FEEDING YOUR PIGS WITH CASSAVA– The Story Behind Cassava Feed.

By Yemi Adesina

Cassava has nearly twice the calories of potatoes and is perhaps one of the highest value calorie food for any tropical starch-rich tubers and roots. About 100g of cassava root provides 160 calories. The use of cassava for livestock feeding has been limited because of the fear of the presence of toxic cyanogenic glucosides in raw cassava; the deficiency of raw cassava in other nutrients apart from energy plus the high fibre content of the peel. But several researches have shown that the use of raw cassava products in cassava producing areas of sub-Sahara Africa would not only relieve the pressure on the demand for cereal grains but also guarantee abundant and year-round supply of energy for livestock feeding. This will ultimately reduce the high cost of feed in pig production. Cassava has nearly twice the calories than that of potatoes and is perhaps one of the highest value calorie food for any tropical starch-rich tubers and roots. About 100 g of cassava root provides 160 calories.

It is also widely known that a freshly harvested raw cassava that is whole and unbruised has cyanogenic glucoside, however, when this is subjected to some kind of processing and the cellular structure is disrupted, the intracellular glucoside becomes exposed and is degraded to sugar which later dissociates to ketone. For thousands of years, cassava tubers have been traditionally processed in Africa using a wide range of methods to reduce toxicity, improve palatability and convert the perishable fresh root into stable products for human consumption. These methods consist of different combinations of peeling, chopping, grating, soaking, drying, boiling and fermenting.

The challenge for pig farmers today is to find the most suitable, straightforward, scalable and cost-effective way to process cassava promptly and safely so that it can be fed to pigs without putting too much additional work or processes unto the limited labour hands that is in most pig farms in the sub-Sahara Africa (or distract the farm staff from the core business of taking care of pigs). While all the methods of processing cassava mentioned above can reduce the cyanide level, a pig farmer needs to find a process that will be quick, straightforward and sustainable while also adding value to the pigs.

For example, research have shown that the cassava peel contains the highest amount of cyanide content compared to the pulp. This means that removing the cassava peels  will automatically reduce the cyanogenic glucoside by at least 50% in cassava tubers but  the challenge with peeling as with most  processing methods is that peeling requires additional labour and it is also time consuming. Employing extra hands to peel will reduce the cost advantage of using cassava as an alternative source of carbohydrate. The same applies to other processes such as grating. Grating of the whole cassava tuber exposes and destroys the cyanide in raw cassava and about 90% of free cyanide is removed within 15 minutes of boiling fresh cassava. All these processes are also time consuming, require extra hands or machinery to be effective which a typical pig farmer might not be able to afford.

However, when cassava is soaked and allowed to ferment, the result is great especially for pigs. Pig digestive system is well suited to benefit greatly from soaked and fermented raw cassava because pig has an organ, known as the caecum, that is attached to the large intestine, which allows a longer digestion period for the cellulose from plant cell walls to be properly broken down and absorbed before exiting the pig. This organ is important in herbivores digestive system to break down raw plants, however pigs, though omnivore, benefits from this organs presence. However, in humans, the caecum has become a vestigial organ (the appendix).

Historically, soaking and microbial fermentation of cassava have traditionally played important roles in cassava processing for human consumption especially in cassava products like “garri”, “fufu”, “pupuru”, “apu” etc. Soaking of cassava provides a suitably larger medium for fermentation and allows for greater extraction of the soluble cyanide into the soaking water. Soaking removes about 20% of the free cyanide in fresh root chips within the first 4 hours and there is a huge reduction in the total cyanide in the raw cassava tuber to a consumable level after soaking in water for 3 days. Fermentation which usually precedes soaking is the result of the action of living microorganisms, microorganisms produce enzymes which converts carbohydrates to organics acids to create the fermented cassava product. During fermentation, the raw cassava is literally being pre-digested for the pigs before the pig even eats the feed, this makes it easy for the raw cassava to be digested and absorbed inside the pig; thus increasing the bioavailability of nutrients and phytonutrients for the body (in farmer’s term more weight with minimal effort).

“The consumption of soaked and fermented cassava by the pigs is an incredibly healthy practice as it directly supplies the pig digestive tract with living cultures essential that are needed to breaking down food and assimilating nutrients inside the pig.” In addition, fermentation also increases the protein in cassava root, it also improves the balance of essential amino acids and make available the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and pantothenic acid vitamin content. Furthermore, fermentation modifies the unfermented food in diverse ways, resulting in new sensory properties with enhanced aroma and flavour (which appeals to the pig), increase feed consumption and reduces anti-nutrients content.

During the soaking of roots in cassava food production, the texture of the roots also undergoes noticeable change and the roots are rendered soft and easy to eat by smaller pigs.

In practice, cassava can be loaded in a plastic tank and filled with water and left for 3 days before being fed to pigs. However, when using soaked and fermented raw cassava to feed pigs, pig farmers should understand that the quantity and quality of protein supplementation is critical (should be higher than when using grains e.g. maize) and adding methionine will also significantly improve protein utilization in pigs. In addition, the use of palm oil with cassava will increase calorie intake of the animals and reduce dustiness of the feed.

– courtesy google

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