One of the main determinants of successful dairy farming rests on the shoulders of the feeding budget. Dairy cows need a daily supply of quality feed to cater for body maintenance, production, and pregnancy. Milk and feed are directly related. If you short-change your cow on feed quantity or quality, you will get less milk. When a cow gets inadequate feed, she goes under stress quickly. It only takes a few days for you to notice the difference in both her health and milk production. In the event there is a food crisis on the farm, she will use her own body reserves in order to maintain milk production. This then causes a domino effect which affects her reproduction cycle. The chances of the cow giving birth are then greatly reduced – her calving period will be extended.
Many farmers in Kenya cite high feed costs as one of the main challenges that cause them to not perform. Lack of planning, however, also plays a big role in this predicament. Let’s be honest. Only a handful of beginner farmers in Kenya actually plan with proper research and wisdom. The rest rush and get into dairy farming after reading exaggerated success story articles and brief word-of-mouth strategies of successful dairy farmers in their region. The main points they hear are the costs involved in building a zero grazing unit and buying cows. They never slow down to hear the nitty-gritty involved in feeding a dairy cow. Feeding is usually placed in the work-in-progress category. It is solved slowly after the farm structures have already been built and the cows purchased. When they lose a cow or two from hunger, they start to panic and scramble to solve the problem.
Brachiaria Grass: An Affordable Feeding Strategy
If the cost of feed is the problem, then farmers should start looking for affordable feeding strategies. Hitting two birds with one stone. Solving their cow hunger problem and improve on their milk production. One such strategy is growing Bracharia grass. It has more than 15% crude protein on a dry matter basis. It can reach 20% with good management. Brachiaria has been praised as the wonder fodder that boosts milk. Brachiaria grass is indigenous to Africa but has been growing wild until recently. It was taken to other parts of the world, including Australia and South America, where it was improved to get superior varieties, some of which are now being promoted in Kenya. There are two varieties of Brachiaria, namely Mulato and Mulato II, produced by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
It looks similar to Napier grass from a distance, but on a closer look, you will see that they have differences. Some of the differences between Brachiaria grass and Napier grass are;
- Brachiaria grass has thicker leaves.
- They do not have irritating hairs that define Napier grass.
- Brachiaria grass also produces seeds, unlike Napier grass. Its seeds do not lose their hybrid vigour, meaning that you can plant the seeds and still get a good result.
- Brachiaria grass does not take up lots of nutrients from the soil.
- Napier grass is vulnerable to diseases like Napier stunt and Napier smut diseases. Brachiaria is resistant to these diseases.
Benefits of Brachiaria Grass
Brachiaria grass is a high-yielding, drought-tolerant grass that is a valuable addition to any livestock operation. It produces a lot of forage yearly, which can ensure that your dairy cows always have a ready feed. It can give you an output of 15,000 Kg of dry matter per acre per year.
Brachiaria grass is also a good choice for farmers who are looking to improve soil quality. It helps to conserve soil, improve soil fertility, increase biodiversity, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
Brachiaria grass can be propagated by seeds or vegetative material. However, if you want to grow Brachiaria on a large farm, it is better to use seeds. You will need 2.5-3kgs seeds per acre.
Here are some additional benefits of Brachiaria grass:
- It is a good source of protein and energy for livestock.
- It can help to increase milk production.
- It is a relatively inexpensive crop to grow.
- It is drought-tolerant and can be grown in poor soils.
- It helps to improve soil quality.
If you are looking for a high-yielding, drought-tolerant grass that is a good source of protein and energy for livestock, Brachiaria grass is a good choice.
Brachiaria grass is a high-yielding, drought-tolerant grass that is a valuable addition to any livestock operation. It can be harvested after 4-5 months and can be served as hay or silage. Brachiaria grass is a good source of protein and energy for livestock, and it can help to increase milk production. It is also a relatively inexpensive crop to grow, which can save farmers money.
To prepare Brachiaria grass for feeding, it should be cut and allowed to wilt in a dark place for a day. Once it has wilted, it can be fed to livestock. The amount of Brachiaria grass that should be fed to livestock will vary depending on the size and needs of the animals. However, a good starting point is to feed 15-20 kg per day to a cow.
Growing Brachiaria grass is a wise investment for any livestock farmer. It is a high-yielding, drought-tolerant grass that can help to increase milk production and save farmers money.
Here are some additional tips for growing Brachiaria grass:
- Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil.
- Fertilize the soil with a balanced fertilizer before planting.
- Water the grass regularly, especially during dry periods.
- Mow the grass regularly to keep it healthy and productive.
- Protect the grass from pests and diseases.
With proper care, Brachiaria grass can be a valuable addition to any livestock operation.
You can buy seeds from Amiran Kenya.
Do you already have Brachiaria grass on your farm? What is the milk yield performance? Did it change once you started using? Share with us your insights in the comments below.