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Brachiaria grass will make your cow produce more milk

Brachiaria grass

Farmers who are at pains to make their cows produce more milk should give a shot at Brachiaria grass. This grass has mesmerized farmers who have planted and used it. Dairy farmers who have tried it in Malindi, Kilifi, Machakos, Makueni, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Embu and Meru have reported massive boosts in milk production without supplementation with concentrates.

From a distance the grass looks like Elephant (nappier) grass (penisetum puperum), but on a closer look, you notice significant differences. It does not have the irritating stinging hair, a quality that makes it very attractive for cut and carry.  Its thick leaves make it hard for weeds to thrive. But before we get into the details of Brachiaria grass, let’s take a second look at Nappier grass which for a long time has been the grass of choice for dairy farmers in Kenya.

Nappier grass

Nappier grass has been the most promising and high yielding fodder among dairy farmers in Kenya giving dry matter yields that surpassed most tropical grasses. It has a crude protein content of 7 to 10 percent on average.  Serious problems of disease outbreaks have threatened to wipe out the grass. Diseases such as the Nappier Grass Stunt Disease and the Head Smut Disease have devastated small holder dairy farmers in Western Kenya and Central Kenya respectively, forcing them to find alternative fodder or abandon dairy farming all together. Brachiaria grass is proving to be a better alternative even without the Napier grass disease problem.

Brachiaria Grass

The crude protein content of Brachiaria grass ranges from 9 to 20 percent. Other advantages the grass has over Nappier grass and other tropical grasses in Kenya is its high plant vigour producing more biomass even on low fertile soils and fast recovery after grazing. It is tasty to livestock, more nutritious and easy to digest. It is drought tolerant, has less pests and diseases and produces less greenhouse gases per litre of milk produced. It can play a significant role in soil improvement, soil conservation, increasing bio-diversity and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, Brachiaria grass produces seeds which do not lose the hybrid vigour. Unlike Nappier grass and being very aggressive, it is difficult to intercrop Brachiaria grass in long term associations with fodder legumes. But it can be used in crop pasture integrated systems where the grass seed is oversown on maize crop planted earlier for the production of high quality forage in the off season.

Varieties

Brachiaria grass consists of over 100 species but so far only four varietiess are cultivated as pasture in Kenya. Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk, B. brizantha cv. MG4, B. brizantha cv. Piata and B. brizantha cv. Xaraes are the best varieties for semi-arid, sub humid and humid areas. Brachiaria hybrid cv. Mulatto II is suitable for coastal low lands and many regions in Kenya.

Agro Ecological Zones

Brachiaria grows well in a wide range of agro-ecological zones but does best where rainfall is above 700 mm and mean temperature exceeds 19o Celsius. Lower temperatures slow down the growth rates, hence the grass performs poorly 1800 meters above sea level. It grows on a wide range of soils including those of low fertility. Locations that experience longer dry seasons of over 5 months are not suitable, unless there is provision for irrigation.

Land Preparation

The seeds require fine soil therefore prepare a very good seedbed. Plough, harrow and thoroughly mix soil with well cured manures at a rate of 2 to 4 tonnes per acre. Where the soils are low in phosphorous, apply 100 kg triple super phosphate (TSP) fertilizer per acre.

Planting materials

Brachiaria grass can be propagated by seeds or vegetative methods. Planting materials include seeds, root splits and stem cuttings. Vegetative propagation can be done on a small scale but may not apply to large scale farming.

Seeds

Plant at the onset of rains. Create shallow furrows (1 – 2 cm deep) spaced at 50 cm. Drill the seeds along the furrows and cover with light soil. An acre of land requires 2 – 3 kg of good quality seeds. Alternatively, sow the seeds in a nursery bed and transplant the seedlings at the age of six to eight weeks. In the nursery bed, sow the seeds in furrows, spaced at 5 cm and mulch with dry grass.

Root splits

Plant the Brachiaria root splits on each hill at a spacing of 50 cm between rows and 25 cm within rows. For proper establishment plant at the onset of rains or irrigate if the rains are scarce. A total of 64,000 to 96000 root splits are required per acre.

Manure and fertilizer

Pasture in the cut and carry system removes substantial amount of soil nutrients therefore to maintain soil fertility, it is necessary to apply 2 – 4 tonnes of well cured manure per acre. Brachiaria is highly responsive to nitrogen and application of 80 kg calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) fertilizer per acre per season is advised.

