Thursday, June 20, 2024
Home Change Makers How Lutwama Earns From Producing Pasture, Seeds

How Lutwama Earns From Producing Pasture, Seeds

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Vision Reporter

Vincent Lutwama is one of the Directors of Austin farm located in Bamunanika, Luwero district. The farm, multiplies Guinea grass seed, forage sweet potato, Rhodes grass seed and Pakchong 1 Super Napier grass planting materials (cuttings) for sale to farmers.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the farm was able to sell about 2,000 bags of Pakchong 1 Super Napier grass.  

Lutwama says “Our entry into the pasture seed production business was borne when I attended a practical training on pasture establishment, management and conservation for farmers in Kole and Apac Districts. The training was organized by NaLIRRI and funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The training was an eye-opener for

opportunities for persons interested in the pasture as a business”.

“When I got the opportunity, I shared it with my co-directors, but we were advised to do more research about pasture production and productivity. This was to help us understand the opportunities and challenges in production, the type of pastures that a farmer would get a good market for, and the costs of production involved,” he explains.

He adds that they further engaged Dr. Jolly Kabirizi, an expert on pasture production who was based at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute, Nakyesasa.

“We have provided pasture seed and supported the establishment of more than 800 hectares of pasture fields of Rhodes grass, Brachiaria, Pakchong 1 super napier grass, Guinea grass, Lablab, Green leaf

desmodium, Wagabolige forage sweet potato, Mucuna, Forage sorghum and others both within,” Lutwama says.

“As pasture producers, we are aware that different farmers have different

pasture needs depending on the type of animals being reared and management systems. So, we produce climate-smart pasture seeds for beef and dairy cattle, rabbits, pigs and goats. The improved pastures in stock have a high growth rate, biomass yields, nutritive value and

tolerance to drought thus solving the biggest problem of inadequate quality and quantity of feeds during prolonged dry seasons.”

Lutwama notes that once a pasture crop fully establishes, it has a high ability to fully colonize and suppress weeds, and they have high levels of required nutrients needed by animals for quick maturity, increased production, good health and quality products. Improved pasture has an edge in high regeneration potential (after grazing) and soil fertility improvement by nitrogen fixation.

He says with very good management, a pasture field can be maintained for more than 10 years, unlike food crops such as maize where you have to replant every season.

Lutwama smiles his way to the bank

“I sell the seed towards and during the planting season while hay and silage are sold during the dry season,” he says.

From Rhodes grass seed alone, he says they make about sh2.5m per acre per year. After harvesting the seed, the remaining residues are cut back, dried and baled for sale as low-quality hay. This hay must be supplemented with protein, energy, and minerals to maximize milk production.

From Signal grass (Brachiaria mulato 11), we make about sh3m per acre per year from the sale of hay and planting material (splits). The quantity of seed produced depends on the size and fertility of the land plus the

availability of water (rain), he says.

“I harvest about 200-300 kg of Rhodes grass seed per acre

per year,” he states.

The average yield of Lablab is 200-300 Kgs/acre/year depending on the management, soil fertility and climate.

Lutwama explains that the prices of pasture seed, hay and silage normally increase when the demand is high. Similarly, the prices drop when it’s an off-season for example, silage and hay sell better during the prolonged dry season while seed is on high demand during the planting season.

The farm has 12 permanent employees who are paid monthly wedges of sh150,000-sh200,000 per person per month.

“We, however, contract more manpower during the planting, weeding and harvest time,” says Lutwama.

Our clients are mostly cattle, pig and goat farmers, NGOs and government parastatals. We recently started supplying seeds to agricultural institutions that take seeds in large quantities, he says.

Lutwama points out land as a prime barrier, “given the kind of

clients I deal with, I need more land to satisfy their needs”.

Supporting farmers

After encountering several losses, Lutwama opened an initiative to support farmers to establish pastures on their farms to avoid losses.

“Many farmers would not follow instructions thus losing

their capital. This deterred their interest,” he notes.

To arrest the situation, he now prepares the land, plants the pasture then hands it over to the owner when the pasture is fully established.

His consultation fees depend on the location, cost of the seeds, availability of labour, and size the garden or farm. Charges for land preparation vary depending on whether there are tree stumps or not.

Benefits from planting pastures

Lutwama has been able to expand and sustain farm operations.

He has been able to network with people from different walks of life.

He has been able to steadily expand the pasture fields since the birth of his interest. In the last season, he made a net profit of sh4m but decided to re-invest the money to expand the farm operations.

Lutwama has started poultry and dairy goat production enterprises. At the moment he owns 3,000 commercial layer birds and 50 dairy goats.

He helps organizations such as Heifer International Uganda to train dairy farmers on pasture establishment, management and conservation.

“We now have contracts with farms to supply silage on a regular basis,” he says.

Lutwama has introduced dairy goat production to farmers. He supplied 20 milking goats to new farmers including four youth to start dairy goat production.

Ten youths have provided on-farm extension services on feeds and feeding management, forage conservation, pasture agronomy, feed budgeting, dairy cattle, goat and pig production among others.

The community is generates extra income from the cultivation of sweet potato crop when they sell residues after harvesting.

In partnership with Bavubuka Twekembe group, we received a brand new forage chopper from the International Potato center to further boost the sweet potato vines silage production business.

LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: Lutwama in his Napier grass field at Austin farm, Luwero district. Courtesy photo

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