About 40  livestock farmers from ten cattle corridor districts in Central and Western Uganda have been retooled on pasture production and management to enhance their capacity to improve animal nutrition, farm yields and profits.

CEO Robrans Holding Brian Natwijuka (in green tshirt) teaching farmers the different pastures

Pastures are the cheapest source of feed for livestock and are mostly made up of grasses and legumes with high levels of required nutrients that are needed by animals for quick maturity, increased production, good health and quality products.

The farmers attended lessons at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) and conducted practical sessions at Robran Holdings Limited (RHL), in Buwanuka Wakiso district. The trained farmers are expected to go out and train fellow farmers in their respective districts on how produce and manage pasture for supplementary feeding.

Farmers studying pasture weed management at Robrans Holding at Buwanuka in Wakiso district

The training was organized under the Promote Supplementary Feeding (SUPPL-F) project. The SUPPL-F project is part of the Developing a Market –Oriented and Environmentally Sustainable Beef Meat Industry in Uganda (MOBIP) which is a Government of Uganda program supported by the European Union (EU) under the overall  supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).

The project is implemented by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and partners at a total budget of EUR 715,299 for a period of 28 months from the 12th August 2019 to December 2021. The partners include Robran Holdings Limited (RHL), Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), The Green Elephant (TGE), the Livestock Development Forum (LDF) and the Orchid House Farm Nakasongola.

Mr. Brian Natwijuka (2nd in black) teaching farmers on pasture propagation at his farm in Wakiso

Training participants at MUARIK, the project Principal Investigator Makererere University Assoc. Prof. Denis Mpairwe said the improvement of animal nutrition through controlling feed resources available is a major factor in increasing livestock productivity through increasing output per animal.

“Improved animal disease and parasite control, good breeding programmes and good livestock husbandry are important but, the farmers’ emphasis should be placed on good proper feeding, which in turn will make the other things possible.

Pastures are the cheapest source of feed for ruminant animals which are particularly valuable because of their ability to convert all types of forages, roughages and crop by-products into products which are useful to man i.e. milk, meat, hides and skins etc. Therefore, ruminant livestock production can be increased through increasing the productivity of already existing resources or through the introduction of new resources”, The PI said.

Mr. Natwijuka (c) taking the farmers in harvesting chloris Gayana at Robrans Holding

Prof. Mpairwe said, animal feeding is one of the fundamental importance in livestock production.  He explained that, the basic requirements that are fulfilled when animals are fed are maintenance (growth), reproduction and production stressing that the potential of the animal in meeting each of those objectives will depend on how well the animal is fed.

Prof. Mpairwe said grasses form the dominant pasture component and are characterized by their ability to produce a lot of seeds and ability to propagate themselves vegetatively. He however observed that grasses mature very rapidly and loose quality as rapidly.

“Uganda has six dominant types of natural grasslands, which are adapted to the specific agro-ecological zones. This is mostly determined by amount of rainfall received and soil fertility condition.

The management of the natural pasture is an integrated system involving management of the plants and soil on one hand and herd management on the other”, He said. (see Prof. Mpairwe’s notes on the production and management of natural pasture for livestock)

The Chief Executive Officer Robran Holdings Limited who is also pasture seed producer and Animal nutritionist Mr. Natwijuka Brian said pasture management should be thought of as grass farming.

Mr. Natwijuka Brian (L) leads farmers into weed identification in pasture garden

“Think of the grasses as your crop, while you use animals to harvest. Many farms are not making profits because of poor nutrition to animals leading to less yield, with the use of quality pastures, you can increase yields on your farm, fattening animals faster and maximize profits,” Mr. Natwijuka said.

Natwijuka said over the years, research has been made and new pastures and management systems have been developed to handle challenges mostly lack of enough feeds for animals during dry seasons and improving production by providing the required nutrients.

 He said, there is need for farmers to produce and manage pasture for animal production because they have high ability to colonize the places where they are grown and posses high levels of required nutrients that are needed by animals for quick maturity, increased production, good health and quality products.

“They have high regeneration potential (after grazing), improve soil fertility by nitrogen fixation. Some are drought resistant solving the biggest problem of lack of enough feeds during dry seasons. They can easily be ensiled and stored for future use. They are highly palatable and value can easily be added by processing them into feeds”, Natwijuka explained. Mr. Natwijuka advised farmers to venture into pasture production as a business.

Trainees under the SUPPL-F project display what they have learnt on the last day of the training at MUARIK

“You can make money through pasture seed and planting material production. Through hay production (this is the cutting and drying highly nutritious grass and store for long time feeding). Through silage production (this is fermenting of fresh grass for easy storage and improve the nutrition value”, He advised.

He said farmers can venture into production and management of the different types of pasture which include grasses, legumes, shrubs and trees adding that each, has different biomass and nutrition content.

