By Joshua Kato
There are mainly three factors that make a good cow. These are good genetics supported by good nutrition and good health. According to Hon Bright Rwamirama, the State Minister for Animal Industry, many cows cannot build sufficient body reserves (particularly energy and protein) due to lack of adequate feeds.
As a direct consequence of feed inadequacy, dairy cows produce low milk yield, are often in poor body condition, experience severe weight and body condition score losses or/and fail to conceive. It is therefore perceived that improvement of dairy cattle diets will greatly improve reproductive performance, herd productivity and economic status of the household.
The demand for high quality pasture seed for development of livestock feed resources is increasing rapidly in Uganda. This demand is fuelled by the expanding beef and dairy production occasioned by the increased demand from rising population and improved income particularly in the urban centres. Availability of adequate and good quality pasture seed is critical to meet the expanding meat and milk demand in the country.
The Executive Director of NAGRC says that if improved livestock breeds are not well managed, all the genetic improvement efforts are a costly waste to farmers and the Government.
“Proper feeding is a key toll livestock management that needs special attention in order to avoid losses of our valuable animals,” he says. In one of the strategic plans to improve livestock nutrition, the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) tasked NAGRC&DB as a participating agency for production of maize and soya bean on a total of 30,000 acres spread out across its farms and ranches. The move is intended to reduce the perennial scarcity of soya and maize for processed feeds and silage in the country.
Twelve (12) Square Miles Already Planted On Nine (9) Ranches In Different Regions Of Uganda
The ranches include Kasolwe in Kamuli, Lusenke in Kayunga, Maruzi in Apac, Aswa in Gulu, Nshaara, Sanga and Ruhengyere in Kiruhura, , Rubona in Kabarole, and Got Apwoy farm in Nwoya District of Acholi Region, Lusenke farm in Kayunga and Aswa ranch in Gulu.
“We had been tasked with improving livestock genetics however genetics without feeds cannot complete the cycle,” NAGRC Executive Director says. The corn will be used for processing corn silage for cattle and grains for formulating into compounded animal feeds.
According to , the Board Chairman Prof Johnson Nkuuhe, the first cycle that started this year involved planting of about 5,646 acres of maize for grain. Out of these, a yield of 7,904 is expected. Out of this, 6,587metric tons will be processed into livestock feeds while 1,317metric tons will be processed into maize seeds for planting in the follow on seasons
Post-harvest Management Plan
In thelast two or so years, NAGRC has constructed several modern grain storage facilities around her ranches. At Kasolwe for example, there is both a modern storage facility for cereals and a 5MT/Hr processing unit for livestock feeds. There are pther ranches with these facilities. As far as silage is concerned, 1,329acres of corn for silage have been planted. “All the yield of 9,303metric tons will be used to process silage,” the Board Chairman says. Both silage and processed coumpound feeds will be accessed by livestock farmers in the country.
According to Eng. Rwanshoote, drying and storage of 3,000MT of maize will be done at the grain storage facilities at Kasolwe stock farm for grain and manufacture of compounded animal feeds of about 1,500MT.
According to Daniel Epinyu, Manager Kasolwe, the Kasolwe mill has the capacity to produce five tons of feed, three tons of fish mash feed and two tons for pelted feed per hour.
On harvest, NAGRC also intends to process and store maize silage. Dr. Ssengoye Gordon, the Head of Production, explains that Maize silage making and packaging in laminated sacs for 14,495MT of the maize yield for sale and dry season feeding at the farms and ranches, will require 290,000 fifty kg bags. The maize will be sold at a farm gate price of UGX 25,000 per 50kgs bag, yielding a total of UGX7.247bn per season.
Dr Ssengoye says that there is need to establish one high capacity (6250m3) reinforced concrete silage banker at each of the nine participating NAGRC&DB farms and ranches. This will be used to store the processed silage.
“Because of the dry seasons, we need to establish pressurized farm water irrigation systems at each of the nine participating ranches to support all-year round production,” he says.
There are also plans to acquire high-value mechanized agricultural production support machinery and equipment (bush clearing machines, farm access road construction machinery, heavy duty wheeled agricultural tractors, heavy duty primary and secondary tillage equipment, heavy duty boom sprayers, large scale precision planters, large scale inter-row cultivators for weeding, thinning etc, combine harvesters, forage choppers.
Although the project is running, it is faced by several challenges. For example, most of the key machinery are expensive. “We have to hire some machines expensively, especially for bush clearing operations,” he says. He explains that in some incidents, the heavy rains this season affected both bush clearing and tillage operations when hired machinery had to halt operations for weeks due to soggy and inoperable soil conditions. This cost the project more, unbudgeted for funds.
The Head of Production further explains that because some of the land targeted for the feeds project is already encroached on by other people, this has also caused a delay in some areas.
“Scattered encroacher settlements derailed efficient mechanized bush clearing, tillage and propagation operations as machine operators had to maneuver around numerous plots of homesteads, gardens and graveyards resulting in unwarranted fuel and time wastage,” he says.
Presence of fake agro-inputs on the market that have proven ineffective against pests and weeds has also been a serious challenge.
Other challenges include large scale infestation by the fall army worms that have proven resistant to the available pesticides, Wild game especially elephants, buffalo, zebras, baboons, monkeys and antelopes that continue to feed on established maize gardens in Nshaara, Sanga and Got Apwoy ranches that border Lake Mburo and Murchison falls National Parks.
The Honorable Minister of Agriculture Hon Frank Tumwebaze says that NAGRC and the sector political leadership are carrying out mass sensitization of farming communities situated within and in the vicinity of the programme areas through multiple community engagement meetings, barazas, radio talk shows and district council meetings. “These meetings emphasize to the residents the importance of these developments,” he says.
He says that all agro input suppliers have been instructed to provide viability certification to support provision of high quality agro inputs.
“A Solar powered ground water irrigation system has been established at Kasolwe stock farm (the most water stressed of all the production sites) to alleviate the prevailing water stress in the maize there,” says Daniel Epinyu, the manager, Kasolwe.
According to the production Engineer, chain-link fencing has been adopted as an immediate interim solution to the challenge of wild game at Nshaara, Sanga and Got Apwoy ranches and is on-going.
NAGRC is engaging the Uganda Wildlife Authority to facilitate establishment of a lion-proof fence at the boundaries of Lake Mburo national game park and Murchison falls national game park with Nshaara and Got Apwoy ranches and discussions are on-going.
“We are also deploying day and night guard services to protect the maize and soya bean gardens from wild game and trespassers,” Beine said.