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Embrace Forage Conservation To Solve Milk Reduction- Expert 

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By Kellen Owente

Many farmers in the cattle corridor face it rough when the dry season kicks in as many of their animals start to produce less or no milk at all and worse, others end up dying.
However, cattle keepers who happened to attend the Harvest Money Expo 2023 walked away fully tipped on forage conservation as the long-term solution to the problems observed once embraced.
The exhibition event which happened at Kololo Independence Grounds last weekend themed ‘‘Farming as a business-post Harvest Handling and Value Addition.

The three-day expo exhibition event started on February 10 and ended on 12.

The seventh edition of the expo came with experts in different fields including poultry, piggery, goats, bees-keeping, coffee, urban farming, and fishing, dairy farming, and banana growing.

During the event, people benefited from the technologies and Information provided by at least over 500 exhibitors.

The expo, organized by Vision Group, was sponsored by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Agriculture Ministry, National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), Pepsi, Engineering Solutions Ltd (ENGSOL), RIELA/UPFRONT, Agricultural Credit faculty, Uganda warehouse Receipt Systems Authority, Champrisa International and State House.

Hussein Kato Walusimbi, the livestock nutrition researcher at National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) said many cattle keepers lose their animals to starvation during the dry season because they could not maximize the rainy season to prepare ahead of time.
Walusimbi mentioned that forage conservation is a practice that has not gained importance among the traditional farmers in the cattle corridor and out of ignorance, they are putting their animals to risk.
He added that the practice of growing and conserving forage has not been embraced because farmers still depend on natural rains for the feeding of their animals and therefore have sort of gotten used to these yearly calamities where in return, they comfortably wait for rainy months of the December to March to pass.
“Many animals actually starve to death, because of the dry season due to limited pasture growth, Farmers, in this case, do not only lose milk alone but things get uglier as they are forced to sell their animals low as sh350,000. This is because, at this level, the farmer is left with no choice,” he added.
The majority of farms in Uganda have mixed breeds, whose productivity, although higher than the traditional breeds, does not match the exotics.
That notwithstanding, figures from the Dairy Development Authority (DDA) indicate that in October 2018, annual national milk output stood at 2. 2 billion liters from 1.8billion liters annually as of 2012.
The report also indicates that as of 2017, per capita milk consumption in Uganda stood at 62 liters, up from 25 liters in 1986. Of the milk produced, 80% is marketed while 20 % is consumed by households. 33% of the marketed milk is processed, while 67% is sold as raw milk.

By June 2019, annual milk production in the country had risen to 2.4 billion liters, with export earnings from the sector, bringing in $100m (About sh366 b) per year. This, according to DDA has a huge potential to increase to $500m (1.8 trillion) annually.

Way to go
Walusimbi described forages as plant species directly or indirectly consumed by animals including hay, haylage, and silage. Unfortunately, Walusimbi cited that most farmers have failed to grasp the idea of conserving them even when they normally grow very fast during the rainy season.
He mentioned that forage conservation comes with a strategy to enable the first growth of forages during the rainy season and so a farmer should be able to harvest as many times during the wet season so that instead of getting a single yield, he or she is doubling to save him in the near future.
“You do not need machinery to conserve your forage as a small-scale farmer, you only need to slash the grass during the dry season, when it has matured, expose it to sunshine, within one or two days, it is dried and before it turns brown, collect it and compact it in form of bells,” he added.
He, therefore, encouraged the farmers that it is possible for them to prepare their animals ahead of time during the long rainy season so that they can fully utilize them well by getting the best forages with nutrients and biomass.
“Imagine an animal is grazing in hot sunshine and very thirsty, but because it is a dry season, the water is very far, and it has to move over 5kms to go and get some water to drink, what kind of stress could that be to the animal, we can avoid that if we have this hay prepared and stored at home, “he added.
Farmers speak out
Obed Byamukama, who came all away from Ibanda district, to attend his first-ever Harvest Money expo said, he specifically came to attend the dairy farming training session as his challenge was mostly how to make silage for his animals.
“Me and my brother back have really struggled to find ways on which we can make the right silage for our animals because they are currently small in size and not producing as expected,” he said.
However, Byamukama was not left the same as he noted that he was given various simple options that do not even require money to feed his animals, some of these including; banana peels and potato veins.
He added: “Most importantly, I have learned about forage conservation techniques, usually for us we get used to the dry season and always wait when the rains will be back to save us the traumas, but today, I am taking the good news back to my people,”.
Edith Katushabe, a farmer from Masindi District lauded the New Vision for organizing the expo noting that she has learned a lot of things and does not regret any penny spent on her transport fair from back home.
“We had never realized that discomfort in cows leads to low milk production, and so we grazed them anyhow as long as they feed and shelter in the evening, however, today, I was challenged to ensure that they are properly housed, fed well and diagnosed before injecting them with any drug,” she noted.

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