The common grass pastures according to Mr. Natwijuka include Chloris Gayana, Brachiaria Mulato, Napier grass while the common legume pastures include Calliandra, Lablab, Centrocema, Desmodium and Lucerne

Examples of Grass pastures:

  1. Chloris Gayana

  • Expected output in terms of seed is 50kgs per hectare per harvest two to 3 harvest per year.
  • Expected harvest in terms of fodder you expect 200 bales of hay you can harvest 4 to 5 times per year.
  • Drought resistant with a very high regeneration capacity. Carrying capacity is two animals per acre.
  • High digestibility and palatability making it very useful to animals not forgetting the high nutrition quality.
  • It is best for hay production and it is not good for paddocks because it does not stand grazing.
  • Seeds are sold between 20 to 35 thousand  per kg
  1. Brachiaria Mulato
  • It is good for hay production since it has large leaves and high crude protein.
  • It can with stand grazing hence can be mixed with other grasses for paddocking.
  • It is a hybrid of crosses between 3 Brachiaria species (without changing their genes) b brizantha, b decumbens and b ruziensis.
  • It is drought tolerant and produces the highest dry matter compared to other grasses and this makes it the best for hay production, it regenerates very first from grazing.
  • Expected production is 220 to 300 bales per harvest, 4 to 5 times a year. It can be multiplied by sprits which are sold between 25 to 35thousand shillings per bag
  1. Napier grass
  • Dry matter 16.5 to 24.0 percent, crude protein 9.9 to 15.5%, crude fiber 26.5 to 33.6 percent, crude fat 2.4 to 4.5 percent.
  • Napier grass {Pennisetum purpureum ), also known as elephant grass and Merker grass, is a rank-growing perennial which is being used extensively for rotational pastures as silage.
  • It can be used to make silage, or it can be cut fresh and fed to animals fresh, it grows very first and has a high regeneration capacity especially in the rainy season.
  • It is the highest foliage produce (fresh) however, it has been disturbed by the Napier stunt disease which reduces production and to solve this problem, the resistant varieties have been developed like (Pakchong and Sugar Napier)
  • Almost every farm should have Napier because of its potential to produce large biomass.
  • Planting materials are cuttings and are sold between 20 to 40 thousand shillings per bag.

Examples of Legume pastures:

  1. Calliandra
  • Calliandra is of the high quality pastures, it contains 25-30% crude protein and other essential nutrients.
  • It fixes nitrogen adding fertility to the soil, it is drought resistant, it is a shrub that flowers all year around, very essential for honey farming.
  • The leaves can be dried under shade and added in the feed mixture for plant protein.
  • It is propagated by seeds and can form a good live fence yet highly nutritious
  • Each kg is between 90 to 150 thousand shillings.
  1. Lablab
  • 15-17% whole plant crude protein, 25% for leaves.
  • This protein% is higher than the recommended crude protein for ruminant growth of 11%.
  • It is the legume with the highest biomass production, it grows very first , it is very palatable to animals ,
  • It is not resistant to drought and should not be fed fresh to animals but rather it should be wilted under shed to avoid blot.
  • It can be propagated using seeds, and it can produce 200 to 250 kgs per acre per season every kg is sold between 15 and 30 thousand shillings.
  1. Centrocema 
  • This is a legume, it’s clipping characteristic makes it the best to be mixed with grasses to improve their quality.
  • It also adds nitrogen as the rest of the legumes.
  • It is propagated by seeds, the seeds, expected output is 300 to 500 kgs per hectare per year.
  • Seeds are sold between 25 to 40 thousand shillings.
  • It can be produced by staking it or planting it near live fences and let it grow.
  1. Desmodium
  • It contains 13.4-16.7 crude protein in the wet season, very palatable and much liked by goats and chicken.
  • It is easily digested by both Ruminant and non-Ruminant animals.
  • It is a small trailing herb, rooting and spreading over the ground.
  • Resists drought and grazing very well, the legume has high feed value, it adds nitrogen fertilizer to the soil, it can be mixed with other pastures to improve their quality especially grasses.
  • It is very essential in increasing milk yield and increased weight gain.
  • It regenerates very first after harvest, under good management, its production is high as well as its life span.
  1. Lucerne
  • 4g\kg crude protein, 66-77g/kg calories, 2.5-2.6g/kg fats, 17.1g-25g/kg.
  • It has valuable source of vitamins A and E.
  • It is the best pasture because of its nutritive value, it should be irrigated during the drought season to keep its quality. It can be harvested and it regenerates, the regeneration capacity is good.
  • It can be harvested, dried under shade and mixed with other feeds as the source of plant protein.
  • Seeds are only imported, the ones produced in the tropics have a less germination vigor here, they can be vegetatively expanded  by potting.

Pasture/Forage Production and Management

Report compiled by:
Jane Anyango,
Principal Communication Officer,
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES)

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