A strawberry farmer, who sells mulberry leaves for therapeutic use, displays her product at the Nairobi International Agricultural Society of Kenya Show on October 8,2016.Mulberry leaves offer double proteins to animals than common Napier grass. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.
Farmers growing mulberry fodder offer double proteins to livestock than those relying on most Napier grass varieties, which have failed to boost milk production despite the amounts served.
Increased protein ration in dairy cows and goats, layers and broilers among other livestock boosts yields, given that the body building nutrients are core in the formation of milk, eggs and meat.
Although it may require more time to regenerate after harvesting moreso during dry spells, mulberry leaves offer life between 15 per cent and 25 per cent proteins.
Apart from the new giant Napier grass from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, KALRO, other varieties offer between seven per cent and eight per cent crude proteins to livestock.
The KALRO giant variety has a protein content of up to 26 per cent.
Besides having a digestibility of up to 80kg for every 100kg, animals ‘love’ it.
“One of the main features of mulberry as a forage, it is highly palatable. Animals consume the leaves avidly. They often prefer mulberry to other forages when they are offered simultaneously. The animals even dig through a pile of leaves in search of mulberry twigs,” Charles Wambugu and other authors say in a Fodder Shrubs for Dairy Farmers in East Africa manual.
Low digestibility makes mulberry the best feed for silkworms and rabbits, which do not have fibre-digesting micro-organisms-bacteria- like other ruminants.
The fodder is managed as a hedge, therefore, it should be cut at a height of between half a metre and one metre above the ground for maximum leaves yields. On wet season, leaves can be harvested after 60 days.
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If one cannot have a pure stand of mulberry, they can be grown along the boundaries or as ornamental homestead shades.
The leaves are also dried and used for therapeutics while fruits are sold raw or used in flavouring food.
Mulberry establishment is done using sticks or seeds.