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Kenyan dairy keepers find lifeline in
bulked feeds amid climate change

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Some years ago, Kenyan small-scale dairy farmers would harvest fresh grass that include napier grass from the farm, cut it into tiny pieces, mix with molasses and offer them to animals.

This was the daily practice on most farms in Kenya as the grass was grown all around the year because the rains were consistent - coming from March to May and October to December. In between, the East African nation would still get some rains.

But that period is now in the distant past, as most farmers in the nation are currently rushing to invest in feed stores that include bunkers to bulk feeds amid reduced rains.

The scarce rains, which are among the biting effects of climate change that have hit Kenya, have made the dairy farmers line up several stores on their farms to stockpile feeds, mainly hay and silage.

At Osiligi Farm in Kajiado, south of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, a huge store is part of the structures that stand out.

Inside the store, bales upon bales of hay sit on each other waiting to be consumed by about 70 cows on the farm.

Away from the hay store, near the cattle shed, sit two large underground bunkers covered with polythene sheets.

The bunkers hold silage made from maize that they grow, with the farm using feeds from one currently as the other waits.

"We have feeds that can last us for over one year," Paul Sosoika, a manager at Osiligi Farm, said in a recent interview. "We are not worried even if it does not rain because our animals would certainly not starve," he added.

The farm, as many others across the East African nation, adopted the bulk-feed storage system some three years ago for sustainable farming as rains became erratic.

"Last year during the rainy season from March to May, we planted several fodder including Boma Rhodes, lucerne, brachiaria and maize for silage.

"That period the rains came on time and they were in plenty," said Sosoika, adding that unlike this year when the rains are rare.

"The bulking of feeds have ensured that our milk production remains constant at over 300 liters a day even as the dry spell persisted in the last months.

"We have grown some more grasses but the current rains look insufficient," he said.

For Marceline Korir, a dairy farmer in Eldoret, western Kenya, with a herd of eight cows, she does not only bulk feeds but also grows drought-resistant fodder mainly sorghum.

"Sorghum requires little rains to thrive.

"I switched to it two years ago after training and this has ensured I have feeds throughout the season including currently when some farmers are grappling with lack of fodder due to low rains," she said.

Felix Akatch, a livestock expert from Egerton University, notes that dairy farmers have no choice but to adopt practices that rhyme with the current weather pattern.

"The trick currently is to work with the little rains by growing in plenty fodder that mature faster," he said, adding storing is important as silage or hay can stay for up to two years.

He noted that the practice does not only cushion farmers from the dry spell but saves costs since feeds like concentrates and hay become expensive when rains fail.

             

 

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