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Home Farming Tips How To Turn Pastures And Fodder Into A Business Opportunity

How To Turn Pastures And Fodder Into A Business Opportunity

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Joshua Kato

Over one million farmers of dairy cattle in Uganda practice zero grazing. More than 20% of them in urban and peri-urban areas.

They do not have enough land to produce their own feed or forage, which creates market for producers of feed and fodder.

According to the 2024 livestock census from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics,, there are 15.5 million cattle in Uganda.

On average, a dairy cow consumes 3% of its body weight (average body weight is 450kg) on dry matter per day (keeping other factors constant).

The annual estimated national feed requirements for the cattle is 69 billion tonnes of dry matter. Allan Iga and Dr Jolly Kabirizi, who are farmers and consultants on pastures, trained participants on opportunities in pasture production during the 2024 Harvest Money Expo.

They noted that growing pastures and other livestock feeds is big business today.

Iga says pasture seed prices are favourable, so farmers and youth can engage in pasture seed production and fully participate in the value chain.

Forage production has been found to have high profit margins because of a lower production cost compared to other field crops.

Producing hay for business

Iga notes that with the current large high quality hay deficit in the country and financially viable business models, great potential exists for commercial hay value chains.

Lack of machinery and storage facilities, as well as knowledge and skills in agronomic practices to increase hay yields and quality, currently hinder producers from fully exploiting market potential.

Studies conducted by the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) show that Uganda has a pasture hay deficit of over 20 million tonnes per year.

The most common pastures include napier of different varieties, brachiaria mulato, chloris gayana and maize.

Business models for commercial hay production

Kabirizi says there are two common business models in commercial hay production:

  • Production of pasture hay using contract services for machinery (e.g. for planting, harvesting and baling).
  • Production of hay using own machinery, plus contracting out mechanised farm operations

Marketing pasture hay

Pasture hay should be transported in clean vehicles and should be covered to avoid contamination. The following particulars shall be legibly and indelibly displayed on the label.

  • Type of hay (species)
  • Name and the physical address of the producer
  • Net weight per bale (kg) n Batch number
  • Date of harvest/production
  • Expiry date n Instruction for storage
  • Nutritional information (moisture, energy, crude protein and crude fibre)
  • Instructions on how to use the hay

To build a strong commercial hay value chain, suitable credit products are needed to enable investments in machinery and storage facilities.

Financial institutions could benefit from technical assistance in understanding the hay sub-sector and designing suitable products. Extension services to pasture hay producers (e.g. in agronomy) and dairy farmers (e.g. in feed ration balancing) can substantially improve yields per acre, hay quality (protein content and digestibility) and dairy productivity.

Pasture hay producers see great potential in the commercial hay value chain. Creating a “ready-to -feed” product by chopping hay – normally done by dairy farmers – and adding ingredients, such as molasses, could provide further value addition opportunities.

The product could be easily stored in bags, provide extra income as well as create employment opportunities (e.g. for the youth) within the value chain.

Cost of producing hay

  • Fixed costs: tools and equipment, rent and depreciation
  • Enterprise size land area (acres)
  • Land preparation labour
  • Cost of planting materials (bags of seeds or cuttings/ splits/acre)
  • Manure: truck loads per annum (shillings/acre)
  • Seasonal manure application labour (man-hour)
  • Planting and manure application labour (man-hour)
  • Weed control labour (man-hour) n Harvesting, drying and compaction labour (man-hour)
  • Transportation costs (Ugshs/trip/tonnes)
  • Quantity of bales of hay per acre in season one (tonnes)
  • Quantity of bales of hay per land area in season two (tonnes) n Average weight per bale (kg)
  • Annual production (tons) n Price (cost/bale shillings)
  • Gross field benefits (shillings)
  • Variable input and establishment costs (shillings/acre) bush clearing (shillings/acre)
  • Storage costs (shillings/annum)

Land preparation involves clearing the land of vegetation and stones. Tractors are used for ploughing and planting. Herbicides and fertilisers are applied on many farms to boost yields. Hay is harvested and baled two-three times a year, depending on forage species, climate and management.

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