Which is the best fodder crop to feed your cows
Are you looking for the best fodder for cows, goats or other livestock in Kenya? In this post, we outline 10 of the most nutritious fodder crops in Kenya for feeding your dairy or beef cattle. They are suitable for other livestock like rabbits, goats, sheep and pigs in your farm. you can opt to grow them in your farm or buy from suppliers if you are looking for the highest farm profits. A good mix includes both grass and legume plants for organic or grass-fed milk, eggs and meat yields.
High Quality and quantity of animal fodder is needed for high animal yields and profits for all your livestock types whether goats, cows or sheep. However, as a rancher, herder or small-scale dairy farmer, you will face challenges trying to access adequate fodder for your animals. The costs of commercial feed for pigs, chicken and other livestock are one of the expensive in the region.
Why you should grow animal fodder crops?
- Grow and store fodder as a risk mitigation measure against droughts.
- Generate income by selling clean planting materials like seeds, cuttings and seedlings and and fresh fodder or stored hay.
- If you are a rancher in ASAL areas, grow fodder crops under irrigation to reseed bare lands to check on desertification and soil erosion.
- As a Crop farmer, practice agroforestry to enjoy benefits of tree planting.
- Leguminous fodder crops help in nitrogen fixation a process that improves your soil fertility.
- Practice companion planting like the push and pull method of planting corn and Desmodium an effective organic farming strategy to control weeds.
Best Types of Fodder Crops in Kenya
In this list, learn the best fodder types that do best in this region. You can raise them under irrigation or rain-fed farming. They are;
- Napier grass
- Tree Lucerne
- Sweet Lupin
- Barley, oats, wheat & Rice
- Common Vetch
- Fodder Sorghum
- Sweet potato vines
Napier grass is the most cultivated fodder grass in Kenya. According to the ILRI, it provides between 40 and 60 percent of forage for around 0.6 million dairy farmers in the country.
Under good management, it can annually give you 25 tons of dry matter in hectare. It has many cultivars and varieties available for you. The common types of fodder grass in Kenya include;
- French Cameroon,
- Bana grass,
- Kakamega 1
- Clone 13
- Pakistan Hybrid.
You can plant cane cuttings or splits to establish. Harvest it when it is about one meter long. Cut it 5 cm from the ground. To avoid wastage, chop it to small pieces of about 5 cm when feeding your animals. You can also preserve it by making silage.
It is good in preventing soil erosion and can act as a wind breaker. However, it is a heavy feeder and takes a lot of soil nutrients. You will require a lot of manure and fertilizers to get high yields. Intercrop it with a leguminous fodder such as desmodium.
It was traditionally used to feed silkworms as early as 3500 BC. Today the fodder crop is nice for dairy goats. It can grow as a shrub or left to grow as a tree.
Under good management, the fodder crops yield 35-45 tons of fresh leaf per hectare in a year. The shrub offers twice the number of proteins present in Napier grass. In addition, you can grow mulberry for the fruits that you can use to flavor food.
The tree is easily propagated from cuttings.
It is one of the most nutritious types of fodder grass in Kenya alongside the Nappier Grass and Hay Grass like the Boma Rhodes.It is preferred for its higher milk production and quality meat. You can feed it to animals directly after cut or conserve it as hay or silage. Research indicates it can produce 6-12 t/ha per year. It does well in areas with over 700 mm of rainfall and temperatures above 19 ° C. It is easy for animals to digest and contains 9-20 percent protein content.
Under fertile soils, climate conditions and perfect crop management, it can grow up to 1.5 meters. The crop resists soil erosion making it a good choice for ranches in Arid and semi-arid areas. Consider it as long-term fodder, for it can last, up to 20 years if well managed.
You can propagate it using seeds, root splits or stem cuttings.
The multi stemmed shrub is good for healthy animals, thick milk and good fat. It can be fed to cattle, sheep, pigs, rabbits and poultry. Its leaves and pods are rich in protein.
For conservation, you can dry the shrubs in shade to preserve nutrients. The fodder crop can also be used as fodder, fuel, fencing and in improving soil fertility through nitrogen fixation process. It can be planted on steep areas to prevent flooding and landslides.
It is another legume planted for its seeds. It is a common raw material in animal feed processing. Use the vines for good soil fertility by fallowing it back on land, crop rotation and cover crop.
Tree Lucerne (Tagasaste)
You can plant the fodder crop for your livestock, nitrogen fixing and bee keeping. The seeds are used an ingredient for processing poultry feed. It is a high nutritional fodder with its crude protein ranging between 18% and 24%.
It grows in areas with an attitude of 1500-2500 Metres above sea level (m.a.s.l) and rainfall quantities of 600-1600 mm per year. In addition to being a rich protein fodder crop, you can plant it as live fence and alongside other forage crops like grass or maize,
You can grow this from seeds or seedlings.
other tree legume plants are Sesbania, Glyricidia and the Sababbul
Barley and Oats
Oats are another good fodder for the frost prone area. It provides high nutritious hay if harvested at milk or early dough stages. Oats can be fed to all livestock types. Other grass fodder types are barley, Boma Rhodes and Para grass.
Intercrop Desmodium with Napier grass. It is rich in protein which will increase your milk yields. As a weed plant in Napier gras farms, Desmodium use in promoted in push and pull method, an organic farming method to control weed growth and soil water retention.
Plant the early maturing maize varieties in cold highlands that are prone to occasional frost. You will mostly use it for making silage. Maize is a multipurpose crop, and you can use it for human food. Its seed bran can be used to formulate animal feeds. To produce maize fodder, you need KES 45000. If well managed, you can make 15-20 tons of fodder.
The fodder crop is a climber legume plant that grows well in areas between 2190 and 2280 m.a.s.l. It is common in areas receiving 800-900 mm of rainfall per year and temperatures of 4.3- 21.1° C. Other features of the fodder are its fast growth habit and prolific seeding giving it high biomass for your livestock. According to KALRO, it needs around KES 20,000 to establish. Its returns are high with a group of 20 farmers having made around Kes 3 million from sale of hay and seeds. One stand can make 100-150 bales of vetch hay.
It is a suitable for marginal areas. It is high yielding, drought resistant and suitable for silage making. Another advantage of the E6518 fodder sorghum is its regrowth after cutting.
Sweet potato vines
They can improve milk for your cows. The creeping legume plants are usually planted for its tubers. The plant regrows quickly and is highly prolific. As a perennial plant, you can use the cover crop for long periods of time. According to KALRO, it will take KES 30,000 to establish sweet potato vines in an acre of land.
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