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Burundi Goat Rehabilitation Project

Alliance Burundaise pour la Coopération et le Développement &
Austrian Help Program

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Nutrition & Supplementation

Milk Mixtures for Orphans & Malnourished Kids

Using Sweet Potato Leaves & Vines as a Milk Substitute

Home-Made Rehydration Mixes for Kids & Adults

Home-Made Salt – Mineral – Bypass Protein Blocks

Nutritional Quality of Forages for Goats 

How to Strip Green Leaves from Corn & not Reduce Corn Yield

How to use Manioc Leaves and Sweet Potato Vines & Leaves as Forage

How to Improve Nutritive Value of Low-Quality Forage


Source:  Medicines sans frontiers, "Clinical Guidelines -  Diagnostic & Treatment Manuel, 3rd edn. & Oxfm's High Energy Milk

A Central African doe & her Central African Buckling who is suffering from serious diarrhea.  He wears a cloth necklace tied snug to the neck that contains a few pellets of charcoal – a traditional practice in Burundi for kids with diarrhea.

Due to high parasite burdens and/or forage shortages during the dry season, does in Burundi are sometimes lacking in sufficient milk.  In the absence of commercial milk replacers, here are several mixtures that we use successfully for these babies:

These mixtures are designed to treat human infants in Burundi who suffer from protein-energy malnutrition.  In the absence of commercial milk replacers, we use them successfully with goats that are anemic and/or malnourished -- problems not uncommon in Burundi because, especially during the dry season, local does often do not provide enough milk for their young – as well as in cases where does with nursing kids may have been stolen through rebel raids.    In fact, the female shown in the picture above -- one of our best-producing locals -- was stolen in 2003 by rebels in a raid on our Project compound, together with 42 other local, pure-bred Alpine, and cross-bred Boer and Alpine, leaving us with a lot of orphans… The Burundi military has generously responded to help the Project, by placing a  military position next to the Project compound during the night.  We have had no further security problems.

Malnourished kids are typified by some/all of the following – which may also be related to a heavy parasite burdens:

    • Muscle wasting & loss of sub-coetaneous tissue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Reduced growth
    • Irritability / depression
    • Distended stomach



Insufficient milk or the death of a kid's mother are problems that cannot be addressed in most of the tropics by milk replacers, because these do not exist – and even if they did, would be too expensive for most smallholders.  One solution to this dilemma was developed in Kenya in the 1980's, by the Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Project, using sweet potato vines and leaves. 

Field studies showed that there was no significant difference in growth between kids fed sweet potato vines and leaves as a full ration and those who were allowed to nurse full-time.    Sweet potato vines and leaves are easily digestible and their chemical composition is similar to milk, having a moisture content of 80% and digestibility of 72%, compared to milk, with 85% and 86%, respectively.

In Burundi, Kenya and most of temperate tropical Africa sweet potatoes are a staple food grown by smallholders and so this is an excellent method of using crop byproducts.  Another advantage of using sweet potato vines and leaves as a partial milk replacer, is that it allows more milk to be used by the family or to be sold.

Project herders filling the pickup with sweet potato vines and leaves from near-by Kajaga village, to be used as a protein-rich supplement for kids just beginning to nibble greens & also as a forage supplement during the dry season.


Source:  'Where There is no Doctor', by D. Werner

Newborn ½ CAG & ½ Alpine wearing a traditional necklace containing charcoal, thought to help in controlling diarrhea

In Burundi, as in many other developing countries, we frequently have to make our own oral rehydration solutions because there are no ready-made products on the local market.  Here are several that are easy and fast to make and certainly less expensive than commercial products.  We use them with goats, dogs – and people / children recovering from serious malaria or diarrhea.

1.  With Sugar & Salt

  • Water  1 liter [2.2 quarts]
  • Salt  ½  level teaspoon
  • Sugar  8 level teaspoon

2.  With Powdered Cereal &  Salt

  • Water  1 liter [2.2 quarts]
  • Salt  ½ level teaspoon
  • Cereal  8 heaping teaspoons

[Powdered rice is best.  Or use finely ground cornmeal, wheat flour, sorghum, or cooked and mashed potatoes.]

