Effect of Natural calamities on livestock sector and management

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Effect of Natural calamities on livestock sector and management.

Dr. Kedar Karki

Livestock plays a central role in the natural resource-based livelihood of the vast majority of the population especially in developing countries. “Livestock in these countries are the poor people’s ATM. In good times people build up their herds and in bad times they sell livestock to generate cash”. It accounts for 40% of the gross value of the agricultural production globally  and this figure is likely to go up, as the demand for livestock products is increasing rapidly with the increase in income and urbanization. However, in Nepal it contributes 30 % share in agriculture and allied gross domestic product (GDP) and provides stability to family income especially in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country.  Livestock are the best insurance against the vagaries of nature due to drought, famine and other natural calamities.  But nature is not free of calamities and affects both human as well as animal’s life. Animals who survived from these calamities are threatened by non-availability of feed and shelter. Like other agricultural crops, fodder fields are also completely destroyed. These feed deprived and shelter less animals are stressed and immune-suppressed, thus become susceptible to contagious diseases. Outbreaks of fatal diseases such as Hemorrhagic Septicemia (HS), Black Quarter (BQ) can occur which will further aggravate the death toll of livestock. Every year natural disasters challenge agricultural production. Agricultural impacts from natural events and disasters most commonly include: contamination of water bodies, loss of harvest or livestock, increased susceptibility to disease and destruction of irrigation systems and other agricultural infrastructure. These impacts can have long lasting effects on agricultural production including crops, forest growth, and arable lands, which require time to mature. Thus learning how to prepare for and recover from these natural events and disasters can decrease their long-term effects on agriculture as well as on environment.


Feeding technologies to be used during disaster: Different feeding technologies developed earlier have capacity to meet the challenge of feed scarcity or quality improvement to correct malnutrition.

Concentrate mixture supplement: Feeding of straws for a short period of time may be alright for survival but for production purpose, straw must be supplemented with better feeds. Supplements such as minerals or proteins are used to enhance rumen fermentation leading to increased intake and digestibility.

Urea treatment of straws: Urea treatment of straws is the only chemical treatment with practical potential under field conditions. Urea-treated straw saves on concentrate feeding, increases milk yield by 1-2 liters/animals/day, offers better economic returns to the farmers and may help reducing land area required for green fodder production. For processing of one tone straw, 40 kg Urea dissolved in 350-500 liters of water should be spread on the straws.

Urea molasses mineral block (UMMB): The bulk of the diet for ruminants available commonly in scarcity as in drought in India consists of fibrous feeds mainly crop residues (straws and stovers) and dried grasses. These feeds are deficient in protein and other essential nutrients. Owing to excessive lignification, the digestibility and intake of crop residues is low. These blocks can easily be stored, transported and distributed as against the common bulky diets available in scarcity. The following ingredients were used in preparing UMMB: molasses 38 parts; urea 10 parts; Portland cement 10 parts; wheat bran 40 parts; salt, 1 part; mineral mixture 1 part; vitablend 1g/100 kg. The above-mentioned ingredients were mixed in the following order: water, urea, salt, mineral mixture, vitablend, cement, molasses and wheat bran. Water was added at the rate of 1/3rd of the weight of cement to wet it completely. The mixture was then transferred to specially designed moulds to form blocks. The blocks were allowed to settle for a period of 24 h.

Silage technology for scarcity period: The process is very simple and involves spraying of urea solution uniformly over the straw and storing it for a specific time period.  Ensiling paddy straw, fruit factory waste and poultry droppings. A large amount of fruit waste is going waste every day. These fruit by products are generally rich source of soluble carbohydrate containing little amount of protein containing sufficient amount of soluble carbohydrate to facilitate microbial fermentation. Therefore, these byproducts which cause a great disposal problem can be ensiled with paddy straw and poultry droppings (50 parts paddy straw, 25 parts fruit waste, 25 parts poultry droppings). Paddy straw should be chaffed and mixed uniformly with other two components. Such silo should be kept for 4 weeks at least after that it is ready for feeding of animals. Ensiling paddy straw and poultry droppings: Paddy straw, poultry dropping, green grass and molasses in the ratio of 40:40:10:10 on dry matter basis form very good silage and is highly relished by the animals.


