consumption, this variety has a foliage quality that makes it attractive for animal feed.

"In addition to the vital importance of this variety of cowpea for food, it is also a legume that can fix and transform atmospheric nitrogen into mineral fertilizer thanks to its symbiosis with soil bacteria (rhizobia) and sustainably improve land fertility, and consequently the yields of rotational crops."

Aliou Faye, AICCRA focal point at ISRA

According to Faye, the widespread cultivation of cowpea for fodder will meet the growing need for animal feed in a context of high population growth and urbanization.

It will also provide an economic opportunity for individual farmers and communities in general. Variety 58-74, in particular, has economic potential for large-scale seed producers.

Moreover, with these agricultural technologies, which are crucial today in achieving food and nutritional sovereignty for humans and animals, "we are well on our way to integrating agriculture and livestock," hopes Nadine Worou, Coordinator of AICCRA Senegal.

"For us, the interest is to see how this technology can contribute to food security in order to improve animal production, milk and meat," she says.

The AICCRA project aims to improve grain yields and the production of quality fodder for livestock. Crop residues and tops are used to produce feed rations for livestock, allowing for sustained and profitable livestock production throughout the year.

Agropastoralists are trained in crop residue-based feed rationing and manure composting techniques during the rainy season and off-season activities to improve the economy, nutrition, and food security of rural households.

"This circular system that allows more energy for lactating animals during the dry season or optimum weight gain for only 75 days is a sure way for agropastoralists to multiply their income-generating activities," adds Sow.

Suckler cow at the breeding technology park in Méouane set up by the AICCRA Senegal project

Some promising results

With the nutritional formulations that the AICCRA project has promoted in Méouane, for example, based on agricultural residues and fodder, including the 58-74 cowpea variety, positive results have been obtained on animal production performance. "The results are more than satisfactory and promising," says Fafa Sow. For, in only 2 months of experimentation, "we have observed in small ruminants, especially in rams, a body gain of 15 kilograms, at a rate of 200g/day. Better still, in suckling cows, an improvement in milk production was noted, going from 400ml to 1.5 L/day, with the same food rations," he says.


Nadine Worou - AICCRA Senegal Coordinator

Aliou Faye -  CERAAS Researcher / AICCRA focal point at ISRA

Akinseye Mathew Folorunso - ICRISAT Researcher based at CERAAS

Fafa Sow - ISRA Researcher responsible for AICCRA breeding program

Lamine Diedhiou - Communications Specialist, AICCRA Senegal