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Brachiaria grass rescues farmer’s cow from drought

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A farmer harvests brachiaria grass. The grass survives drought. Photo by Pasturas de America

As the cost of the feeds doubled in the country during the November 2016-March 2017 dry season, other farmers escaped the harsh weather with brachiaria grass, which has shown tolerance to drought.

Homa bay farmer Stephen Nyamisi continued to feed his cow from the quarter an acre piece of land, where he has grown the bracharia grass.

This ensured continued milk flow for his family and customers.

The Kapuoyo farmer used to buy Napier grass daily from neighbouring Kisii County before growing brachariaria grass.

But with the quarter of an acre under brachiaria asn another quarter under Napier grass, the farmer comfortably rode over the November 2016- March 2017 dry spell with the fodder he had prepared.

According to the International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI, about 60 other farmers in the county have adopted the grass to cushion themselves against adverse weather.

“Brachiaria has survived where our local fodder did not over this dry season. This has boosted farmers’ confidence on the new grass’s suitability for this region,” ILRI reports Nyamisi as saying.

This grass has rescued this farmer, who lost a calf in 2011 when it was dry and the cow had no milk.

His family also suffered living without milk as the drought raged on in 2011.

 “I could only buy milk once a week from Oyugis market at Sh65 per liter, and that was for cooking indigenous vegetable – not drinking,” he says.

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Because of the high protein content in the grass, the farmer said the milk yield has increased from five to eight litres per day.

Without buying commercial feeds, the farmer hopes to make more than Sh74,000 from the sale of the milk in six months.

Bracharia regenerates more quickly than other grasses after cutting- even with limited rain or soil moisture. It has roots that stretch deep to about two metres.

It is from such depth that it collects any available soil moisture for growth when the top soil gets dry. Feedipedia, an online feeds resource centre says the grass can survive without rain for three to six months.

The vegetative green part can grow up to six feet high, therefore, can be converted into hay for sale or storage.

Animal feeds increased in cost by more than 30 per cent as the drought led to the shortage of pastures. More maize was used in making commercial feeds. The pressure on maize caused the price to shoot up.

Other feeds like hay increased in piece from Sh180 to between Sh350 and Sh450.

Brachiaria grass is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, therefore, an appropriate solution to animal feed shortage in the tropics. It can withstand temperatures of up to 350C

Hundreds of livestock died in the coast, north eastern, Rift Valley, among others.

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