Idlib: Cattle breeders turn into corn fodder as cheaper alternative
Enab Baladi – Darkush
“I own land, and I have cows. I planted almost all of my land with corn to feed the animals instead of fodder because it is expensive. We cannot manage ourselves if we rely solely on fodder”.
Idlib countryside-based cattle breeder, Mohammad Deeb Qassem, found a solution to ensure no financial loss due to soaring fodder prices. He planted his land with green corn and turned it into fodder for his cows. It is more beneficial for him as it increases the quantities of milk the cows produce, he told Enab Baladi.
The dramatic rise in feed prices in Idlib, northwest Syria, prompted farmers and livestock breeders to seek less expensive alternatives than ready-made dry feed.
Many farmers in the west of the governorate resorted to cultivating corn fodder, or what is known locally as “silage,” for livestock.
This cultivation has been widespread among livestock breeders, especially in the Orontes River Basin area, for the fertility of arable land with abundant irrigation water from the river.
The price of a bag of fodder (of 50 kg) costs about 23 USD. It is a high price for farmers whose income from milk and its derivatives is not commensurate with the fodder price.
Shredding machines prevent wastage
Coinciding with the activity of cultivating corn in the region with the aim of using it as an alternative to fodder, farmers started making local shredders powered by diesel or gasoline to chop the corn leaves into small pieces so that the cows can feed on them.
The process is now done contrary to the old method when farmers were serving unchopped leaves, which could cause waste because cows would eat the leaves and the juicy part of the corn stalk while throwing away the other parts.
With the shredder, the cows can eat easy-to-chew whole corn plants, according to the breeder, Mohammad Deeb Qassem. He added that the corn plant, when chopped, may contain the corn seeds, which the shredder also chops; these seeds are beneficial to the health of cows and the quantities of milk they produce.
Despite the cost of planting, watering, fertilizing, and chopping corn, planting corn has become the most economical method, according to several breeders Enab Baladi had met.
Silage is fresh fodder
Silage (corn fodder) is considered the closest to fresh feed in terms of quality, as silage maintains the nutritional value of protein, carbohydrates, and carotene in the green matter to a better degree, compared to converting green fodder into dry feed.
Corn plants are used with the production of silage when in the late milk phase or early dough phase, with a lifespan of 80 to 90 days. The productivity of an acre of maize at the age of 85 days can reach about 25 tons of green matter.
The animal and livestock sector in all Syrian governorates, and Idlib in particular, is suffering a lack of support from the controlling government entities. However, certain organizations provide the support that covers only a small part of the needs of breeders, while some of them only offer support limited to annual vaccinations.
Livestock breeding in Idlib governorate is one of the most important sectors providing employment opportunities for the population, especially those displaced from the northern countryside of Hama and southern Idlib, as well as the southern countryside of Aleppo. The decline in the profession significantly affects their livelihood.
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