Supak system for cattle

During prolonged dry and humid periods, animals decrease their feed intake, even if feedstuffs are available. Hence, farm owners have difficulty fattening their animals and meeting the desired weight on time.

Cattle farmers in Batangas province practice an indigenous technology known as supak system or forced feeding scheme. This technology is also practiced in other areas in the Philippines where backyard cattle fattening activities exist.

While this feeding is labor-intensive and highly applicable only to trained and tame animals, the supak system can boost cattle performance to meet the desired weight on schedule even during the onset of El Niño. This practice serves as a feed supplementation strategy when the supply of forages and grasses is limited. The supak method ensures that the animal’s nutrient requirements are met, and it has been proven to result in quality beef.

The supak method is recommended to farmers with tame or trained cattle; available feed ingredients and materials for preparation of supak mixture; knowledge of deworming and parasite control practices; and information on proper forced feeding.

Required ingredients and materials
1. 15-25 kilograms (kg) fresh ‘ipil-ipil’ (Leucaena leucocephala) leaves
2. 15-19 liters (L) water
3. 1 kg rice (Oryza sativa) bran
4. 100 grams (g) salt or molasses
5. Basin
6. Bamboo (Bambusa spp.) at least 30 cm long and 6 cm wide

Preparation and administration of the mixture

Fig. 1. Bamboo specifications and usage (IIRR 1992).

1. Gather 15-25 kg of ipil-ipil leaves. Finely chop and pound the leaves.
2. Mix the pounded ipil-ipil leaves with 15-19 L water, 1 kg rice bran, and 100 g salt or molasses.
3. Prepare a diagonally sliced bamboo tube, approximately 30 centimeters (cm) long and 6 cm wide (Fig. 1). Thoroughly clean and polish the bamboo tube to avoid internal injuries in animals.
4. Use the bamboo tube once or twice daily to feed the mixture to the cattle.

Make sure that the feed mixture does not go into the cattle’s windpipe (Fig. 2), as improper application may lead to vomiting or respiratory problems.

Fig. 2. Proper animal position and application of feed (IIRR 1992).


Provide houses or shelters to protect the animals against harsh weather elements. Allot at least 1.5 square meters (m2) of space for each animal kept in houses to prevent overcrowding that may increase the harmful effects of humidity and temperature extremes. If animals are allowed to graze, allot at least 5 meters (m) of space per animals.

Deworm and spray against internal and external parasites. Consult a veterinarian regarding proper health management. Bathe the animals at least once a week to ensure hygiene and improve their feed intake.

Feed the cattle daily with dry matter (DM) equivalent according to age (Table 1), and always provide clean drinking water.

Table 1. DM equivalent to age and body weight of cattle (PCAARRD 2001).

Rice straw feeding for carabao and cattle 

In areas with distinct dry and wet seasons, farmers collect rice (O. sativa) straw from the field after grain harvest and store them as feed during lean periods of the year.

Rice straw is a fibrous crop residue derived from rice production, and it is stored through stack-piling in a cone-shaped manner known as mandala.

When fresh forage is scarce, farmers rely heavily on rice straw as feed, particularly for carabao and cattle. Farmers either gather rice straw from the pile and give them to the animals, or let the animals eat or browse from the pile.

Rice straw is abundant in almost all livestock production areas, and its usage does not entail additional cost to carabao and cattle raisers. However, its low crude protein (CP) content (less than 7% dietary protein requirement for voluntary intake) and mineral deficiency (Ca, P, and Mg) require supplementation of other protein and energy-rich feedstuffs, such as locally available concentrates, green forages, and nutrient block, e.g., urea-molasses-mineral block (UMMB).

Bulk storage of rice straw in a closed shed is a fire hazard, especially during extremely dry and hot conditions. Moreover, transporting rice straw from paddy fields can also transmit parasites, such as liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica).

High-energy feed supplementation for poultry

Practice supplementation with high-energy feedstuffs, such as corn, grated coconut and palay, or home-mixed rations (i.e., 30% copra, 40% corn, and 30% rice bran) during prolonged dry or wet months when there is a shortage in natural feeds.

High-energy feed supplementation is recommended to farmers with native chickens; land area with available natural feed supplements and drinking water; housing fixtures with feeders and waterers; and information materials on the technology, including vaccination and disease prevention.

Feeding native poultry with commercial feeds improves their productive performance. However, this practice may not be economical since native poultry are not as genetically efficient as commercial poultry strains.

