News and knowhow for farmers

Dairy farmers add 1.5L of milk daily with sweet potato vines

Packed full of protein and energy, sweet potato vines are a cheap but underutilised source of fodder. As feed prices keep rising and grazing land diminishes it is crucial farmers utilise this handy source of feed.

Sweet potato vines are highly digestible by livestock and are often used to supplement low-quality diets to improve feed intake and digestibility. 

Their crude protein content is between 12-19 percent. 

Sweet potato vines add an average of 1.5 liters of milk daily. They have also been shown to improve average daily weight gain in calves when they form 58-83 per cent of their diet. 

Related News: Livestock farmers make ‘super’ silage adding sweet potato to Napier grass

Related News: Maize & sweet potato intercropping improves income & nutrition

Fodder Sweet Potato Varieties

Sweet potato vines grown exclusively as fodder are referred to as vine varieties. This is because they have a high ratio of forage to tuber/root. They include Musinya, Marooko, and K158. 

They have high protein content ranging from 12-19 per cent and have a dry matter yield of 15-18 tons/ha.

These varieties mature in just three months are drought tolerant and can be grown between 0-2300m a.s.l.

Other positive attributes of fodder sweet potatoes are that they have low input requirements, establish quickly and firmly as well and regenerate rapidly. They also have broad leaves.

According to KALRO vine sweet potatoes can be harvested for five years.  The vines should be cut with a sharp panga to avoid damage and enable quick regeneration. 

Cattle should be fed fresh vines mixed with grasses, maize stover (silage), or sorghum. The mixture should have 20-50 per cent sweet potato vines.

Related News: How to reduce pig feed costs with homemade sweet potato silage

After harvesting the vines, pull out any weeds and spread some composite or some manure if available. Regeneration should be ready in the next 90 days.

Sweet potato vine varieties can be bought at KALRO Mkulima shops across the country.

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