Ethiopia owns immense but largely untapped livestock resources scattered over diverse agro-ecologies. Feed scarcity is one of the major technical constraints in livestock production and thus challenges the economic contribution of the livestock sub-sector. For optimum and sustainable livestock productivity, the available feed resource should match with the animal population in a given area. This study was aimed at assessing livestock feeds and analyzing the balance between feed supply and demand in small and fragmented land holdings of three different agro-ecologies (Dega, Woina-dega and Kolla) of Wolayta zone, southern Ethiopia. Data were collected through discussions with individuals, groups and key informants, observations and formal surveys and analyzed using R software. The dry matter (DM) requirements of the livestock population were calculated according to the daily DM requirements for maintenance of 1 tropical livestock units (TLU) (250k livestock consumes 2.5% of its body weight (BW) (6.25 kg DM/d). Livestock holding in TLU and total DM productions from all feed resources were not significantly different across all agro-ecologies (P > 0.05). However; land which was the most important production factor in the study site was significantly (P < 0.05) different with average ownership of (1.5 ± 0.081 ha). The largest proportion of feed (517.35 ton of DM/year, 58.9%) came from crop production followed by natural pasture (356.62 ton of DM/year, 40.6%). The remaining small amount of feed was obtained from trees and shrubs (3.36 ton of DM/year, 0.5%) as farmers lop the leaves and branches of various trees and shrubs and feed them to their animals during the dry season. Total amount of feed obtained from all sources was 877.33 ton/year in DM and the total livestock population of the sampled households was 602.24 TLU. The total feed required for this amount of TLU in terms of DM was therefore, 1373.1 ton/year (with negative balance of 495.77 ton DM). Thus, the total feed available addressed only 63.9% of the annual DM requirement which was able to support existing stocks for only 7.7 months. The feed gap was significantly (P<0.05) higher at Woina-Dega, followed by Dega and it was better comparatively at Kolla agro-ecology. Hence, feed shortage was a big problem in terms of quality and quantity in the study site which needs due attention from all responsible bodies.
Key words: Feed availability, feed shortage, requirement, dry matter, feed-gap.
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