Effect of Grazing Land Improvement Practices on Herbaceous production, Grazing Capacity and their Economics: Ejere district, Ethiopia

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International Journal of Environmental & Agriculture Research (IJOEAR) ISSN:[2454-1850] [Vol-3, Issue-3, March- 2017]
Page | 1
Effect of Grazing Land Improvement Practices on Herbaceous
production, Grazing Capacity and their Economics: Ejere
district, Ethiopia
Abule Ebro1, Azage Tegegne2, Fekadu Nemera3, Adisu Abera4, Yared Deribe5
1,2,4,5Livestock and Irrigated Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders ProjectInternational Livestock Research Institute
(ILRI), P.O. Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
3Adami Tulu Research Center, P. O. Box, 35, Zeway, Ethiopia
Abstract The effects of different grazing land improvement practices on herbaceous production, grazing capacities and
their economics were studied in Ejere district, west Shoa zone, Ethiopia. Four different treatments, i.e., application of Ure a
and Diammonium phosphate (DAP), cattle manure, wooden ash, and a control/no application) were randomly applied to the
study plots in three replications for each treatmen t. All experimental plots were fenced throughout the study period. The
application of urea and DAP significantly increased grass (3620.86 kg ha-1) and total biomass production (5742.93 kg ha-1).
Of the 6 herbaceous species recorded in th e Urea and DAP plots, four of them we re grasses with Setaria verticellata having
the highest percentage composition (35.54%) while the control plot was dominated by Cyperus rotundus (31.5%) and
Cerastium octandrum (31.5%). Les s land is required to maintain a tropical livestock unit (TLU) in Urea and DAP applied
plots (0.03 ha TLU-1) than in plots applied with other treatments (mean = 0.09 ha TLU -1). Similar to the resu lt of the
biological data, the participants of the grassland day rated the Urea and DAP applied treatment best because of the high
production of grass. Considering total biomass production, application of manure was advantageous to the farmers due to
increased net benefits and the marginal rate of return is above the minimum accetable rate for this sort of treatment. On the
other hand, considering grass production alone, app lication of Urea and DAP was more profitable for farmers as far as
they store and sell it in the dry seasons. In conclusion, we recommend a long-term study to examine the effects of the
different treatments on productivity of grazing lands, herbaceous species composition, grazing capacities, livestock, the
environment, and their economics.
Keywords Ash, grazing land improvement, manure, Urea, DAP.
Ethiopia holds the largest livestock population in Africa estimated at about 54 million heads of cattle, 25.5 million sheep,
24.06 million goats, 0.92 million camels, 4.5 million donkeys, 1.7 million horses, 0.33 million mules, 54 million chicken and
4.9 million beehives [1]. It is also among the 28 smaller countries (25 in Africa) where grazing land accounts greater than
60% of the total land area [2]. Despite these huge resources, the productivity of livest ock in general is low and its
contribution to the national eco nomy is below expected. Among the major problems affecting livestock production and
productivity in Ethiopia, feed shortage in terms of quantity and quality is the leading problem [1].
The major feed resources in Ethiopia ar e natural pasture ( grasslands) and crop residues with varying p roportion among the
different zones of the country. Similar to the other parts of Ethiopia, the role of grazing lands as a major livestock feed
resources is diminishing from time to time because of natural and huma n induced factors (increased conversion of grazing
lands to crop land) which created heavy grazing pressure on the remaining grazing lands although the extent of degradation
varies from site to site [4, 5, 6]. In addition, grazing land improvement practices are relatively less common particularl y in
the highlands of Ethiopia owing to the lac k of awareness and appropriate training, lack of appropriate improvement methods
and little attention given to grazing lands by the agricultural extension system. The pressure is likely to intensify in the
coming decades creating more pressure on the remaining grazing lands j ustifying the need to improve the available
remaining grazing lands to increase their livestock ho lding capacity [1]. Thus, the current study examined the effect of
applying different grazing land improvement techniques on biomass production and herbaceous species co mposition, grazing
capacities of the grazing lands and the econo mics of the different treatments. This paper will contribute to better
understanding of grazing land rehabilitation techniques in Ethiopia and for similar ecosystem elsewhere.
International Journal of Environmental & Agriculture Research (IJOEAR) ISSN:[2454-1850] [Vol-3, Issue-3, March- 2017]
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2.1 Description of the study area
This study was carried out in Ejere district, West Shoa zone, Ethiopia. The district was selected due to its potential for
livestock production (dairy, small ruminant, pou ltry and apiculture) and it is one of the intervention districts for Livestock
and Irrigation Value Chain for Ethiopian smallholders (LI VES) project of the International Livestock Research In stitute
(ILRI). The altitude ranges from 2063 to 3158 meters abov e sea level (m.a.s.l). The rainfall of the area is distinctly bimodal
pattern, viz-a-viz. the main rainy season occurs from June to end of September and the short and small rainy season is in
February and March. The mean annual rainfall ranges from 900 to 1200 mm.
The livelihood of the communities in t he study district is based on mixed crop-livestock production system and the human
population is about 104 709 (49 829 males and 55 057 females) [1]. The livestock population is esti mated to be: 119 854
cattle, 37 423 sheep, 11 600 goats, 9436 mule, 356 donkey, 10 117 horses and 43 125 poultry. Crop residues, natural pasture,
improved forage, hay, agro-industrial by-products and others contribute as livestock feed [1 ]. The district has upland and
wetland grazing areas. In addition to grazing, the wetlands are the sources of water for livestock and irrigation for lower
riparian’s [6]. Particularly, t he Berga wetland is one of the two known breeding sites (Weserbi-near Sululta and Berga) for
the globally threatened White-winged Fluff tail Sarothrura ayresi [7]. With regard to grazing land ownership, there are two
types, i.e., private and communal although the for mer is larger (80%) than the latter in terms of area coverage (20%) at the
current moment while the opposite was true in the past. The private grazing lands (0.25 to 0.5 ha/household on average) are
used for hay making and/or grazing [8].
