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Improving farmer profits from beef cattle by using dry land forage production systems in Timor-Leste


The objectives of this SRA were to (a) develop capacity of local staff to undertake systems research, (b) define the requirements to successfully conduct the envisaged beef systems research, (c) test the relative benefits of forage-only vs forage-food crop production systems, (d) pilot successful cattle production systems that have variable reliance on public land forage, and (e) facilitate adoption of tree legume based feeding systems in dry land areas of Timor-Leste.

One senior Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) staff had been assigned to coordinate project activities. One full time Indonesian project officer and one junior MAF officer were working together to lead the implementation of project activities. They were assisted by three district staff (from Liquica and Bobonaro districts) and three final year students from the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL). They were trained and mentored regularly by the Consortium of Large Ruminant Research Indonesia to enable them to successfully implement project activities.

A tree legume based feeding system was established at the MAF Loes Research Centre at Liquica District and was effectively used as a demonstration site. 12 young Bali bulls were used at Loes Research Centre to demonstrate good cattle production system using cut-and-carry stall feeding. They were fed leaves of the tree legume Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena) ad libitum, 75% leucaena+25% corn stover or 50% leucaena + 50% corn stover. Live weight of the cattle was measured on a weekly basis. The results showed that bulls fed 100% leucaena grew at 0.52 kg/day; replacing leucaena with 25 and 50% corn stover can still result in moderate live weight gain (0.46 and 0.37 kg/day respectively). These results provided options for farmers to feed fattening cattle depending on availability of leucaena. This demonstration was also used to train MAF staff and farmers.

34 farmers participated in this project and were trained and exposed to the tree legume based feeding demonstration to improve their awareness of the importance of planting high quality feeds to improve cattle productivity. The project assisted them with  establishment of tree legumes (leucaena and sesbania) on their own land and monitored their use. More than 15,000 tree legume seedlings (90% leucaena and 10% sesbania) were distributed to farmers during the wet season. It is expected that new farmers will learn the benefit of the crop-forage-cattle system once they see examples of successful farmers nearby. The project team were regularly monitoring all participating farmers to identify factors affecting adoption and reasons for farmers adopting / or not adopting the innovation.

Farmers who were successful in adopting the tree legume based feeding systems tended to be those who had male cattle for fattening, have had experience in feeding cattle using cut-and-carry or live close to farmers who already fed cattle by cut-and-carry and work their farms intensively.