Coping Strategies to Feed Shortage, Farmers Perception, and Available Practices for Hydroponic Fodder Production as Feed of Dairy Cows in Selected Areas of Northwestern Ethiopia
A cross-sectional single visit multi-purpose survey was conducted in Gondar, Mekele, and Tachi-Gayint to understand the suitability of hydroponic fodder technology to urban and peri-urban dairy farms. A total of 436 households who own at least one crossbred dairy cow were randomly selected and interviewed using semi-structured questioner. The study identified zero-grazing as the main feeding system practiced by large proportion of dairy owners. Conserved crop residue and hay were the main bulk feed available in both dry and rainy season followed by agro-industrial byproduct in dry season and green feed in rainy season. Feed shortage was the primary problem impacting dairy production. Purchasing feed, culling less productive animals, and feeding less or using alternative feed were the copping strategies employed for feed scarcity. Hydroponic fodder production practice was low (6.9%) due to lack of awareness, high cost of seed, and labor shortage. However, greater proportion (56.7%) of dairy cattle owners having experience of using hydroponic fodder witnessed that it improved milk production, calf growth, and animal’s body condition. Unlike urban respondents who have suspicion on the feasibility of the technology, large proportion (83.2%) of peri-urban consider production of hydroponic fodder as a good opportunity and ready to grow if the technology is cost effective and proven to increase milk production without affecting animal health. Although majority of the required facilities for hydroponic fodder production exists in the study area, seed cost and information on the effect of the fodder on productivity and health of animals limited its wider adoption and use. Hence, future research should focus on identifying cost effective technologies and knowledge on effect of feeding such fodder on animal productivity and health.