Boil for 5 to 7 minutes to form a liquid gruel or watery porridge.  Cool the Drink quickly and start administering.

NOTE:  To either Drink add ½ cup of fruit juice, coconut milk, or mashed ripe banana, if available, which provides potassium.


The following 3 solutions for use with sheep or goats are proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture of The Union of South Africa:

Solution 1

    • 2 tablespoonfuls of glucose (this can be bought from a pharmacy)
    • 2 teaspoonfuls of salt
    • 2 teaspoonfuls of baking soda
    • 2 teaspoonfuls of lemon juice
    • Mix all of the above in 2 litres of water and give to sick animals.

Solution 2

    • ½ teaspoonful of salt
    • 4 tablespoonfuls sugar or honey
    • Mix into 1 litre of clean water and give to sick kids and lambs.

Solution 3

    • ¼ teaspoonful of salt
    • ¼ teaspoonful of baking soda
    • 3 tablespoonfuls of glucose or 50 ml (5 teaspoonfuls) glucose syrup (available from a pharmacy)
    • Mix into 1 litre of clean water.

TO ADMINISTER: Any ONE of these solutions can be used. Use 1 or 2 litres every 24 hours for a lamb/kid of 10 kg. 1 l

 Give small amounts frequently – a few ml ['sips'] every hour or half-hour if there is severe & watery diarrhea.  The Project keeps mixture #3 in a plastic bottle in the freezer, for ready use.



In many parts of the tropics it is impossible to purchase salt, mineral and/or nutritional blocks.   Since our goats brows freely in the extensive commonlands along Lake Tanganyika where forage is both plentiful and varied year-round, we rarely need  supplementation.  However, we can make our own blocks, using a recipe that was developed some years ago by Belgian animal scientists working at Lubumbashi University in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The  mixture contains fish meal, a bypass protein which is also rich in  calcium, B vitamins and iron,  as well as  salt.  Bypass protein is protein that  does not degrade in the rumen, thus providing higher levels of nitrogen to the gut.  This has important benefits in increasing resistance and resilience to parasites, and also increasing weight gain and milk production Where fish meal is not available, animal bones could be cooked in dry, high heat and then ground into powder  by mortar and pestle.  However, with the realization of possible diseases that might be transmitted by the use of animal byproducts, the use of bovine or goat bones is no longer advisable.  Fish meal is considered safe here in Burundi, because of the isolation of fish in Lake Tanganyika.

You will need:

Cement  10 – 15%
Fish meal         25 – 30%
Salt   60%
Water   to mix

To make:

    1. Combine dry ingredients very well
    2. Add water, slowly, mixing well to a firm consistency
    3. Pack in wooden frames that you have made to the size of a small salt block
    4. Place in sun  until dry
    5.  Protect from rainwater and preferably in a container that animals can easily access

In some parts of Africa and Asia urea is frequently used as a non-protein nitrogen that achieves the same effects as bypass proteins found in fish meal, cottonseed meal, and several other products.  In the following mixture, urea is combined with molasses. salt, and (if available) minerals. The block is used  to counteract  nutritional deficiency during dry seasons and in areas having low quality forage.  This is a cheap and efficient source of supplementation: 

You will need:

Molasses  36.0%
Cement  10.0%
Urea   10.0%
Rice bran  38.0%
Salt    1.9%
(Dicalcium phosphate  2.0%)
(Trace minerals  0.1%)
Water    4.0%

To make:

    1. Combine dry ingredients very well
    2. Combine molasses & water
    3. Add molasses-water mixture, slowly, mixing well to a firm consistency
    4. Pack in wooden frames that you have made to the size of a salt block
    - or, pack in a sturdy plastic bag
    "5. Place in sun, and out of rain until firm

It is advised  that the block should not be used as a supplement for animals less that 6 months; nor should it be available to animals who have gone many hours without eating.  The mix was formulated by the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center in Taiwan in conjunction with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development.



In many regions of the developing world where crop by-products constitute important components of livestock diets, the use of leaves and vines from still-growing crops may also be practiced.  This is the case with green corn leaves in Egypt, Kenya and several other areas of Africa.  Studies conducted by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and by  the Small Ruminant Collaborative Project in Kenya demonstrated that stripping of no more than 1 leaf  per plant per week will reduce normal growth of the corn by only 8%.   Having a crude protein content of  about 16%, together with high palatability, such a practice can mean the difference between well nourished and languishing small ruminants  during the dry season.



