Cassava, known scientifically as Manihot esculenta, has been a staple root crop in the Philippines for centuries, and its uses are as diverse as the nation’s rich culture. Locally, it is known by various names like balinghoy, balanghoy, or kamoteng-kahoy, while internationally, it goes by manioc or tapioca. Beyond its role as a human food source, cassava offers various other applications, including animal feed, medicine, alcohol, and even industrial uses such as textile production and biodegradable materials. In this article, we’ll explore the untapped potential of cassava as livestock and poultry feed and the various factors that have hindered its widespread adoption in the industry.
Cassava’s Remarkable Versatility
Cassava is prized for its versatility, and its multiple uses make it economically promising. This root crop is not only a vital food source for humans but also an essential ingredient in animal feed production. Additionally, it finds applications in traditional medicine and the production of alcoholic beverages. Beyond this, cassava’s potential extends into the industrial sector, where it can be used to manufacture textiles, binders, and serve as a raw material for creating biodegradable products.
Thailand’s Leading Role in Cassava Production
While cassava has gained recognition and utilization in various parts of the world, it is Thailand that stands as a global leader in its production, use, and export. With approximately 1.2 million hectares dedicated to cassava farming, Thailand produces a staggering 22 million metric tons annually, with an impressive average root yield of 18.1 metric tons per hectare. Notably, 95% of Thailand’s cassava production is of the industrial variety, primarily cultivated for export and industrial uses.
A significant portion of Thailand’s cassava export is directed to the European community, where the imported cassava chips or pellets are mainly used as animal feed. This highlights the international recognition of cassava as a valuable feed ingredient.
Cassava as a Potential Corn Replacement
In the Philippines, despite the local availability of cassava, the feed industry predominantly relies on corn, specifically feed corn or yellow corn, sourced either locally or abroad. Only a single major commercial feed company, along with a few smaller feed mills, incorporates cassava into their feed formulations. However, the incorporation of cassava in animal feed follows certain cardinal rules to maximize its benefits.
Cassava can replace approximately 30% to 50% of the corn in the feed ration. It’s important to strike a balance, as an excess of cassava or excessive processing can render the mixed feed unpalatable for animals. Moreover, when using cassava in animal feed, there is often a corresponding need to increase feed additives, such as amino acids or vitamin-mineral mixes, to ensure the nutritional requirements of the animals are met.
Performance and Productivity are Key
Ultimately, the successful use of cassava in animal feed hinges on the performance and productivity of the animals fed. If animals perform well on cassava-based diets, this can serve as a strong incentive for feed millers to incorporate more cassava into their formulations.
Challenges in Cassava Supply and Perishability
One of the primary reasons why feed millers in the Philippines have been reluctant to use cassava is the inconsistent supply of cassava. The country has approximately 217,000 hectares dedicated to cassava cultivation, resulting in an annual production of 2.1 million metric tons. However, the average root yield of 9.7 metric tons per hectare indicates room for improvement in productivity (Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, 2010).
Another challenge is the perishability of fresh cassava. This root crop requires careful postharvest handling to prevent spoilage, making it a less convenient option compared to corn.
Learning from Thailand: Maximizing Cassava’s Potential
Thailand’s approach to cassava utilization offers valuable lessons for the Philippines and other countries. In Thailand, all parts of the cassava plant, including the leaves, stems, and roots, are used for animal feed. The leaves are processed into leaf meals or pelleted and are fed to ruminants. The pelleted leaf meals have even been explored as a replacement for soybean in feeds for swine and poultry.
The potential of cassava as a feed ingredient remains largely untapped in the Philippines, representing a “low-hanging bunch of fruit ready for picking.” The technology for processing and incorporating cassava into animal feed is readily available, and there is a vibrant industry prepared to absorb the product.
Encouraging the Use of Cassava in Animal Feed
To unlock the full potential of cassava as livestock and poultry feed, several steps can be taken. These include:
- Development Programs: Initiatives to promote cassava cultivation for animal feed can be developed, providing farmers with the necessary resources and support to increase cassava production.
- Financing Schemes: Financial incentives and credit facilities can be offered to farmers and feed millers to encourage them to invest in cassava as a feed ingredient.
- Postharvest Processing: Developing efficient and cost-effective postharvest processing methods can help reduce cassava spoilage and ensure a stable supply.
- Assured Market: The creation of a reliable market for cassava as an animal feed ingredient can incentivize feed millers and farmers to invest in cassava production.
- Innovation and Research: Continuous research and development efforts can focus on improving the feed value of cassava and developing new processing techniques to enhance its utility in animal feed.
Sassava’s potential as a livestock and poultry feed ingredient remains largely unexplored, despite its rich agricultural heritage in the Philippines. By learning from successful models like Thailand and implementing targeted strategies, the country can harness the benefits of cassava as a cost-effective and nutritious feed ingredient, ultimately enhancing the performance and productivity of its livestock and poultry industry. It’s time to pick that “low-hanging bunch of fruit” and realize the untapped potential of cassava in animal nutrition.
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