WHAT came to mind on hearing about the decision or plan to import grass for feeding of cattle in Nigeria was that, if given the choice, imported air for breathing would have been preferred to the natural. No doubt, Nigeria is endowed with a comparative advantage in grass production, only that there is the need to make use of necessary scientific information for it to fully materialise. All that are required for this to happen are the mandate for the relevant institutions to produce the resource, and the financial incentive for its commercialisation (in large quantity). The gestation period for meeting the target and the demand would be about equal for both sources of supply of the resource, that is, from within and outside the country.
Legumes, which are, or may be lacking in the grass importation scheme, could, of course, cause nutritional imbalance. Cost effectiveness may also not be achieved if importation does not meet the demand, or it is in excess. Poor storage of any excess could cause a loss of taste, or of nutrients and consequently, a loss of foreign exchange and the mortality or poor performance of the animals.
Grass importation implies zero grazing, which curtails outside grazing by the animals, even in a grazing zone. Whether necessary facilities for this scheme and its management system are in place, what is certain is that the imported grass cannot be super-imposed on the cattle that are always on the move, that is, those managed on the existing nomadic system.
Incidentally, grass importation scheme is a camouflage considering the contravention of the ban on the importation of meat in as much as grass is the mainstay for cattle’s survival. For all animals meat and milk production, including the cattle, like other ruminants, depends, to a great extent, on feeds, the bulk of the feeds is pasture. Grass importation, however, negates the policy of increasing the nation’s foreign exchange or reserve through agriculture.
Finally, it is expected that, on matters of this nature, experts in tertiary institutions in the nation should have been consulted whether they (the experts) had acted their part dutifully as their own form of social responsibility.
- Professor J.A. Oluyemi, Ibadan.