Azolla catching up as multi-animal feed in the district

Dairy farmers who were till recently apprehensive about it are trying it as an alternative feed

The Department of Animal Husbandry is popularising the cultivation of Azolla as a multi-animal feed. It is slowly catching up with the dairy farmers who until recently were apprehensive about trying it as an alternative feed. With the state government taking the lead in educating the farmers on the multiple benefits of plantation and promoting it as an alternate feed, farmers are now adopting it and reaping its benefits.

Animal Husbandry Joint Director D. Venkateswara Rao told The Hindu that for the first time the government has sanctioned 85 Azolla units for implementation in 32 mandals in the district. More would follow once the farmers are successful with it. It is a highly nutritive and cheap organic feed substitute for dairy cattle, poultry, pig and fish. It is also used as a bio-fertilizer for wetland paddy. The multi-animal feed is rich in protein and is also found to contain essential minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese apart from appreciable quantities of vitamins A and B12. It contains almost all the essential amino acids, biopolymers and B carotene.

The bio-chemical constitution along with the rapid multiplication rate makes Azolla ideal organic feed substitutes for livestock. They can easily digest the floating fern on the water due to high protein content and low lignin content. Experience of farmers suggested that cows and buffaloes which consume Azolla recorded an increase of milk production by 15-20 percent. The quality of milk was also found to be good and the veterinary assistants had found animals feeding on Azolla to be healthy. Similarly chickens feeding on the fern were said to be registering an increase in egg production. Sheep, goat, pig and rabbit have found a new fodder in Azolla. For growing the plant an artificial water body like a tank of 2 meters length and 1 metre width and 20 cm depth is to be dug on earth. The pit is covered with plastic gunnies to prevent the growth of roots.

Then a plastic sheet is spread over the plastic sheet. About 1-2 kg of fresh pest and disease-free Azolla seed culture is inoculated in the pit. In 7-10 days about 1 to 1.5 kg of Azolla fern can be harvested every day. It should be well washed with water before feeding to livestock to get rid of cow dung smell.

The department of Animal Husbandry has also sanctioned 25 silage pits to farmers in the district for producing excellent silage which is produced from maize, sorghum or a mixture of two.

Several methods and systems of silage storage have been successfully used including a horizontal bunker or trench silos. Plastic bag silage systems have also been developed.

The trench silos are made by digging a long trench in an elevated area of well drained soil. Concrete floor is desirable to eliminate soggy soil conditions that reduce silage quality and cause difficulties in loading or unloading silos. The feed can be stored in the pits for three months.

Cows and buffaloes which consume Azolla recorded an increase of milk production

Sheep, goat, pig and rabbit have found a new fodder in Azolla

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