In the past years, world production of ruminant meat and milk has increased considerably, a trend attributed to the increasing demand for livestock products particularly in developing countries. Most of this production increase has been achieved through mixed and landless (intensive) production systems that rely on a mix of concentrates and roughage consisting of such feed resources as forage/fodder crops, crop residues, and other sources of feedstuffs.
In Asia, ruminant production provides livelihoods to a large number of small-scale livestock farmers. With forage crops being the most vital feed resource in any ruminant production system, practical and appropriate technologies in managing and utilizing forage-based feed resources are the key to sustainable ruminant production, as well as in enabling Asian small-scale farmers to cope and survive given the trend toward intensive production systems.
Improved forage crop production is important in ensuring the availability of cost- and nutrition-efficient forage-based feed resources for sustainable ruminant production by small-scale livestock farmers. The most promising forage grasses in the sub-tropics are Napier grass, Pangola grass, and Nile grass. The agricultural traits of these grasses have been considerably improved through years of breeding, leading to the successful development of new improved varieties. While these promising grasses have been mainly developed for ruminant animals in the sub-tropics, they also hold great promise in terms of efficient production of high quality feed in tropical Asia.
Technologies for improving the nutritive values, digestibility and formulation of total mixed rations (TMR) using forage-based resources are also critical in ruminant production. In Taiwan, the Near Infra Red Spectrum (NIRS) method was successfully applied for on-site determination of nutrient compositions of both Pangola grass and Napier grass. This success leads to the easy preparation of the best TMR for ruminant animals. Since the quality of forage is greatly affected by several factors such as grass variety, soil, cultural practices, climate and so on, on-site forage testing is indispensable for the preparation of the best total mixed ration.
Another major concern in ruminant production especially among small-scale Asian farmers is how to mitigate the scarcity of forage crops during the dry season and store the available biomass to meet the feed requirements during lean periods. This can be done by processing the abundant forage resources during the wet season in the form of leaf meals, pelletized processed rations, or forage-based total mixed rations. Hence, it is important to share and exchange practical processing technologies to produce nutrient efficient forage-based TMRs (processed forage or fodder combined with nutrient concentrates in different forms such as compressed or pelleted); efficient storage of forage resources for the dry season; and composition of forage-based feeds that can supply balanced daily required nutrients and additional micro-nutrients to ruminant animals.
Lastly, in view of the increasing demand among consumers for safe and sustainable forms of livestock production systems, the issue on the use of agrochemicals in forage crop production requires immediate attention. One approach to address this concern is the promotion of organic forage production for safe and value-added dairy and meat products under a sustainable soil management system.
In general, this international seminar aims to collect promising and practical technologies for the sustainable and improved production of ruminants by small-scale livestock farmers in Asia, by addressing major issues related to forage-based feed resources. In particular, it shall seek to come up with an integrated technology package covering: sustainable and safe forage crop production, as well as the identification of promising forage grasses indigenously available and/or introduced from other countries; on-site detection of nutrient composition of forage crops and other techniques for efficient nutrient management; and improved and innovative utilization and processing techniques for forage-based feed resources to mitigate the scarcity during the dry season and ensure the availability of forage resources year-round.