A Narok County farmer is earning more than Sh500, 000 annually from hay production, after abandoning maize and wheat farming in favour of Boma Rhodes.
The county is known for wheat and maize production. But farmers have consistently faced marketing challenges such as dismal prices, bad roads, exploitation from middlemen and poor storage facilities leading to rotting.
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Geoffrey Rono got into hay farming at the start of 2015 after seeing the untapped opportunity in the sector as most farmers in the county focused on wheat and maize production despite the challenges.
He grows Boma Rhodes grass on 112 acres three times in a year. He harvests in three phases per season.
“At wholesale, I sell one bale at Sh200. At retail, I sell the same bale at Sh240 and Sh250. The market price depends on distance between the farm and the selling point,” said Rono.
Each phase of harvest earns him Sh60, 000 translating to Sh180, 000 per season. In a year, the sales total to Sh540, 000 gross earning.
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Boma Rhode is famous for its high protein content, which is at 18 per cent. The market remains steady as dairy farmers seek to boost their yields with the grass, which complements commercial feeds.
He says that between 15kg and 18kg of this hay is mixed with other ingredients like animal salt for an average dairy cow per day.
“This grass is best for the cows when both fresh and dry. When dry, enough water should be served to the cow for best results in milk production,” said Rono.
At the beginning, he bought the seeds from the Kenya Seed Company Ltd shop at Sh800. Rono cleared the land with an herbicide, then hired a tractor services to make furrows.
“I used Sh5,000 to buy five litres of herbicide before hiring a tractor at Sh10, 000 to dig furrows for seed sowing,” said Rono.
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His first harvest was after five months, but the subsequent ones were after 90 days.
For the more than one year he has been in this agribusiness, he has learnt that the seeds from his harvest can be reused to give similar results.
It takes about four years for the harvests to start reducing. This being the second year of production, he is at the peak of maximised harvesting.
As an aside hustle, he sells selected and graded seeds at Sh600 per kilo.
The grass is soft and excellent herbage. According to Kenya seed Company, Boma Rhode is drought tolerant and it thrives in altitudes of between 1,000m and 2,500m.
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It takes between 90 and 105 days to mature.
Space for storage and competition from cartels cutting ordinary grass resembling Boma Rhodes before selling it to unsuspecting farmers are his main challenges in the agribusiness.
After harvesting, the hay is dried for a week before being tied in bundles by a tractor and stored for sale.
Rono can be reached on +254723688101