Feeding systems practiced by IL farmers are mainly based on the use of natural pastures during the rainy season and agricultural by-products and low-cost feed during the dry season.
Natural pastures, in addition to having low carrying capacity, are often inappropriately used and overgrazed resulting to soil degradation, an acceleration of erosion and desertification process, and hence low livestock production and income insecurity.
It is important that farmers consider efficient use of native pastures, crop residues and fibrous agro-industrial by products. However, these feeds do not contain the balance of nutrients needed to support both animal productivity and maintenance.
The supplements needed to balance these feed resources are largely high in protein and arise from a variety of sources such as oil seed cakes and by-products which may not be readily available to the smallholder farmers.
An integrated approach of crop, tree and livestock production ensures nutrient recycling which is an essential component of any farming system contributing to sustainable livestock production and environment management.
Animals can be herded on harvested fields to use crop residues such as cereal straws, dried stalks of maize and sorghum, and groundnut tops. Cultivation of fodder trees and legumes form a good source of protein supplement for livestock and they contribute to the enrichment of soils through nitrogen fixation.
Feed resources such as straws and hay have low intake and nutritional value which can be enhanced through cutting, chopping, grinding and treatment using urea or molasses to increase intake and digestibility.
Given that livestock must have feed all year round and crop growth is determined by weather and rainfall distribution which is not steady due to effects of climate change, conservation of feed resources by making hay and silage forms a good strategy to reduce seasonal variations in feed availability.