Manioc (cassava; yucca) leaves  are an excellent supplement, rich in vitamins A and C, and when young providing bypass protein  of about 30%.  Half of the leaves can be cut from a cassava plant every 2 months with no appreciable loss of growth to the tuber.   Plants will yield approximately 4 tons a hectare per year of leaves and stems.  While it  has been  thought that these must first be wilted in order to remove prussic acid, in recent trials in Cambodia and Viet Nam, fresh leaves have been successfully fed to cattle and goats.   However, the leaves  must be younger than 2 months.  Older leaves begin to produce more tannin and also contain less nitrogen.

Other trials conducted in Asia show that animals fed manioc leaves have reduced levels of internal parasites – thought to be due to two factors:   height of leaves from the ground, and thus not infested with parasites and two, high tannin content.  This is clearly an added bonus, and more work is currently underway to better understand these dynamics.

If planted as a fodder crop with tubers remaining in the ground to provide nutrients to the leaves, forage can be cut every 6-10 weeks for up to 3 years, annually yielding close to 120 tons of fresh forage containing close to 800 kg of nitrogen.  However, due to high levels of offtake of nitrogen by the leaves, this system is only sustainable with regular and heavy application of goat manure.

In addition to animal feed, manioc leaves also provide a nutritious and tasty greens dish in Burundian  households.  Called sombé, the leaves are first pounded by wooden mortar and pestle and then cooked with meat bones,   onions, tomatoes, indigenous eggplants, and spices,  The recipe, with pictures will be found  in the Recipe Page of the website:  Sombé.

The use of sweet potato vines & leaves as a milk replacer for kids has already been discussed (Using Sweet Potato Leaves & Vines as a Milk Substitute)Their high crude protein content of over 20% and high palatability also make them an excellent fodder supplement for adult goats, especially those who are ill, lactating or in late stages of gestation.  As cassava leaves, they can be dried and used as a hay.






Eric & Egide collecting rice straw to be fed as chop that has been soaked in a molasses-salt-water solution during the dry months, as a partial supplementation for goats that must remain in the compound.  This rice field belongs to Omer, one of the Project staff, and is located about 1 klm behind the Project compound.  The Congo hills, rising abruptly out of Lake Tanganyika, are partly shrouded in the clouds to the right


Low Quality Crop By-products & Supplementation:

In tropical countries post-harvest  crop by-products and low quality forage often form important parts of animal diets, especially during the dry season.  The kinds of post-harvest by-products that are especially low in nutrition [less than 5% protein]  that are commonly used include:

  • Corn stover
  • Sorghum stover
  • Millet stover
  • Rice stover [picture]
  • Sugar cane tops
  • Corn husks & cobs

Nutritional value and palatability can be improved in all of these leavings by first chopping, and then soaking them in a mixture of water-molasses-salt – or, in water and then sprinkled with molasses and salt or sprinkling with a water-molasses-salt mixture.    This feed can be adequate for empty and non-lactating does and grown bucks as a maintenance feed during the dry months.  However, late pregnant and lactating does, weaners & breeding bucks require additional supplementation, which can easily be provided by daily cuttings from Leucaena or other high quality tree species at about 1.5 kg per grown animal per day, or by supplying urea-molasses blocks.

Food preparation for people is time and labor intensive in Africa and other developing countries, and so  is often a group activity, as shown here,.  Project herders are helping to peel the manioc coming from the fields of one of the staff, and each will then receive a portion of manioc as payment.  Peels will be wilted & fed to Project goats.

Beans that have just been harvested by a women's group in Karuzi Province, Burundi.  The tall grasses  growing beside and behind the women are fields of Tripsacum, a grass that is commonly farmed to provide cut-and-carry forage to cows and goats.


