Planting your own pasture

Saturday February 9 2019

Brian Natwijuka in his pasture garden.

Brian Natwijuka in his pasture garden. Natwijuka is one of the livestock agronomists who teach farmers how to plant fodder. Photo by Christine Katende 

By Christine Katende

Being a successful livestock farmer means having knowledge on when and what to feed the animals, which means increase in production. This can be beef or milk.
Apart from a few animals that feed on pellets such as rabbits, 90 per cent of animals are reared and fully fed on pastures. There are, however, different type of pastures with diverse nutrients that benefit animals at different stages. Brian Natwijuka, a pasture grower based in Kabanyolo, Gayaza, outlines the different types of pastures including; chloris gayana (lord’s grass), penisetum clandestinum (kikuyu grass), panicum maximum (mukonzi konzi), calliandra, Napier grass (elephant grass) and brachiaria mulato.
Natwijuka further explains the different processes through which the specific types of pastures are grown to harvest time.

Napier grass:
This is commonly known as elephant grass. It is good for zero grazing farmers. Napier grass is also a good drought resistant pasture which gives a lot of fodder. Napier is available in different varieties such as kakamega1, kakamega2, 1237, and sugar Napier.

While planting Napier, use cuttings of between two and three nodes. Make a hole of four inches deep, place the cutting into the hole and cover with some little soil leaving half a metre. Napier is planted in lines and between the lines, plant a legume since legumes are nitrogen fixers this will contribute to high production.

Provided there is availability of rain in the first three months, a farmer will be able to do the first cutting. Yes, the production on the first cutting is less compared to the other times. Napier can be cut and fed fresh to the animals. The grass should be cut when young because when it over grows, it loses quality or nutrients.

Napier can be used as an alternative to make silage. This is normally chopped into smaller pieces, add maize bran on the ratio of 10 to 100. 10 kilogrammes of maize bran to 100 kilogrammes of chopped Napier.

This is one of the best shrubs and it is normally planted in the farm near the boundaries or used to separate farm operations to each other. It takes long to grow but when it has fully grown, it will always provide foliage for animals in all seasons because it is drought resistant.

Nursery bed
Cariandra is only grown first from the nursery and then transplanted. Due to its low germination rate, it needs extra care from the seed form to young seedlings.

Cariandra is sometimes planted at the boundaries of the farm. However, peri-germinate the planting materials 24 hours before planting (soak them in water for 24 hours so as to develop a shoot). At the time of planting, dig holes of two inches deep, cover the hole with some little soft soil then place the seed at half an inch.

Chloriss guyana
This is commonly known as the rhodes grass. It is a drought resistant pasture that a farmer can grow for the livestock. It can hardly dry up even when the season is too dry and is never affected by diseases once planted on fertile soil.

You need 10 kilogrammes per acre, so get good quality seeds. Make lines where you are going to broadcast the seeds. They should be an inch deep and spaced at half a metre from each other.

At four months, the pasture is mature and the animals can be introduced to the pasture. It can be preserved as hay which is normally fed to animals during drought. If you are making hay, cut the grass with help of a cutter and feed the animals.

The pasture expert says that lablab is one of the best legumes that are high in proteins. It is available in the brown variety though there is also a black variety. The difference is normally in seeds and the forage production.

If it is forage production, you will need six kilogrammes of seeds per acre. Dig the small holes, five inch deep and put two beans per hole on a spacing of one metre. Weeding should be done in the first three weeks or a month after planting.

Harvesting can be done at three and half months, and farmers who grow the legume for forage should harvest or cut the forage at 40 per cent flowering.

The dried material can be kept in bags or sacks and put on a raised ground to avoid moisture or water contact. If well dried and kept, it can go up to three years.

Brachiaria mulato
This is commonly known as Congo signal grass or locally known as kifuta. It produces the highest dry matter and good for hay production and grows very fast.

Brachiaria is fast growing. However, when planting, use splits of planting material. The splits are normally got from cuttings. While planting in the dug holes, cover the stem part with little soil two metres from down.

Brachiaria can be harvested at four months if the area is fertile enough with enough rains. At this time, a farmer can introduce the animals to feed on it. It can work well with paddock system.

This kind of pasture has little foliage but with a number of nutrients and it is very nice for the animals. When planting, you need about four per acre. Start weeding three weeks after planting. In two months, it would have closed the canopy thus disabling the growth of weeds.