News and knowhow for farmers

Fodder shrubs a cheaper alternative to commercial feeds

Kenya imports over 70 per cent of the raw materials needed for manufacturing animal feed, the bulk of which consists of grain and oil seed cake by-products. Yet, a recent study by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation said that it is extremely difficult to purchase high quality inputs and that fraud is common,  resulting in substandard feeds with no nutritional value and high prices.

It is on the back of such information that a farmers’ group in Kinangop has resorted to use fodder trees as livestock feed, arguing that they are more nutritious, cheaper than processed feeds and require  minimum resources to grow. Justus Muchiri, a former Kenya Agricultural and Research Organisation (KALRO) officer, who now heads the Kinyukia Farmers group, says indigenous livestock feeds are normally balanced nutritionally, with three-quarter of energy and a quarter of proteins, the ideal food component structure for livestock.

A recent study by United
Nations Agency FAO says the potential of fodder trees and shrubs as protein
sources has generally been ignored in the feeding regimens for livestock,
mainly because of inadequate knowledge on various aspects of their potential
use, as well as initiatives associated with the development of more innovative
systems of feeding.

The study found out fodder crops are
more digestible meaning that more food is absorbed hence an increase in dry
matter Intake, an indicator of the amount of nutrients that are available to
the animal in a particular feed. Ruminants must obtain at least 30 per cent of
dry matter intake in any food for it to be considered as valuable food.

In a bid to show the nutritional value
of fodder trees compared to that of commercial dairy feeds, the study picked on
few fodder trees and dairy feeds to analyze their nutritional value. Acacia
tree, cassava jack fruit, Leucaena
among other fodder trees were found to have high DMI with the least registering
18 per cent, 12 per cent shy from recommended 30 per cent. Fruit jack
registered a high of 36.6 per cent followed by ficus which had 32 per cent.
Acacia and cassava registered 29 and 21.1 per cent respectively.

In
comparison, supplement feeds like wheat straw and rice registered low DMI of
less than 15 per cent, an indication of poor nutritional value, which
definitely harms the growth and production levels of livestock. The International Centre for Research in Agro forestry (ICRAF) report
2013 indicates that, the overall impact of the trees in terms of additional net
income from milk could be as high as US$30 million in Kenya alone over the past
15 years.

The report further estimates that
farmers spend about $11 raising and transplanting seedlings, choosing from nine
recommended varieties. In subsequent years they earn on average $95-120 from
increased milk production, with one cow needing 500 shrub plants to feed it
throughout the year.

With such results, the silent revolution
by groups like Kinyukia Farmers to woo livestock farmers in the country to
adopt the use of fodder crop, milk production in the country can only soar to
unimaginable heights, earning farmers profits and avoid high expenditure costs
that comes with processed feeds.

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