Give the native chickens enough time and free access to the field to look for food. Lure insects and worms by collecting and dumping hay in the area where the native chickens forage. To maximize access to natural feeds in the field, give the birds their proper feeding space, ideally, about 2.5-5 m2/bird.

Feed supplementation is usually done twice a day: once in the early morning between 6:00-7:00 am and another in the late afternoon around 4:00 pm. Use feeders within the native chickens’ housing fixtures to train the birds to return home and allow the farmer to do a headcount at the end of the day.

While feedstuffs are generally given ad libitum, it is safe to give 40-60 g to each chicken per day. Moreover, always provide the native birds with clean and fresh water using basins, plastic trays, and bamboo poles split in half. Practice vaccination as a community-based activity. Vaccinate against the avian pest, NCD, when native birds are one week old. At the onset of diseases, separate the infected birds from the healthy ones. Properly dispose of dead birds by burning or burying them in the ground to avoid transmitting disease-causing bacteria and germs to other birds.

High-moisture feeds for ruminants 

Most indigenous fodder trees and shrubs remain fresh and succulent even in dry conditions due to their deeprot systems. Feeding ruminants with crop residues from newly-harvested crops can provide the necessary bulk and additional moisture. These high-moisture feedstuffs are chopped into small pieces, about a foot long, and hand-fed to the animals; hand-feeding helps make the animals tamer and easier to handle.

Coconuts (Cocos nucifera) are quite common along the countryside, making them easily accessible to farmers. Both carabao and cattle relish the soft and succulent coconut fronds, which also provide some nutrients that are limited in other available feedstuffs. Coconut fronds add bulk and increase the daily DM intake of the ruminants.

Using high-moisture feeds is recommended to carabao and cattle raisers with access to feed materials such as banana trunks and coconut fronds; practices deworming and parasite control; and owns implements for cutting or slicing and peeling off feed materials.

While this practice does not entail additional costs to farmers, preparation of high-moisture feeds can be labor intensive (Fig. 3), and high-moisture feeds have relative low feeding value, except for leguminous feed materials. To give ruminants a more balanced ration, and other concentrates, feeds, forages, and nutrient blocks.

Preparation of coconut fronds as feeds
1. Collect fresh green fronds from coconut palms. Coconut fronds are the woody part of
coconut leaves.
2. Separate the wood frond from the leaflets.
3. Cut fronds into desirable lengths of about a foot and peel or scrape their outer sheath or covering.
4. Split the coconut fronds into thin slices.
5. Hand-feed the sliced coconut fronds to the animals.

Rice straw with limited concentrate for ruminants

Livestock raisers use any available feed materials for their animals during periods of feed scarcity. Rice straw is the most commonly available feedstuff, so it entails minimal cost to farmers. Due to its poor feeding value, rice straw cannot support live weight maintenance and animal production when fed alone. Using rice straw with limited concentrate is recommended to farmers with ruminants and access to rice straw and
concentrates, e.g., rice bran, copra meal, etc.

Supplementation of concentrates in limited quantities (12-20% of total DM ration) improves digestibility and/or intake of rice straw; increases available nutrients to animals; and promotes animal growth and/or production. Give a small amount of concentrates in the morning followed by ad libitum feeding of rice straw after animals have consumed the concentrate. Using a limited amount of concentrates will not reduce the intake of the basal diet, as in the case of liberal concentrate supplementation.

The amount of recommended DM ration depends on the animal’s weight and ranges 0.3-0.6% of live weight or 12-20% of the total DM ration. For example, a 400-kg cattle, on an ad libitum feeding of rice straw, requires at least 1.2 kg of concentrates per day.

Urea-molasses-mineral block supplementation for ruminants 

As a feed supplement, the UMMB supplies the animals with energy, protein, and other essential nutrients and minerals that are usually deficient in low-quality basal ration such as rice straw.

Table 2. Proportions of UMMB ingredients (PCAARRD 2001).

The block can be prepared using several formulations, depending on the supply and price of the required ingredients. The main ingredients and their proportion in the formulation are indicated in Table 2. Use vats or any large container and spades to mix the UMMB ingredients, then mould using fabricated steel boxes, wooden frames, or plastic bags. Retain the UMMB’s solid, hard, and compact form by protecting it from rain and other water sources.

The amount of UMMB to be given is based on the type and weight of the ruminants. A 5-kg block may be good for 7-10 days for a carabao of cattle weighing 350-400 kg.

Overconsumption of the UMMB may be toxic, so the supplementation is not recommended to animals that are younger than six months or those that are hungry. Complement UMMB supplementation with provision of clean drinking water.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2018 issue. 

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