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    Farmers invest in homemade livestock feeds as prices skyrocket

    Long buffeted by escalating prices of commercial feeds and unpredictable weather patterns, a group of farmers in Rift Valley are finding solace in alternative feeds and are reporting a halving of feed expenses from their ventures.

    Hellen Yego, a dairy farmer in Moiben, Uasin Gishu County, began producing her own feed after she realised the low milk production was a result of the poor quality commercial feeds she had been using. She planted sunflowers to get the nutritious seeds that boost milk productivity.

    “I extract cooking oil from the sunflower, which I use for both commercial and subsistence purposes. It is from the remains of the sunflower seed that I obtain the cake,” Mrs Yego said.

    The Dairy Producers Association has raised concerns over the shortage of main nutritious components, saying it was taking a toll on farmers.

    Mr Peter Lelei, the association’s vice chairperson, says the biting shortage can only be contained if the country would import the nutritious components from the neighbouring countries.

    “We are urging the respective ministries to make arrangements of importing these vital supplements from Uganda and Tanzania in order to boost productivity in the dairy industry,” says Mr Lelei.

    “We have dairy farmers who do not have enough resources at their disposal to import these supplements as individuals that is why it is necessary for the government to import to benefit all farmers” says Mr Lelei, who is also a dairy farmer in Uasin Gishu.

    The shortage of the two key ingredients has resulted from decreased production of sunflower and cotton as most farmers who were cultivating the crops stopped for lack of ready market. The same farmers are also using cassava as an alternative feed due to its surplus production for human consumption. However they first dry it to rid it off cyanide, the toxic producing fungus.

    This model of introducing cassava is being championed by Bridgenet an NGO assisting farmers in Poultry keeping which has borrowed the model from European countries like Holland and UK who have imported cassava from South East Asia for use in poultry and pig feeds. “It is possible to change all this cry about expensive chicken feed, if you look around and see for example how much cassava is rotting in the farms due to oversupply. That cassava has been proven to be nutritious feed for chicken, and is readily available,” says Dorothy Mwende a programme officer with Bridgenet.

    Mary Gikuni an agroproneur from Limuru area ventured into farming fodder shrubs that have been known to increase milk production in cattle by 20 percent. She later learnt from scientists that the same fodder shrubs known as Caliandra are very effective in feeding chicken once they are cut into small quantities and even mixed with feeds that may be low in protein.

    The shrubs which are easier to grow, maturing in about 12 months, after which they can be regularly pruned and fed to livestock for up to 20 years have been known to harden the shells of the egg and improve the quality of the egg yolk. Mrs Gikuni who couldn’t keep up with the rising cost of chicken feed recording tremendous losses, got a break when a fellow farmer introduced her to the fodder shrubs.

    Within one year of spirited effort she managed to harvest her first leaves, which she mixed with feeds of lower quality, with the fodder shrubs providing the minerals and the proteins. From an initial investment of around Ksh 2,000 in buying and tending to the caliandra seedlings, Mrs Gikuni now earns between Ksh6,000- Ksh 10,000 a month after expenses. She is among the few supplier of chicken products in schools and hotels in Limuru area. “I always tell my customers to compare my eggs with those of chicken that has fed on commercial feeds. The difference is glaring. The egg shell is harder and the egg york more yellow,” she says.

    A shortage of grains has seen animal feed manufacturers shutting down across the country with others  operating at half capacity and struggling to cover their costs, according to the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers (Afefema).
    Due to a shortage of grain, by-products and oil cakes and price of animal feed has on average, gone up by 50-94 percent since October 2010. The result being an increase in the cost of animal feeds to a point where most farmers are not able to sustain their livestock.

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