A number of other crop and industrial plant by-products that contain higher levels of nutrition than those listed above can be usefully fed to goats as a part of their diets.  None, however, should constitute the full dietary source.  These should be cut and, depending on the species, fed fresh, dry or wilted, in proper containers – not spread on the ground.  Their availability depends on the geographical region and season, but commonly found ones include:

  • Banana leaves -- green
  • Corn leaves – green
  • Sorghum leaves – green
  • Millet leaves – green
  • Manioc leaves – wilted or dried if old
  • Manioc skins - dried
  • Bean haulms; leaves & vines
  • Groundnut stover
  • Sorghum leaves & vines
  • Banana peels


Beans are hand-harvested and then the haulms with bean pods still attached are carried home, to be separated from the haulms, dried in the sun, and then beans/pods are removed (next picture).
Godderis-Ibiharage: La culture du Haricot au Burundi.  Bruxelles, 1995.

Further processing is usually done as a group.  Bean haulms that remain provide nitrogen-rich goat fodder whose palatability can be improved by soaking in a molasses-salt-water mixture.

Processing of beans is another labor intensive activity. Once beans are carried to the rugo –or home compound (above photo) – they are energetically beaten by long sticks in order to loosen beans and bean haulms from the stems.

Cut-and-Carry Forage (see also above photo):

In many areas of the tropics where freerange  livestock management is not possible, farmers will plant a variety of forage plants that are cut on a daily basis and fed to stalled animals.  Different varieties of fast growing grasses and trees are grown for this purpose.  In all cases, cutting the plants between 3-6 weeks of age is optimal, in order to derive highest nutritive value of the forage as well as lower levels of cellulose (see plant nutrition chart at the end of this page). 

In the case of grasses, during the wet season parasites will often be adhering to them which will then be consumed by the animal, often resulting in high worm burdens.  One good solution to this problem is to wilt the grasses prior to feeding – scattering them out in the sun or at least in the open air until wilted.   This will kill many of the adhering worms, as the accompanying graph shows.

In addition, wilting grasses during the rainy season will reduce moisture content and thus increase TDN (total digestible nutrients)  consumed by the animals.  This is an important point when grasses are heavily waterlogged, because such plants contain less nutrients per volume.

Grasses should be chopped and placed in mangers, and if not very palatable, dry and/or older, can be soaked in a water-molasses-salt mixture prior to feeding.  This will increase taste as well as nutritive value.  Where branches of trees are lobbed, these should be tied above the ground in bunches or affixed to fences, in order to  reduce parasite infestation.

When fodder is hung in this way from fences rather than spread on the ground, it will be more readily eaten, there will be less waste as well as reduced parasite contamination.

Tripsacum and other grasses that are stall fed are usually chopped into small pieces using a machete, or long knife, against a wooden block, as shown here by a farmer in Burundi.

When goats are put out to pasture, pegged, or herded during the rainy season, waiting until forage has dried off a bit will reduce parasite infestation, because larvae will return to the soils as the weather warms the plants.

This graph depicts the results of studies conducted in Kenya by the Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Program, and clearly shows how wilting of freshly cut fodder grasses will substantially reduce eggs per gram over either grazing or feeding the grasses without being wilted.

Semenye &  Hutchcroft (eds) On Farm Research & Technology for Dual-Purpose Goats.  1992.

 Simple, exterior mangers allow goats to eat without fighting, and keep the forage clean.  Goats shown here are eating chopped Tripsacum grass; every other manger also contains rice bran.

Couchgrass is a weed that has excellent palatability and nutrition.  Here, it has been collected from a farmer's field and is being taken to the local 'grass market' to be sold.  This is a good example of how smallholders practicing intensive agriculture can use or make money from almost everything that grows – even weeds!




Nutritional quality of forages and of crop by-products vary substantially by such factors as plant species and age of plant.  As well, external factors such as soil composition and amount of rainfall will impact on nutritional quality. 

However, broad guidelines can be developed based on species and age of the plant.  The following, in-progress graph lists plant species commonly found in the tropics according to crude protein content and in relation to age of the plant.  These data are further arranged in the following categories and each category is organized into 3 groups (trees/shrubs; grasses; crop by-products)

Forage containing the most CP are overwhelmingly represented by leguminous [L) species – and, primarily as shrubs and trees. 

Crop by-products, also included on the chart, constitute a very important part of livestock forage in many areas of the humid and dry tropics, and are discussed elsewhere in this brief.

Please also see notes at the top of the chart.







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