How to make “Boskos”!
Using encroaching bush/ alien vegetation for livestock feed
Every year when a drought approaches an area or as the drought gets worse, terms such as “Bos-tot-Kos”, “Boskos” and Bushfeed get thrown around regularly. We have been hearing them every day in places like Namibia, Botswana and parts of the Eastern Cape in South Africa the last couple of months. So what exactly does “bos tot kos” mean? In this article we will try and shed some light on the boskos subject.
Bos-tot-kos is when encroaching bush/alien vegetation are cut down and processed into feed for sheep, goats, cattle and game. Producing boskos is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It is hard work and needs dedication. You will need some tools to produce it and it is labour intensive. Despite this, the benefits of producing bushfeed are endless. Here are just a few of the advantages:
- Top quality feed can be produced from a source, that is seen as a weed and a problem to many.
- This top quality feed is at your disposal and won’t cost you a cent.
- Charcoal/Firewood can be produced from the bigger branches and the smaller branches of the bush (which will generally be discarded and left in the field to rot) are utilised by turning them into fodder.
- When you make bushfeed you systematically clear your farm by removing alien vegetation/encroaching bush – creating space for grass to grow when the rain comes.
- It’s an environmentally friendly way of clearing and controlling encroaching bush (instead of burning).
Here are some steps involved and things you will need:
Harvest the selected bush/branches
The following methods can be used to harvest the bush:
- Pangas – very cheap and effective, but labour intensive
- Chainsaws – high maintenance and unpractical to get into the bush
- Brush-cutters – very effective, but require specialised training and have high maintenance/running costs
- Bushsaw / Bushcutter – very effective in clearing a large area in a short time, but expensive and need to be used in conjunction with other saws to harvest the individual smaller branches
- Tree Shear – extremely quick and effective in cutting down hectares per day, but requires an excavator to power the machine which is a massive capital outlay.
Convert the branches to fibre with the use of a wood chipper/hammer-mill or combination product
When you choose the machine to process the branches it is very important to quantify your needs in terms of the daily amount of chipped product you require. The output of the machine and your budget obviously need to match. Be careful not to purchase a unit which is too small for your needs, working the unit over 75% of it’s capacity or overcapitalising on a machine that is too big for your needs. A standard 125mm to 375mm capacity TOMCAT hydraulic feed wood chipper/ a TOMCAT Screen Chipper with a separate hammer-mill or a TOMCAT Chipper Shredder (wood chipper/hammer-mill combination) can be used to process the branches to fibre.
Create your final product by mixing the chipped product with other ingredients
The typical ingredients that go into the final feed mix are:
- Molasses Syrup
Pill the final product or take it to the feed bowls immediately
You can either mix it all together on a concrete floor or use a Feed Mixer and then feed it immediately to your animals. You can also use a pill machine to turn the mixed product into pellets, which can be stored for a longer period.
What do I need to keep in mind?
- The best time to harvest is when it is growing season and there are plenty of leaves and flowers on the branches. During this time the branches contain highest nutritional value.
- Don’t use branches of more than 30mm in diameter for feed as most nutrients are stored in the smaller branches/leaves.
- Cut branches as quickly as possible to avoid the build-up of tannins inside the branches. When you cut down branches in one area/tree and take longer than 10 minutes, the tree can release tannins as part of a defense mechanism.
- Material that’s harvested and chipped during the growing season can be dried and stored to be used at a later stage when the leaves drop.
- Most bush species can be used in times of crisis. Some species cannot be used alone, but need to be used in combination with other species for best results. The following bush/tree species are frequently used for bos tot kos, but it varies from area to area:
- Swarthaak / Black Thorn (Acacia Mellifera)
- Sekelbos / Sickle Bush (Dichrostachys Cinerea)
- Soetdoring / Sweet thorn (Vachellia Karroo)
- Kameeldoring peule / Camelthorn pods (Vahcellia Erioloba)
- Suidwesdoring (Prosopis Glandulosa)
- Sandgeelhout /Silver Cluster Leaf (Terminalia Sericea)
- Drie-doring (Rhigozum Brevispinosum)
- Ghabbabos (Catophractes Alexandri)
- Rosyntjiebos (Grewia Flava)
- A hydraulic-feed wood chipper with a large in-feed opening and aggressive feed roller is necessary to feed this hard, thorny/vine-like material into the chipper. It is also safer to use a hydraulic-feed chipper instead of a gravity-feed one when feeding thorny material into the chipper. Hydraulic feed chippers gets the job done faster, with less effort/hassle and with safety in mind.
- Just give a little of this new feed to your livestock in the beginning and as they start to like it you can increase the amount until in a week or two this will be all they eat.
- When you mix all the ingredients together, mix just enough together for a one day’s feed, as you need to feed it to your livestock immediately because the Molasses will give a bad taste to it when left for a day and your cattle will not eat it and you waste a lot of food. However, when you pelletize the mixture it will allow you to stockpile the feed.
- The total amount of wood included in the mix is between 40% and 80%. Always keep in mind that the feed must be tasty and consist of enough molasses to give the animal energy to process the feed. It must be tasty and consist of the sufficient nutrition.
- Be careful when adding chemicals to the feed mixture – rather consult a feed specialist.