Fodder plants are plants which are grown in order to provide the nutritional needs of animals. They are given to animals in the form of wet, dry, grain or tuber, or silaged. These plants can be grown in agricultural fields as well as they can grow themselves in natural meadows and pastures.
The easiest and cheapest way to meet the nutritional requirements of animals is to feed them with roughage, i.e. weeds obtained from fodder plants. Weeds obtained from fodder plants contain nutrients, mineral and vitamins an animal needs for its gastrointestinal microphlora. Most expenses are related to animal feeds. Therefore, in order for animal husbandry enterprises to make profit, they should themselves produce the feeds to be given to their animals. Today, even the most modern animal husbandry enterprises try to produce their own feeds.
Animal Husbandry Activities, Really Important ?
In countries, the most important means for particularly the rural part of the country is animal husbandry activities. For example in Turkey, there are approximately 10andllion cattle and 32 million sheep and goat. Although Turkey has a prior rank in Europe with this figure, the level of animal food consumption is quite low. Because of animals are generally unproductive, the production of animal products are insufficient.
One of the most important reasons why animals have low productivity is that we don’t feed them well and balanced enough. Researches made have showed that the domestic breeds which are common in countries are two to three times more productive when their feeding and caring environments are improved. Moreover, it is not possible to get high productivity even from an animal with high capacity for productivity unless the feeding and cariplantsironments are improved.
Serious Problems with Pastures
Fodder plants are highly important in animal feeding. Fodder plants should be included in rations as they are economical and necessary for animals. However, even though the number of animals is high, the amount of roughage that is produced is not sufficient. Roughage is produced in natural meadows and pastures as well as obtained from fodder plants planted in agricultural fields. However, the yield obtained from the meadows is quite low as they are used over their capacity and at wrong times. Moreover, there are also serious problems with pastures regarding irrigation, early pasturing and moving. On the other hand, we don’t have satisfactory fodder plant farming at the moment. Calculations show that the amount of roughage is 40% less than required for the feeding of animals. This 40% is met by field plant wastes and particularly cereal straw. However, it is not possible to consider straw as roughage. Straw does not nourish animals. It only creates a sense of fullness in the stomach as it is hard to digest.
Roughage Production should be Increased
In order to feed animals in the way that is required, roughage production should be increased. As meadow-pasture improving is expensive and takes too much time, the first thing to do in order to increase the amount of roughage production is to encourage fodder plant sowing in agricultural fields and increase the yield per unit area. As a result of recent support programs and increase in the awareness of producers, there has been an increase in the fodder plant farming. However, this is not sufficient. While the agricultural fields for fodder plants are increased, there is a need to apply the techniques which will provide more yield per unit area.
The development of fodder plant farming will also help dealing with the erosion problem which has lost all sense of proportions. For example every year, Turkey loses land as thick as 5-10 cm and as large as the surface of Cyprus Island. This results from the fact that Turkey destroys its natural resources and don’t use appropriate rotation systems in agricultural fields.
Rotation Systems can Help
Turkey has to use dry farming method in most of our agricultural lands. It is because the lack of rain in Middle, Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia does not allow humid farming. As the number of irrigated areas is limited, dry farming is preferred. The application commonly used dry farming areas to Fallow-Wheat rotation. In this system, the 50% of the arid meal farming areas is left empty for fallow purposes. Fallow is the worst system in soil and water conservation. Leaving land fallow and particularly bare fallow may result in the occurance of erosional factors. However, using appropriate rotation systems can help reducing the amount of fallow areas. This is only possible by applying the appropriate rotation systems in dry agricultural areas. Instead of fallow-wheat rotation, other rotation systems should be used, in which drought resistant grain legumes and fodder plants are included.
Growing Fodder Plants Prevent Erosion
In Turkey, the total meadow area is approximately 21 million ha. However, these meadows, which are usually on slanting areas, have been widely destroyed. Due to excessive and untimely grazing, cover crops have been lost and what left are thorny grasses and weeds on which the animals cannot graze. For this reason, erosion in meadow areas has increased. In order to improve and benefit more from meadows, fodder plant growing should be developed. By roughage production in agricultural fields, animals can be fed in shelters and thus the pressure on the meadows can be reduced at least for some periods. There are 23 million ha agricultural field in Turkey. 80% of this figure is allocated to cereal cropping and only the 3-4% is for fodder plant production.
Fodder plant production is insufficient regarding the amount of both appropriate areas and production per unit. According to recent statistics in Turkey, the cropping area is 250 thousand ha for lucerne, 220 thousand ha for vetch, 100 thousand ha for sainfoin, approximately 15 thousand ha for silage maize, and there is also a small amount of fodder beet, bitter vetch, grass pea and sorghum-sudangrass growing. On one hand, the cropping areas for these fodder plants should be increased while on the other, new fodder plant varieties should be introduced to our agricultural areas. In addition to lucerne, sainfoin and vetah, we need to begin the farming of some grasses and an alternative sorchidscrops such as Hungarian vetch and Russian vetch, purple clover, crested wheat grass, spotted orchls and meadow fescue.
What about Fodder Plant Cultivation ?
Fodder plant cultivation requires different techniques than cereal and Industrial crops cultivation. Fodder plant cultivation has two important distinctive features. One is that they are densely cropped and the other is that they are harvested earlier for grass purposes. In our world, there is not enough precaution against the weeds occurring in fodder plant field and they are also considered as roughage. However, weeds that occur in the fodder plant fields decrease both yield and nutrients as well as the life of the enterprise. In order to develop fodder plant cultivation and increase the productivity of our animal husbandry, cultivator should grow fodder plants in a more scientific way. In this regard, works carried out on agricultural extension and training gain much more importance.