Serious dry season feed shortage is a common phenomenon in marginal and semi-arid area of Ethiopia. The reason is that during the dry season, most of the households of pastoral communities having private landholding stopped practicing seasonal mobility to search feed and water. As result, the wet season grazing landscapes are severely exposed to continuous grazing throughout the year, which will in turn lead to vegetation and soil degradation. The recurrent drought also affects seasonal mobility of pastoral households due to livestock losses and leaves many with few heads of livestock (Yonnis, 2002). The use of wet season grazing landscapes for crop production (private farming) also exposes the ecosystem to extreme soil degradation. This will eventually, under mine the potential to achieve, food insecurity for vulnerable households whose livelihood is entirely depend on livestock production (Amaha, 2006).
Lack of moisture also interrupts the late growth and seeding of long cycle crops (maize and sorghum) which negatively affects realizing food security through food-crop production. This late growth interruption leads to the use of long cycle crops as a potential source of livestock feed in dry season and drought period, although they are harvested after losing their feed quality.
Pastoralists in Jijiga plains have recently developed an innovative practice in the use of sorghum and maize residue as a source of livestock feed in the dry season and drought period (Belaynesh et al, 2009). A few pastoralists have experience conserving limited size of standing hay in their private landholdings to be grazed in dry season. However, crop residue and conserved standing hay lose their feed quality before providing sufficient nutrients to the animals. During the wet season, considerable amount of the natural pasture is misused, that could be properly conserved for the dry season during which there is a serious feed shortage. This underutilized productive resource that will be mobilized with limited investment can be achieved by introducing small-scale feed conservation technologies. For instance, conserved sorghum/maize residues in the form of silage improve feed quality than used as it is. Similarly natural pastures sanding hay have low feed value than harvested one.
In dry-lands of Ethiopia, livestock production takes place in uncertain environment which posses challenge to achieve food security and reduce poverty. Developing dry season feed conservation options for sustainable livestock production can better contribute to achieving food security, and support the national poverty reduction strategy. Moreover, as is a new innovation it enables sedentarized pastoralists to use alternative feed resources to adapt challenges from unpredictable environment that exposed them for critical dry season feed shortage.
There have been a number of studies under taken on rangeland conditions (Ahmed, 2003; Belaynesh, 2006; Amaha, 2006; Abule, 2007), its rehabilitation potential (Amaha, 2006; Belaynesh, 2006; Shashe, 2007; Alemu, 2008) and feed resources characterization (Seyoum and Zenash, 2001). There are also studies emphasizing on identification of challenges and opportunities in pastoralists’ mobility as traditional grazing land management that helps conserve feed for dry season (Homann, et al., 2004; Proud, 2009). However, these did not address options in feed conservation technologies that could be relevant to sedentarised pastoral production systems. Therefore, it is imperative to asses and identifies potential feed resources and affordable feed conservations technologies that could be used for sustainable animal production in the regions.