Russian comphrey is emerging as the better fodder alternative given that it provides livestock with three times protein content and produces double harvest per acre than napier grass.
“Napier grass, which most farmers grow in large scale, has a protein content of 8.3 per cent when dry per given mass. But dry comphrey has protein nutrient of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent,” said Thomas Momanyi, an agricultural extension office in Kisii County during the Kisii Agricultural Society of Kenya Show, 2016.
However, according to Momanyi, more famers are yet to embrace the high yielding nutritious fodder that is fed to poultry, pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, among others.
It is also food for humans. Central Kenya’s Kikuyu community, who call Russian comphrey mabaki, use it as a vegetable binder during the cooking of mukimo delicacy.
Russian comphrey also produces double harvest compared to napier grass. One acre can produce up to 100 tonnes of freshly cut Russian comphrey per year, which is twice the yield of common napier grass varieties whose harvest ranges from 50 tonnes to 60 tonnes over the same period.
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Free extra protein
Farmer feeding their livestock on this crop do not require protein supplements, Momanyi said, adding that its nutritive value surpasses most legumes.
According to Nantaha Farm & Garden, a farming information site, the Russian Comphrey’s protein content only competes with soy beans, which is 17 per cent. Protein content in other legumes lie between 8 per cent and 9 per cent.
The site also gives corn and pasture grass fresh fodder harvest as 25 tonnes per acre per year.
Digestion in non-ruminants
Although it does not have high fibre content as napier and other common grasses, it has a sufficient percentage that promotes digestion in chicken.
It can be crashed into a concoction for the chickens, ducks, and other poultry, or they be allowed to feed on it directly like other green materials.
Some feeds like corn may cause bloating in livestock. Russian comphrey does not cause the accumulation of the gases in livestock’s stomach. This property makes it the best feed for non-ruminant animals like pigs, Momanyi said.
The bushes mature when it reaches three or four feet in height. It is planted at a spacing of 45cm by 60cm.
“It does well in sufficient rainfall areas as well as drier regions. Its roots can be as long as six or seven feet. They fetch water and minerals from such deep levels,” he said.
It also makes nutrient rich composite manure and mulch because of the heavy green fleshy leaves.
Proteins boost animal yields in production like eggs, milk, meat, among others.
Planting materials of this food feed crop, which is scientifically called Symphytum officinale, can be obtained from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation centres.
PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT