Dairy farmers use beer by product to feed livestock, upping milk yields

Dairy farmers from the Eastern part of Uganda are cashing in on the cheap locally available grains discarded after extraction in the process of making beer to feed their cattle upping milk yields, at a time when the price of commercial feeds across East Africa have hit unprecedented highs, offering lessons to their East African counterparts buffeted by the same.

The used grain which is a byproduct in the process of beer production by the Nile Breweries a leading beer company in the country is not only ten times cheaper than the conventional dairy meal but also doubles milk production in addition to enhancing better animal health due to its concentrated amount of sugars and proteins in the feed. The utilization of the spent grain is not only providing more revenues to the firm but also a creative way of getting rid of the byproduct which would have otherwise become an environmental health hazard.

Wet Brewery spent grain is the material that remains after grains have been mashed to extract starch and sugars during the beer making process. These materials can be fed to cattle in the wet form or dried. The adoption of the improved affordable feeding technology from the beer firm comes at a time when most small holder dairy farmers are grappling with the prohibitive cost of conventional feeds like dairy meal whose prices have been erratic partly due to unstable economic conditions in a country that is predominantly dependent on import.

Kaganda Mathias one of the leading smallholder dairy farmer in Njeru town which is adjacent to the Nile Breweries Plant noted, “Since I started using spent grain from the beer plant, I have not only saved threefold on the amount of money used to purchase commercial dairy meal but have also witnessed increased milk production from my dairy cows. The milk that my cows produce is also highly concentrated and therefore most sought after by many milk vendors and consumers in the area,” he said.

At a time when access to conventional animal feeds has been a nightmare to many smallholder livestock farmers, the spent grain has been a blessing. With about Sh3,500 a farmer is able to purchase over 5 tonnes of spent Grain and Kaganda noted that he feeds each cow with about 4kilos of the feed daily. The alternative to the spent grain is dairy meal which Kaganda said that it is highly priced with a 70kilos sack retailing at about Sh1000.

The grain can either be mixed with other pasture like hay or given to cows without mixing although Ugandan farmers prefer supplementing it with other feeds. He explained, “It is important to not only rely on the spent grain for the animal because although it has numerous benefits, sometimes it may not be in stock and therefore resulting into a disaster for a farmer as cows will have been used to only that type of feed,” he added. Apart from increasing the milk output from the cows, spent grain also enhances fattening in bulls therefore being ideal to any farmer with cattle.

The feed from the beer by product has breathed a sigh of relief to the Uganda's livestock sub sector which contributes 18 percent to the agriculture's gross domestic product (GDP) and between 7-9 percent of the national gross domestic product. Of the GDP attributed to the livestock sub sector, the dairy sector is estimated to contribute up to 45 percent and plays an important role as a source of food, income and employment in the country.

Wamala Peter an Officer in charge of the distribution of spent grain to farmers at Nile Breweries noted that as these are by products rather than waste products, they can be recycled and reused in the food and agricultural industries. “As a result, the brewing industry tends to be more environmentally friendly compared to other industries and therefore the company earns extra amount of revenue as they sell to the farmers the spent grain,” he added.

According to Wamala, traditionally spent grain is used to feed cattle and being a valuable supplement to existing feed due to its high protein content coupled with being a good source of dietary fiber. He added, “This is a widespread practice in western countries although new in Uganda.” An established beer brewery can be a blessing to the growth of livestock sector in an economy. “Large scale brewing can provide large quantities of spent grain with up to 10 tons being produced per brew.

Efficient breweries may now produce 12 brews per day allowing a continuous supply of spent grain to be available and the beauty about this is that it is a ready animal feed,” explained Wamala. This supplement can mitigate the problem of inadequate feeding in all systems due to shortage of quality and quantity of forage and fodder particularly during the dry season.

Wamala is upbeat about the adoption of the innovative and affordable animal feeding techniques like use of spent grain which can help increase total national milk production from the current 2 billion litres to a higher output.

This rapid increase in population size coupled with a growing urban population is resulting in a growing demand for dairy products and Kaganda who now has over 20 dairy cows is determined to remain in the dairy sector despite the erratic prices of animal feeds and supplements. “I will use the emerging alternative affordable and quality feeds like spent grain to help steer dairy development which is a vital income generating activity in the rural areas and therefore increasing farm incomes and employment opportunities,” he added.