Crop residues: Crop residue available in abundance can be used for the feeding of livestock. As it contains negligible digestible protein and supply little amount of energy but it satisfies the appetite of the animal. However, treated crop residues can form a good maintenance diet for livestock.

Feeds not to be fed exclusively during such calamities: In the scarcity conditions animals do not get enough feeds for eating and they mostly pass through under fed conditions due to non-availability and scarce supply of feed-stuffs. At the end of such scarcity period, animals usually develop craving for food and eat uncontrolled access to herbage. Thus, it is desired to be careful in feeding the farm animals after the flood water has receded. Newly growing grasses contain high concentration of nitrite and nitrate and they should be fed in small quantity mixed with dry roughages like paddy straw and wheat straw. New tree leaves contain high level of hydrocyanic acid. Due to its softness animals eat larger quantity and occasionally suffer from toxicity. Such tree leaves should not be fed as a sole ration and should be incorporated in straws for partial supply of nutrients.

Pre-disaster and post disaster feed management

Mitigation: Mobile fodder depots, Loans from banks at cheaper rates for purchase of fodder must be made available. Professional approach of feed management, Coordination of Disaster Management Institutes with animal nutrition faculty.

Preparedness: Creation of feed and fodder bank, pasture improvement and application of fodder conservation techniques, Management of stocking rates Promotion of seeds that flourish from the first irrigation and introduction of drought-resistant and water logging tolerant plants varieties.

Creation of feed & fodder bank: It is an important asset to meet the needs of livestock during drought and floods. The following types of feeds and fodder can be stored for meeting the above emergencies. The feed ingredients which become unfit for human consumption can be spared for livestock use & stored in feed banks either in silos or stores after testing it for aflatoxins contents, pesticides and drug residues. Grasses from periphery of forest area, wastelands and farmlands may be harvested and stored as hay in briquettes and high density stacks. Crop residues of the major cereals like rice and wheat straws, coarse cereals, legumes, haulms left after removing grains from the crops may be stored in these banks. This programme is used to meet the fodder needs during extreme winters and snow covered seasons.

Preventive measures against epidemics and diseases: There are certain diseases which are more common during drought and flood periods so these diseases need more attention so as to prevent its outbreak. The most common diseases are Foot and Mouth disease, Hemorrhagic septicaemia, Black Quarter, Anthrax, Enterotoxaemia, Coliobacillus, Surra, Babesiosis, Thelaeriosis, Anaplasmosis, Pox disease, Mastitis, Brucellosis, Ring worm, Ascariasis, Fascioliasis, Microfilariasis,Tick infestation and mange etc.To control and prevent these diseases, following measures are to be adopted:

  1. Vaccination: In natural disaster affected conditions animals become more susceptible to diseases due to stress and thus all vaccination schedules should be followed.
  2. Deworming: To check the parasitic infestation regular deworming should be followed.
  3. Disinfection of animal sheds by insecticidal spray: This can be done with the compounds like lime powder, alum, 2% formalin, 4% NaOH, 1% KMnO4 , sodium bicarbonate, Bleaching powder, Copper sulphate, phenol gases like HCN, formaldehyde etc. For control of ticks, flies, mosquitoes, lice etc. various insecticides like methrin, melathion, aldrin, etc. may be used for this purpose.
  4. Carcass Disposal by Burning or Burial: During disaster period there is heavy mortality in animals due to heat stroke, dehydration, infectious and non-infectious diseases. As infected animals may spread the diseases to other animals, hence proper disposal of the carcass is essential. The carcass can be disposed by following either burning or burial method.

Conclusion: Natural calamities especially when they are severe can create a very stressful situation for livestock farming. Being proactive and seeking management strategies to help alleviate as many of the negative impacts of the calamities as possible will help compensate for limited forage supplies. Feeding management during disaster has to be given utmost care to prevent starvation. Technology applications like concentrate mixture, urea treatment, and urea molasses mineral block has the capacity to meet the challenge. Unconventional feeds and wastes also have the capacity to mitigate the challenge. Proper veterinary aid is necessary to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.


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