Brachiaria Mulato (signal grass) is an emerging source of grass for cattle keepers. It has high protein content (13%) and good grass yields. It is drought-resistant and adaptable to infertile soils.
Brachiaria Mulato has also shown good agronomic characteristics in Uganda and Rwanda. It can, therefore, be used to supplement Napier grass fodder, especially during the drought.
How it is planted
Brachiaria Mulato requires well-drained soils of medium to high fertility with pH 4.5-8.0, but can grow in less fertile acidic soils.
One can know the pH of one’s soils by carrying out a soil test.
Briacharia Mulato can be propagated from seed planted into a well-prepared seedbed at 6-10kg of seed per ha with a spacing of 1x1m.
Brachiaria Mulato can also be propagated vegetatively from cuttings and splits. The rooted stems are planted at a spacing of 1x1m.
The grass responds well to additional nitrogen fertiliser from organic and inorganic fertilisers.
It establishes rapidly, achieving 85% ground cover at two months after seeding.
The nutritive quality of Brachiaria Mulato grass is improved when inter-cropped with forage legumes, such as Centrosemapubecens and Clitoriaternatea.
Weed control is important in improving fodder yields and quality.
The grass can be lightly grazed after three to four months or used for cut-and-carry production system.
Brachiaria Mulato makes good quality hay and is more palatable and easier to conserve than other grasses.
Yields per acre
The pasture yields 15-25 tonnes/ha of dry matter per year. The forage legume acts as a cover crop to control weeds and conserve soil moisture during the dry periods. It increases the nitrogen in the soil and grass.
The recommended acreage of 0.5ha of a mixture of Napier grass and forage legumes under stall-feeding system cannot sustain an economically producing dairy cow and its calf for a full year.
Introducing 0.5ha of a mixture of Brachiaria Mulatoand forage legumes on farms previously dependent on 0.5ha of a mixture of Napier grass and forage legumes, however, provides year round feed supply.
The average protein content of Brachiaria Mulato ranges from 9%-17%, while that of elephant grass ranges from 7%-12%, depending on the variety.