This week, Observatory PhD student John Mutua shared emerging insights from his research at the 8th All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture, Gaborone, Botswana, 26-28 September 2023.

Since livestock are one of the most important assets of people in dryland communities, the quality of the feeds they give to their animals is an important factor to ensure they cope well with threats like droughts. The research in this presentation shows that seasonal variations in feed availabiity and composition are especially important for the quality of feed provided to livestock. Seasonality also has a large influence on the greenhouse gases they emit.

Livestock contribute significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mainly through enteric fermentation and manure management. Feed composition plays a crucial role in both livestock diet quality and emissions. However, feed availability varies seasonally particularly in tropical environments such as Kenya with long dry periods.

This study investigated the influence of seasonal feed variations and relative availability of feed types in Kenya on livestock diet quality and enteric methane (CH4) emissions. Geographical information systems and data sources including crop distribution data, land use information, and nutritive value data were employed to generate livestock diet composition maps. Data from field measurements were used to validate these maps.

Livestock diets varied across the country, with coarse-stemmed cereals and legume crops dominant in mixed rainfed temperate systems, diverse feed resources including cultivated forages in mixed rainfed humid systems, and pasture in mixed rainfed arid and livestock-only systems.

Variability in methane emissions can be attributed to factors such as changes in feed availability and management practices. These results provide evidence that livestock diet quality and methane emissions are influenced by inter- and intra-season variations in feed composition. Consequently, season and location-specific strategies and interventions are necessary to improve livestock feeding practices as part of efforts to reduce methane emissions from livestock.

See the slide presentation