Weed control

Weed infestation is likely at early stages of the crop cultivation. Remove weeds manually, or use herbicides to control broad-leaved weeds.

Pests and diseases

Red spider mite and shoot borers are the common pests that attack Brachiaria grass. Some of the diseases observed in Kenya include rusts, ergot, smut and leaf spots.

Harvesting

Optimal intake of digestible nutrients occurs when pasture utilization coincides with the late head stage or early bloom stage. After sowing, the grass takes about 21 weeks to flower and this is the most suitable stage for feeding livestock. Regrowth takes about 3 weeks. Harvest the first crop five months after planting by cutting at a height of 5 cm above the ground. Harvest the next crop after every 8 – 12 weeks depending on rainfall, soil fertility and management. The grass can persist up to 20 years with good management.

Conservation

Brachiaria grass is suitable for both cut and carry and grazing systems, and can be conserved as hay or silage.

Yields

With good management, the grass can yield up to 140 kg per hectare of seeds with maximum yield at the second year of establishment. The average dry matter yield ranges from 10 to 40 tonnes per hectare depending on soils, rainfall and management.

Opportunities

Breeding of Brachiaria grass is a low- risk and highly profitable enterprise that will have a major impact on animal production in Kenya. There is a growing interest in Brachiaria and the demand for planting material is increasing by the day. Farmers with entrepreneurial skills can seize this golden opportunity for Brachiaria seed production.

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Comments   

+1 # Kennedy 2017-11-18 22:01
How can I get the seeds because I have about 7 acres to plant? And how so I organize with kenya seeds for contract?
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0 # Elijah Mboko 2017-11-22 22:11
How and where can I get the seeds..very much interested... Is it only for dairy or it can also support the beef stock and shoats
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+1 # admin 2017-12-21 21:50
It can work for all animals that eat grass. This includes cattle, sheep and goats.
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0 # Elijah Mboko 2017-11-22 22:12
How and where can I get the seeds..very much interested... Is it only for dairy or it can also support the beef stock and shoats
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0 # Samuel Maina Sk 2018-02-13 12:23
Where can I get the seeds......
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+3 # Elijah Mboko 2017-11-22 22:12
How and where can I get the seeds..very much interested... Is it only for dairy or it can also support the beef stock and shoats
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0 # admin 2017-11-22 22:27
You can try KALRO Katumani. Some seed companies have it and there are many farmers growing it.
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+1 # John Ole Ngonene 2018-01-26 09:29
Please advice me on where to buy the seeds. I intend to plant at Loitokitok.
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-1 # admin 2018-01-26 10:01
You can get Bracharia grass from FIPA, an NGO specialized in the grass. They have three varieties all doing well across the country, i.e Mulato, Cyman and Cobra varieties. Seeds are going at KES 3800 per Kg.

Contact Tobias 0720946543 or Dr. Wasonga 0729152473.
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-2 # Julius chumo 2018-03-15 09:21
Where Will I get the seeds
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0 # Godwill 2018-05-03 16:15
[fv]is the yield of dry matter annually[/fv]
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0 # shamsher 2018-05-11 07:57
i want to buy brachiaria hybrid grass . can u sand me seed
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0 # Githaiga N.Kihara 2018-05-21 09:06
Brachiaria High Protein Grass...set to Revolutionize Dairy Farming.

+High crude proteins of between 14%- 27% (Nappier has 7% Boma Rhodes 10%)
+Drought tolerance of 3 - 6months
+Remarkable increase in milk production between 15% - 40%
+Grows to a height of 1½ metre
+Makes excellent more nutritious hay and Silage
Available in Nairobi Globe Cinema Round about (Green Belt Parking) and Gakindu, Mukurweini ~Nyeri.
Also delivering all over by Courier services: Wells Fargo, G4S and Bus/ Matatu Sacco Couriers

Our New Revised And Discounted Packages:-
⅛ of an acre fits 300splits @2,000/-
¼ of an acre fits 700 splits @5,000/-
½ of an acre fits 1400 splits @10,000/-
1 acre requires 3,000 splits @ 20,000/-
All above plus delivery charges

Call/WhatsApp Githaiga on: +254 722 722 189
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