Northern Territory DPIR - partners in PalmCow animal and forage production research

Dr Kieren McCosker, Senior Livestock Scientist is providing animal production services to the team, while Mr Arthur Cameron, Principal Pastures Agronomist, is providing forage production services.

Their will primarily be in the two project sites in East Kailmantan, Babulu District (Brahman cross cows held in 2 breedlots) and Paser District (Bali cattle in an extensive grazing system).

They completed scoping visits in November 2018 to these Districts with colleagues including Dr Dwi Yulistiani and Dr Yeni Widiawati (Indonesian Research Institute for Animal Production), Dr Eni Martindah and Dr Dyah Haryuningtyas (Indonesian Veterinary Research Institute), and Dr Sionita Gloriana (BPTP East Kalimantan). In each District, the PalmCow team evaluated site environment, cattle ownership, management, reproduction and health, and feeding.

Contrasting feeding approaches

In the Babulu District, cattle in the two breedlots are kept in kandangs, with each farmer responsible for feeding their own cattle using cut and carry. The cattle observed by the team were reported to be in good condition, although relatively low conception rates were reported. A range of feeds were provided to the cattle, notably a mix of good grasses and ones with lower nutritional value, maize, and in some cases legumes such as Centro and Indigofera. Rice bran, tofu waste and palm kernel cake are also used to supplement cattle diet. The feed for the housed cattle is transported by motorbike as feed rolls.

Cut and carry feed rolls transported by motorbike, Mekar Jaya village, East Kalimantan.

Cut and carry feed rolls transported by motorbike, Mekar Jaya village, East Kalimantan.

In the Paser District, the extensive grazing system observed by the team included separate mobs of approximately 50 head of cattle, each comprised of animals owned by 2-3 farmers, who share management responsibility for their mob. Approximately 20% of the mob (generally matriarch cows) are tethered to control roaming. The cattle appeared to be in good condition, and natural mating was predominantly used. At the floodplain site visited, a number of forage grasses and legumes were available for the cattle to graze, however there is scope to provide more supplementary feed, especially during the wet season when grazing moves beneath the palm plantation. There are opportunities to provide this feed by planting forages between the rows of small palms.

Bali cattle in an extensive grazing system incorporating oil palm plantations in Paser District, East Kalimantan.

Bali cattle in an extensive grazing system incorporating oil palm plantations in Paser District, East Kalimantan.

A breedlot kendang in Sumber Makmur village, East Kalimantan.

A breedlot kendang in Sumber Makmur village, East Kalimantan.

Forage evaluation

Mr Cameron also travelled to Cinta Damai village in the Musi Banyuasin District of South Sumatra, with PalmCow staff Ms Febrina Prameswari and Dr Mic Halliday. At Cinta Damai he will be involved in PalmCow forage evaluation trials conducted by Dr Endang Sutedi and Dr Iwan Herdiawan (Indonesian Research Institute for Animal Production). The trials will  be planted between young oil palms.

A number of forage species will be considered for this trial, which is expected to commence in November, 2019. Currently, maize has been planted between some of the rows of newly planted palms as a cash crop. At this site (Cinta Damai village) there were also some rubber plantations which are progressively being replaced by the more profitable oil palms.

Recently planted oil palms in Cinta Damai, Musi Banyuasin District, South Sumatra.

Recently planted oil palms in Cinta Damai, Musi Banyuasin District, South Sumatra.

Mutual capacity building benefits

PalmCow gives the NT DPIR team an opportunity to pass on their expertise to improve the capacity of Indonesian farmers and staff to better manage palm-cattle integration systems. Local partner researchers will also benefit from this interaction.

At the same time, through PalmCow NT DPIR staff gain further experience of cattle production under plantations, which will provide useful insights into grazing management under forestry plantations in the NT.