What you need to know:
- Dr Sadik Kassim, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) deputy director general, Agriculture Technology Promotion, said that the Farm Clinics have enabled farmers across the country to access the right information from qualified researchers.
The hunger for agricultural knowledge was evident at the 29th edition of the Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic held at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) at Nakyesasa in Namulonge last week on Saturday.
Farmers started to arrive at the venue as early as 8am. Some came on motorbikes, others rode in taxis while a good number arrived in personal vehicles. The farmers – young and old – came from as far as Mbarara, Bushenyi, Luweero, Wakiso and Kampala districts among others with the weather characterised by light showers providing a perfect environment for learning.
To offer the invaluable agricultural lessons were experts from NaLIRRI, Zoetis, NSSF, Bank of Uganda and East Africa Seeds.
John Musisi from Gayaza, was among the attendees. His aim was to learn how to be a successful dairy farmer. “I have been growing bananas and I wanted to begin rearing dairy cows. I was to start last year but I faced logistical challenge,” he said.
Amon Musinguzi, a farmer with three cows from Busega, wanted to learn how to improve milk production.
“I have been having challenges on silage-making. From my two lactating cows, I just get five litres,” she said.
Dr Moses Mwesigwa, the programme leader in dairy research at the institute, told the farmers that to start dairy farming, one must ensure that they have adequate feeds, know the right breed as well as have proper housing units.
“On feeds, you must have a budget for the whole year. One cow will require at least four tonnes for a whole year. If hay, it needs five tonnes, 10-15 tonnes of silage and two acres of pasture. A drier place requires four acres,” he said.
Dr Mwesigwa also said that cows require balanced diet that contains dry matter and protein such as lucerne to increase milk production.
Good maize for use to make silage should be at milk stage, which means it has higher protein content.
He isolated sorghum and maize as the best fodder for making silage. NaLIRRI has released a number of seed varieties for pasture and fodder for various ecological zones. For instance, there is silver desmodium for medium and highlands and green leaf is for drier lowlands.
Felix Muhumuza, a dairy farmer wondered why his cow did not show any signs of pregnancy yet it had been served last August.
“This problem might be caused by overfeeding which sometimes causes the walls of ovaries to have layers of fat. But get a vet to check the animals,” advised Allen Molly a dairy expert.
Understanding farmers’ psychology
A question arose about some cows’ tendency to retain their placenta after giving birth. The expert said possible reasons could be its genetic make-up, heat stress or the calf is too big. She advised farmers to look for bulls that have a history of siring small to medium calves.
Dairy experts warned farmers against ‘bribing’ a cow before milking it by giving it dairy meal. They emphasised the idea should be rewarding cows for giving the owner milk, and not vice versa.
Farmers were advised against keeping a bull if they only have five cows. Maintenance costs are high, so artificial insemination is the best bet.
“The farm clinics are becoming bigger and better. We have had an increase in the number of farmers who attended the clinic this year compared to last year, interestingly, most farmers travelled to the clinic because they heard about it from other farmers who attended and learnt new technologies ,” said Joshua Watwaluma the NMG-Uganda brand manager.