Conserve adequate fodder for dry season

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Feeding the cattle during the dry season needs good planning. A lot of fodder can be conserved and be used to feed the animals between January and April when there is severe fodder shortage. The entire crop residue is collected and conserved well for use as fodder in the dry season.

Maize harvesting is going on in most parts of the country. A lot of crop residue such as dry maize stalks, beans and sorghum residue and pasture grasses such as Napier and Rhodes are available in plenty. Immediately after harvesting maize or beans, the farmer should start planning on how to collect and store the residue in a good store where it is protected from the rains or other damage. Grazing the animals in the harvested fields just after the harvest as most farmers do is wasteful because they tend to trample, soil or urinate on it making it unsuitable for use as fodder later.

Store fodder well

Many farmers leave crop residue in the field where it is exposed to wet conditions. If the farmer can put up a good store, trough and feeding rack, a good part of the fodder can be conserved and used to feed the animals during the dry season.

Production depends on fodder quality

Dairy cows will only produce milk if they are given enough and good quality feed. In the same way, beef cattle can only attain the correct weight if they are given the correct feed rations. The more and better the quality of feed dairy cows are given, the more the milk they will produce, as long as the farmer observes all other management practices.

The feed nutrients

Animal feed should have various groups of nutrients, and the composition depends on which type of animal is being fed. Proteins help to build the animal’s body and maintain its health. Carbohydrates provide energy while minerals and vitamins help the body to function and grow properly. For dairy cows, these provide nutrients found in the milk. A dairy cow also needs plenty of water for milk production, body building and heat regulation.

Dry matter intake

The amount of fodder a dairy cow needs depends on its bodyweight. For example a Jersey (400 kg) that produces 15 kg of milk per day will need 11.5 kg of fodder but a Friesian cow (600 kg) needs 16.5 kg/day of dry matter to produce the same amount of milk. It is always important for every dairy farmer to measure the weight of each of their dairy cows to determine how much feed they need to give them. Bands for measuring weight are available in most agrovet shops and every farm should have one.

Cut fodder into small pieces

 The amount of feed given to dairy cows should be easy to chew and swallow. Fodder should be cut in small sizes. Nutrition experts advise that fodder for dairy cows should be the same length as the animal’s muzzle (mouth). This is ideal as it allows the animal to chew it into the right quality for ease of digestion.

The quality of crop residues can be improved by doing the following:

• Adding fodder legumes such as lablab or desmodium to feed improves the quality of fodder.• Supplementing fodder with concentrates like cotton or sunflower seed cakes and are a good source of vegetable protein for the animals supplementation of fodder with concentrates like cotton seed cake or sunflower seed cakes.

• Soaking the dry/tough crop residues in water increases palability (this softens the fodder for easy chewing and digestibility)

• Soaking the residues in molasses overnight makes it tastier and provides extra energy.

Farmers can also make the crop residue more palatable (easy to eat) by sprinkling it with urea. However, this technology is tricky as there is a risk of poisoning the cow if too much urea is used. 

(Farmers who are interested in this urea technology can order a leaflet from TOF office. Write email to admin@theorganicfarmer.org) or send SMS to 0715 916 136.


Proper planning is key

A farmer should start making fodder for the dry season when there is a lot of green forage material from maize, beans, Napier grass or other crop residue. This is when there is more fodder available than the animals can eat. It is important for the farmer to prepare early by doing the following:

 • Growing grasses and deep, rooted legumes that provide high quality fodder for a longer period (leguminous forage contains protein).

 • Planting fodder trees such as calliandra, mulberry and Leucaena, which provide farmers with large amounts of highquality but low-cost fodder.

 • Planting sweet potatoes: the sweet potato vines are protein boosters and can survive even during the dry season.

• Making your own mineral salts by use of plants such as pumpkins and amaranthus.


Making silage in polythene bags

Take care of the excess fodder in your farm. If stored well, it feeds your cow during the dry season and increases your income. It can be stored as hay or used for making silage. There are many methods of making silage, but the use of polythene bags is one of the most suitable for small-scale dairy farmers. The following steps should be taken when making silage using polythene bags.

1. Chop the forage to the correct length using a panga or chaffcutter. Spread a sheet (Chandarua) or canvas onto a flat surface and place 100 kg of fodder on it. Spread the material into a thin layer.

2. Dilute 3 Kasuku tins of molasses with 3 litres of water. Sprinkle the diluted molasses onto the chopped forage as evenly as possible. Turn evenly and spread it.

3. Tie one end of a 2 metre long polythene bag (1.5 metres, 1000 gauge) to make a large polythene bag. Place the 100 kg of forage already mixed with molasses into the polythene bag and compact as much as possible. Repeat the same process twice, each time compressing the forage thoroughly after adding forage into the polythene bag.

 4. Tie the top of the polythene bag tightly ensuring as little air as possible remains above the forage/molasses mixture. Place some weight on the tied sack to compact the mixture further. Store the bags away from direct sunlight or rain. The silage will be ready for use after two month. The silage can be stored as long as the farmer wishes.

 Important: Each time you open the silage bag, expel the air from the bag and then tie it tightly to avoid spoilage. Polythene bags cost about KSh 110 per metre while molasses cost Ksh 300 per 20-litre jerrican. It costs KSh 385 to make one bag of silage, which can feed one dairy cow for up to 4 days.

>>Tell us how useful this information is to your farming enterprise. Share your experience by email to admin@theorganicfarmer.org, leave a comment below this article or send SMS to 0715 916 136.

 

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