Fodder offers alternatives to rising cost of commercial feeds

Hydroponic fodder unit Justus Ndwiga Mombasa by Laban Robert.JPG

Justus Ndwiga inspects wheat and barley fodder at the Mombasa's Mukomani ASK Show Ground in August 2016. Hydroponic fodder is a cheaper alternative to rising commercial feeds. Photo by Laban Robert.

As the cost of animal feeds keeps rising against the suppressed maize supply, farmers can cut in half production expenses by propagating the one week maturing hydroponic fodder from barley or wheat.

Wheat and barley are the commonest protein ingredients in the industrial manufacturing of animal feeds.

But the same grains can be germinated and fed to animal, with just a few skills to counter the untenable cost of the commercial feeds.

Kenya has been a food crisis for more than five months due to depletion of maize, which is the staple of the country.

Maize is milled into flour for human consumption and feeds for animals. The rise in price of animal products is dismal compared to the cost of production.

On average, a 70kg bag of layers mash has increased by about Sh500 to sell at about Sh3,200. Dairy meal of the same quantity is selling at Sh2,300, an increase of about Sh400 from March, 2017.

Justus Ndwiga, a farmer and an extension office in the Department of Agriculture in Mombasa County, said he gets at least six kilos of fodder from every one kilogramme of dry wheat grains.

He buys the wheat at a wholesale price of between Sh3,700 and Sh3,900 per 90kg bag.

“Barley and wheat fodder are the saviors of my two ayrshires. About 12 kilos per day for each of them is sufficient. Together with some kilos of hay the day is over for these cows,” he said.

He only add about Sh1,400 to what it costs to buy a 70kg dairy meal to get the 90kg wheat bag that yields 540 kilos of the fodder.

The farmer washes about 15kg of the grain clean water, which he had added about 30ml of a disinfectant like Jik. The disinfectant kills germs in the grains to give more than 95 per cent germination rate.

The soaked grains are spread on trays in a humid room where they sprout by the end of the eight day to be more than five centimeters.

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Wheat supplies 15.9 per cent crude proteins and 70.3 per cent starch. The fodder is 89 per cent digestible.

Barley offers livestock 12.7 per cent crude proteins, 64.3 per cent starch and it is 87 per cent digestible. Protein is the main food component that increases milk let down.

Wheat is majorly cultivated in large-scale in Narok County barley is also available in major cereal stocks. Unlike maize, Kenya has exported a total of 565.9 metric tons of wheat to Rwanda alone in the last one week, according to the Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network.

The cost of a 90kg bag of maize is past Sh4,200.  And it is not available despite the government allowing for importation of duty-free maize for close to a month.