Translating scientific findings into agricultural practice often fails because the link between the two areas is missing and there is no implementation. This is often not easy even in Europe, but it is even more difficult in developing countries, for example in Africa. However, digitalization offers many opportunities to break new ground here. Prof. Dr. Uta Dickhöfer and her team at the Department of Animal Nutrition and Pasture Management in the Tropics and Subtropics at the University of Hohenheim have recognized this opportunity and have set themselves the goal of improving dairy cattle feeding in Africa by putting their research results directly “in the hands” of farmers with the help of smartphones.

Dairy farms in Africa

Dairy farmer with his cows in Kenya

Small and medium-sized dairy farms play an important role in the supply of milk and dairy products and as a source of income for millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. The farms usually keep 1-15 dairy cows of local breeds or their crosses with exotic dairy breeds such as Holstein or Jersey cattle. Depending on the season, feeding is based on pasture fodder, cultivated forage grasses, crop residues (e.g. straw and leaves from cultivated plants) and purchased concentrates. In particular, the lack of basic feed and its low feed value, but also a lack of knowledge about feeding and the use of concentrates adapted to the animals’ needs, limit the health and performance of the animals and thus the profitability of dairy farming. We therefore want to provide farmers with a digital decision-making tool that they can use to obtain information about their feed and improve the feeding of their animals.

Start of the tropical project

Feed in Kenya – mainly grass and bushes

In the first stage of development, the feed evaluation model was adapted with requirement values for energy and protein of the locally used dairy cattle breeds under local husbandry conditions. Another important data basis is the feed database. Here, information on the feed value of important tropical basic and concentrated feeds from previous studies in the field, as well as from scientific publications and publicly accessible overview tables, was compiled in a database.

This is where our collaboration began. From the existing knowledge and given data, fodjan developed a customized app version for Hohenheim’s tropical project. This first prototype was tested in practice for three months in Kenya by a Master’s student at the university. She presented the app to local dairy farmers, calculated rations and collected many ideas for the next development steps. Everyone involved was pleasantly surprised by the sheer level of interest shown by the farmers and organizations.

We are therefore looking forward to further cooperation.