The rains are on and activity on farms across the country is going on. However, for progressive farmers, this is the right time to engage in certain key things such as water harvesting in preparation for the inevitable future dry season. Below are tips on how you can prepare yourself for such;
How to prepare
Save and harvest water: Water is essential for both animals and food. By this time, you should have dug a small water reservoir on your farm, if you are an animal keeper. Your reservoir should be filled with water since it has been raining for several months.
There are varieties of grass under promotion that can be harvested and kept in bundles before it is stored for the dry spell.
Prepare the ground for drying your harvest: When the dry season starts, farmers harvest mainly cereals.
Poor post-harvest handling has been identified as the leading cause of low prices for agricultural produce.
Avoid drying your produce on bare ground because it leads to contamination. Poor post-harvest handling makes farmers lose at least 30% of produce every season.
From the last dry season, livestock farmers made huge losses because they kept many animals with very little water to maintain them.
If you have a big herd with very little water, it is advisable that you sell some of them and only leave those that you can manage. Farmers in circumstances where there is easy use of hay do not worry about dry seasons. In fact, dried grass is more nutritious for milk producing cows than fresh grass because fresh grass carries a lot of water.
What are the options
Some of the most common grass-for example elephant grass, is not good for making hay. Napier grass, has also been attacked by a disease that makes it stunted, so it is no longer such an obvious option.
Brachiaria Mulato also known as kifuta is now the leading fodder plant for farmers. It can be eaten by cattle when fresh, or after it has been dried and turned into hay. This grass can be got at Namulonge for example, and several cattle keepers have already planted it. Agencies that deal in animals, like Send a Cow have also supplied this grass to many animal keepers across the country.
To make hay, the grass is cut and dried up under controlled temperatures, before it is tied into bundles of between 15 to 20kg. On average, a cow can eat at least one of these bundles every day, especially if that cow is producing milk.
The Government should promote the growing of this grass, since we do not have many options.
In Kenya, cattle keepers have places where they buy any amount of fodder. If this is done, cattle keeping will be easier. All that a person will do is get money, go to a designated area to buy grass-dried or fresh and feed the cows.
But cows do not only survive on grass, neither do they survive only on food peelings. You need a combination of foods. You need to supplement the grass with nutrient blocks for example.
The blocks have several nutrients, including vitamins which are essential for the growth of the cow. Note that the key nutrients are energy which you get from molasses. Cows also need proteins which is common in cereals and prepared growers mash.
Many cattle keepers like banana peelings, but these are not as nutritious as potato peelings, for example. I get most of my peelings from Teso because they have a lot of potatoes. However, cattle keepers can make use of the many food markets around. They also need molasses (kalodo) and give them.