2.2 Site selection
In site selection for the study, which was undertaken with the help of farmers, livestock experts and development agents, the
representativeness of the site for grazing lands in the mid altitude (2378 m.a.s.l), and poor herb aceous production condition
of the site was taken into consideration.
The treatments described in this study are mainly based on locally available resources (manure, wood ash, enclosing) except
Urea and DAP which is imported and can be purchased at the service cooperative level in the villages. Fifteen plots of 4 m x
4 m were laid out to apply 4 treatments (Urea and DAP, wooden ash, cow manure, and untreated/control) randomly in 3
replications. All plots were fenced during the main growing season (June to November, 2015). The distance bet ween plots
and replications/blocks was 1 and 2 meters, respectively. The amount of urea and DAP, ash and dry manure applied on 16 m-
2 plots were 0.24 kg and 0.16 kg, 4.8 kg and 12 kg, respectively. The plots were ripped to incorporate the treatment materials
into the soil. The manure, obtained from farmers was decomposed for three months at backyards o f farmers and dissolved in
water and added into the soil in form of slurry. Wood Ash from farmers was scattered over the plots. Urea and DAP was over
sown by broadcasting. The treatments were applied after the beginning of main rainy season. At the end of the growing
season, the different plots were harvested using hand sickles and sorted into grass, and non-grass components. Furthermore,
they were sorted into different species using field guide [9] and experienced technician from Adami Tulu research center,
Ethiopia. The sorted materials were oven-dried at 65 C for 72 hours.
2.3 Organization of grassland day and field assessment
Thirty male and nine female model farmers and 23 male and 2 female extension staff drawn from 4 districts (Ejere,
AdaBerga, Meta-Robi and Dendi of west Sh oa zone) and west Shoa zonal office attended the grassland day which was
organized with the objective of creating awareness on the importance of improved grazing land management for the public.
2.4 Statistical and economic analyses
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to verify the significant differences among the treatments using the
STATA/SE 14 program. The formula proposed by Moore et al. [10], modified by Moore and Odendaal (1987) [11] and
Moore (1989) [12], was used for grazing cap acity estimation b y taking in account the grass and to tal biomass yields. The
equation is as follows:
Y= d/(DM x f)r
where Y is the grazing capacity (ha TLU-1), d the number of days in a year (365), DM the grass and total biomass DM yield
(kg ha-1), f is the utilization factor, r the daily grass DM required. The grazing capacity was calculated using tropical
livestock unit (TLU) which is an animal weighing 250 kg and consuming 2.5% of its body weight. Thus, each TLU will
consume 6.25 kg of forage dry matter daily and utilization factor of 0.5 (50%) was used [13].
International Journal of Environmental & Agriculture Research (IJOEAR) ISSN:[2454-1850] [Vol-3, Issue-3, March- 2017]
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The par tial budget analysis (economic analysis) was done according to Upton 1979 [14] and CIMMYT 1988 [15] to
determine economic benefit of the different treatments. Total variable cost, total return (TR), net benefit (NB), change in net
benefit and marginal rate of return (%) were calc ulated for total biomass and grass production separatel y as grass is the most
important feed resource for cattle and sheep. Furthermore, the economic analysis was undertaken considering the price of
baled hay at harvest time and during the dry season.
3.1 Biomass production, herbaceous species composition and grazing capacities
Grass dry matter yield was highest (P<0.02) in Urea and DAP treated plots (Tab le 1). Compared with the control, application
of ash or manure increased grass production although it was non-significant (P>0.05). On the other hand, the non-grass
biomass was the highest in manure-treated plots although no t significant (P<0.05). Application of ash produced more non-
grass biomass than the control. Urea and DAP application significantly increased (P<0.02) total biomass prod uction (TBP).
While the control was the least in TBP, ash and manure applications were comparable in TBP.
Total biomass
GC (grass)
Control (no treatment)
2829.3 c
3944 bc
Urea and DAP
Manure (cow)
4702.7 ab
Significance level
Means with different letters down the column are significantly different (P<0.05); SEM= standard error of the mean.
Cyperus rotundus (31.57%) and Cerastium octandrum (31.57%) were the highest in percentage herbaceous species
composition in the control plot while Setaria verticellata (35.54%) in Urea and DAP applied p lots (Table 2). The ash
applied plots were dominated by Cerastium octandrum (35.16%) and Trifolium ruppellianum (35.16%) which are non-grass
species. The most abundant herbaceous species in the manure applied plot were Cerastium octandrum (28.87%) and T.
ruppellianum (28.87%). The T. ruppellianum is a legume palatable to livestock.
Herbaceous species
Urea and DAP
Hyperhenia rufa
Cyperus rotundus
Eragrostis tenuifolia
Andropogon abysincus
Cerastium octandrum
Setaria verticellata
Trifolium ruppellianum
Commulina benegalensis
The land required per TLU (ha TLU -1) was the lowest for the Ur ea and DAP ap plied plots while it was the hi ghest for the
control plot (Table 1).
3.2 Assessment and perception of the community
The participants of the grassland day selected plot with Urea and DAP application as the most preferred one which was
followed by plots treated with manure. The reasons for their choice of the Urea and DAP applied plot was that it favored the
production of grass than other herbaceous plants which corresponds with the herbaceous biomass data.