COLOMBIA - A new project at the University of Colombia is looking at feeding waste paper to ruminants, as part of an effort to ensure availability of animal feed in times of poor weather.
100 tons of waste paper a day leaves a company, which the project team said could provide an alternative feed source for cows in Ubaté region.
The project will start by testing the use of waste paper on sheep in the region, using a mixture of 15 per cent waste paper and 85 per cent conventional feed.
George Jaime Tenjo from the university is aiming to tackle two problems in the region through the new project. The first is to prevent the paper going to waste. Secondly, Mr Tenjo hopes that paper added to cattle rations will be ideal in times when feed for livestock is scarce for small and medium producers.
Lack of rain in certain seasons affects the availability of forage or grass to feed livestock. Since the waste paper contains cellulose, which is also present in pasture plants, the idea is that the paper can replace some grazing in the animal's diet.
The project, with investment is approaching 64 million, is expected to provide about 300 producers in the Ubaté region with inputs to counter lack of feed when the weather is poor.
Historically, work on cellulosic waste such as paper has focused on the production of biofuels. However, the intestinal microflora of sheep and cattle rumens have the ability to degrade the cellulose component present in both the pasture and on paper.
"A number of bacteria act on the substrate, in this case cellulose, to carry out fermentation and provide energy to the animal," he explained.
According to George Jaime Tenjo, small producers of this renowned dairy region are not prepared for possible precipitation deficits, which would produce a shortage of forage or grass.
And while the use of silage or planting materials that protect against drought are alternatives, these may be insufficient in case of lack of feed for livestock.
Overall, Ubaté does not have a great availability of water throughout the year. With the El Niño phenomenon, which occurs every three to seven years, this problem can be accentuated.
If small and medium producers are not ready for a new phenomenon, "they may face serious problems: death of animals, having to sell because they have nothing to feed them, and even those with some feed probably will not reach production levels they would normally have," said the expert.
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