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Cattle fattening opportunities on the plain of jars, Xieng Khouang province, Laos

Lienhard P., Tivet F., Phommachan A., Sosomphou T.. 2006. In : 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Sloping Lands and Watershed Management (SSLWM 2006), 12-15 December 2006, Luang Prabang. s.l. : s.n., 14 p.. International Conference on Sustainable Sloping Lands and Watershed Management. 2, 2006-12-12/2006-12-15, Luang Prabang (Laos, République démocratique populaire).

In the vicinity of Phonsavanh (provincial capital of Xieng Khouang, on the Plain of Jars) as in many other areas of Laos, livestock production remains one of the main components of farming systems. In Pek district of Xieng Khouang, it accounts for more than 50% of household income. Cattle raising remains traditional, based on free grazing on clear forest, savannah grassland, and crop residues after harvesting. Poor soil conditions, and lack of both fodder resources and economic incentives are the main constraints limiting extension of livestock production. The savannah grassland here is characterised by acidic soils, high aluminium saturation, and local weed species that produce low amounts of biomass and have low palatability; the main species are Themeda triandra, Hypparhenia and Cymbopogon nardus. More than 60,000 ha of savannah grasslands is present in Xieng Khouang province, mainly located in the districts of Pek, Phoukhouth and Paxay. Since 2004 the Lao National Agro-Ecology Programme (PRONAE) has been introducing innovative cropping systems based on direct-seeding to regenerate lands and diversify farming production. These systems integrate crops and livestock through the use of forage species and cover crops. At the same time thematic adjustment are carried-out, testing simple technologies such as forage species. Promising fodder productivity results were obtained on the Plain of Jars and it was then decided to test these forage species under grazing conditions. The present study seeks to evaluate the agronomic and economic components of cattle fattening in the vicinity of Phonsavanh using improved forages and other inputs. Cattle fattening appeared to be very efficient during the rainy season with a mean growth rate of 364 recorded. The local cattle seem well adapted for fattening and showed a good response to improved fodder. The technical and economical results are clearly positive. However, economic incentives and technical and political support must be better defined if efficient and productive livestock systems are to be developed in such an environment. Forage seed production has to be promoted to improve pasture management, to avoid high stocking rates and to generate new income that could be invested in fertilisers and animal care.

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