Dairy cattle rearing is facing challenges in many areas of Uganda that are key to milk production for a range of reasons. Mainly, the high cost of production, shortage in labour, and shrinking land. While the world’s population increases, and more and more people need to be fed, the planet can’t increase its arable landmass. Farmers will have to become innovative with sustainable agricultural practices and solutions.
Also, a significant dependence on cattle feed materials has increased the cost of many concentrate feeds. Improved forages normally used to feed cattle have become scarcer. Areas customarily used to produce forages have been turned over to crop cultivation to meet higher food demands for the human population.
Superior Napier grass varieties can solve some of these issues and make smallholder dairy farming more sustainable. Green fodder grasses like natural Napier grass and hybrid Napier grasses can help farmers become more profitable while protecting the environment.
Napier grass commonly known as elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) is an important fodder in Uganda. The grass has been increasingly associated with intensive (stall-feeding) and semi-intensive dairy cattle and goat production systems to meet the increasing demand for milk and meat. Napier grass was named after Colonel Napier of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe who urged Rhodesia’s (now Zimbabwe) Department of Agriculture to explore the possibility of using it for commercial livestock production.
A number of Napier grass cultivars have been developed and promoted by the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI), Nakyesasa. These include: Sweet or Sugar Napier (79 Napier x Sugar), Kakamega 1, Kakamega 2 and others. All these varieties were introduced into Uganda from Kakamega, Kenya under a World Bank funded Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (EAAPP) also implemented in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda.
Pakchong 1 Super Napier variety
Pakchong 1 Super Napier is a cross of ordinary napier grass (pennisetum purpureum) and Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). The Green Elephant Ltd introduced Pakchong 1 Super Napier from Thailand into Uganda in 2018. The Green Elephant Ltd imported 10 cuttings through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. The cuttings were evaluated for herbage biomass yield and nutritive quality in Wakiso and Luwero districts. Pakchong1 Super Napier variety is sterile, non-Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), and a hybrid that is of value agriculturally in tropical and sub-tropical areas.
Additional information by Dr Jolly Kabirizi