Farmers growing fodder sorghum can double livestock milk production than those stuck to low-yielding and disease-susceptible Napier grass.
Besides doing well in low rainfall areas, sorghum is not attacked by diseases like stunt, which causes dwarfism, yellowing of the leaves, thinning of the stems, and death of the stool after harvest.
The disease has no immediate remedy and it affects most Napier varieties it is common in Western Kenya and the eastern part of Uganda.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation field officer Benson Muturi said sorghum is drought tolerant, therefore, it gives farmers an all-year-round supply of feeds, unlike Napier grass.
“It is difficult to get rid of the stunt disease from the field. But the sorghum thrives in affected areas. Besides, it gives dairy cows more milk because of the high proteins,” he said.
Fodder sorghum has between 20 per cent and 24 per cent crude proteins. This is double what Napier grass offers to livestock, the officer said.
Napier grass has between 10 per cent and 12 per cent crude proteins. The higher the protein content, the higher the milk output.
“KALRO has data from tests carried out to determine the benefits of the sorghum. Cows, which were giving eight litres of milk per day have increased the yield to 15 litres; of course the results are pegged on proper animal husbandry,” he said.
In silage making, the sorghum is even cheaper than Napier, because it requires no molasses. When it is cut at the start of flowering, the sugar content is high enough to sustain anaerobic respiration and the sweet taste after storage.
E1291, E6518, and Ikinyukia are some of the certified varieties that do well in both low and high-altitude areas that have rainfall of 750mm to 2500mm per annum.
E1291 and Ikinyukia give five to seven tonnes per acre while E6518 can yield up to 11 tonnes from the same land.
Soil has to be prepared to a fine tilt as that of finger millet. Planting should be done at the onset of rains for proper establishment of the bush ahead of dry spells.
Ten to 14 kilos are enough for one acre. At least 50kg DAP is used in planting while a similar bag is used for topdressing after weeding and thinning.
Spacing is 30-40cm and drills should be 2.5cm deep.
Before feeding, the freshly cut fodder should be allowed to wilt to reduce the effects of prussic acid.
Prisoners working in a sorghum field. KALRO says fodder sorghum can double milk production for farmers unlike Napier grass. PHOTO BY BUSINESS DAILY.