Farmer earns from hay as peers suffer maize and wheat losses

A Narok County farmer, who chose feed growing over wheat and maize, is making more than half a million shillings every year from the sale of Boma Rhode as demand for the feeds keeps rising.

The county is known for wheat and maize production. But farmers have consistently faced marketing challenges such as dismal prices, bad roads, exploitation from middlemen and poor storage facilities leading to rotting.

Geoffrey Rono got  into hay farming at the start of 2015 after seeing the untapped opportunity in the sector as most farmers in the county focused on wheat and maize production despite the challenges.

 He grows Boma Rhodes grass on 112 acres three times in a year. He harvests in three phases per season.

“At wholesale, I sell one bale at Sh200. At retail, I sell the same bale at Sh240 and Sh250.  The market price depends on distance between the farm and the selling point,” said Rono.

Rono Hay.jpg

How he makes money

Each phase of harvest earns him Sh60, 000 translating to Sh180, 000 per season. In a year, the sales total to Sh540, 000 gross earning.

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Boma Rhode is famous for its high protein content, which is at 18 per cent. The market remains steady as dairy farmers seek to boost their yields with the grass, which complements commercial feeds. 

Cattle feeding

He says that between 15kg and 18kg of this hay is mixed with other ingredients like animal salt for an average dairy cow per day.

“This grass is best for the cows when both fresh and dry. When dry, enough water should be served to the cow for best results in milk production,” said Rono.

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Boma Rhodes planting

At the beginning, he bought the seeds from the Kenya Seed Company Ltd shop at Sh800. Rono cleared the land with a herbicide, then hired a tractor services to make furrows.

“I used Sh5,000 to buy five litres of herbicide before hiring a tractor at Sh10, 000 to dig furrows for seed sowing,” said Rono.

His first harvest was after five months, but the subsequent ones were after 90 days.

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For the more than one year he has been in this agribusiness, he has learnt that the seeds from his harvest can be reused to give similar results.

It takes about four years for the harvests to start reducing. This being the second year of production, he is at the peak of maximised harvesting.

Extra income

As an aside hustle, he sells selected and graded seeds at Sh600 per kilo. 

READ ALSO: High demand for Rhode Hay seeds in Kenya

The grass is soft and excellent herbage. According to Kenya seed Company, Boma Rhode is drought tolerant and it thrives in altitudes of between 1,000m and 2,500m.

It takes between 90 and 105 days to mature.

Challenges

Space for storage and competition from cartels cutting ordinary grass resembling Boma Rhodes before selling it to unsuspecting farmers are his main challenges in the agribusiness.

After harvesting, the hay is dried for a week before being tied in bundles by a tractor and stored for sale.

Rono can be reached on +254723688101

 

Photo: Courtesy.