Milking Machines – Why Should We Use Them?

Do you keep dairy animals at your home or shamba? You are not alone. Dairy farming is the single largest sub sector of agriculture in Kenya, contributing 14% of Agricultural GDP with an annual growth rate of 4.1% compared to 1.2% of Agriculture (IFAD 2006). Kenya’s dairy sector accounts for 6-8% of the country’s GDP (USAID/GoK 2009). It is a major activity in the livestock sector and an important source of livelihood to more than 1 million small scale farmers. About 54% of households with 1 acre or less keep cattle, translating to smallholder dairy farmers owning over 80% of the dairy cattle, producing over 56% of total milk.

Depending on the degree of intensification and agro-ecological zones, milk production was at a high of 4575 kilograms of milk per cow per year at around 2015. This was attributed to the availability of high quality feeds, differences in animal breeds and production systems which was influenced by agro-ecological zones (Muia et al 2011). The production per individual animal, however, was low as compared to the world’s best of 9000 litres per year (Technoserve 2008).

There is therefore potential for even higher production with good management and better feeding practices, since the genetic potential of Kenyan dairy cattle is far much higher than the milk production.

Good farm management and efficient production systems are essential to the growth of this illustrious industry. In this rapidly changing world, keeping up with technological advancements to integrate in the farm is key to higher quality and quantity of production, whichever way it is looked at. Your focus as a farmer should be on using the least amount of resources, in a smart strategic manner, to yield the highest returns from your farm, and your animals. Among other tools, the best investment, especially in a farm of a large herd, would be a milking machine.

But what is a milking machine?

A milking machine is a nearly automatic machine installation for milking cows. It is not a single unit, but rather an assembly of components designed to handle as many as 200 cows an hour. The system consists of the cluster (the assembly that is manually attached to the cow), a milk tube, a pulse tube and pulsator, a vacuum pump or blower, and perhaps a recorder jar or milk meter that measures yield. Together, the system allows milk to flow into a pipeline in preparation for shipping to a processing plant.

A Goat Milking Machine. Milking Machines are available at Medilink.

Is It A Worthwhile Investment?

Reduced Labor costs

Many developed countries have long abandoned the traditional hand-milking strategy and adapted the use of milking machines, and for good reason. It’s all in the numbers. Traditional milking methods require a lot of resources in terms of the labor to milk the cows, the time it takes to collectively milk all the animals, and not forgetting the ever-important factor of the quality of milk produced. Human is to error, so it is unavoidable that some contaminants may make their way into the milk if the animals are milked manually. Also, imagine having to manually milk a herd of 200 cows!

Reduced Milking Time

With these machines, you can milk all your animals and still have time on your hands for your lunch break, since they have proven to be 3 to 4 times faster than hand-milking. Sure, the initial cost of a machine may be not too friendly on your pockets, but simple math will show you that you end up saving so much more on the time you could have used as well as the money on the guys you could have paid – every other day – for the exact same work. As a matter of fact, using milking machines has proven to have an increase in the milk yield as well, so you end up getting more milk too.

High Milk Quality

High milk quality is also guaranteed when using milking machinery. When you hand-milk a cow, there are bits of hay, hair and sometimes even flecks of manure that land in your hard-earned milk bucket. Unless you have a clientele that prefers this palate of flavors in their milk, that batch will be pretty much gone to waste. When using a milk machine, the bucket is fully enclosed and sealed. There is no opportunity for contamination during the milking process. This keeps the milk fresh and clean.

 Ease of Mind

Worried about how to operate the machinery? With a milk machine, there is a slight learning curve, yes, but it’s a pretty simple lesson. The uneasy feeling a farmer gets when having someone else milk is beyond nerve-racking. There are many possibilities that can go wrong with a untrained milker, like, not having enough arm strength to actually milk the cow, the cow won’t let her milk down, the cow kicked, it took too long and the milk sat for an inappropriate amount of time and of course, not completely emptying the bag, putting her at risk for infection. But with a milk machine, you know that once the machine is hooked up, your cow is going to get milked, correctly and quickly.

Conclusion

We understand that a lot of farmers may have a form of connection to their animals thus preferring hand-milking, but unless it is only one animal you have, and not a “milk factory” cow such as a Holstein, we would highly recommend you purchasing a milking machine. It will pay for itself in both time and money. While we thrive to do things simple on the homestead, saving time is always a top priority.

With MEDILINK you will be completely sorted out with the best-priced, highest quality milking machinery the industry has to offer, as well as installation of the machines in your farm, training on how to use the machinery, and free servicing within 6 months.

We also ensure that you carry with you a bottle of recommended liquid detergent & sterilizer “Bactergent” for cleaning your machine and ridding it of germs.

With a correctly specified, installed, operated and maintained milking plant you will be rewarded with a volume of milk according to your cows’ present ability and with a quality that meets the highest standards.

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The most profitable Dairy Cow

Which breed of dairy cow can produce the largest volumes of milk? And which breed will give you the highest amount of milk per kg bodyweight? And the best quality of milk as measured by butterfat and protein percent? These are questions that are easy to answer and few will deny that Holsteins and Jerseys will win above challenges.

Much more difficult to answer is the question about the most profitable dairy cow. Under good management and in temperate climatic zones above mentioned breeds will fully satisfy their owners. Few of us dairy farmers can provide these close to perfect conditions needed, in particular when dairying is attempted in parts of Kenya with more challenging climatic and environmental conditions.

“Malgudo” is pictured here in her 8 lactation on the day her lifetime production surpassed 70.000 liters of milk. She is a three-way cross with 62,5% Brown Swiss, 25% Sahiwal and 12,5% Ayrshire blood.

How profitable is a cow that produces record-breaking amounts of milk, but only lasts a single lactation or two at the most? In my personal opinion the most accurate way to measure & judge a cow’s true value & adaptability to adverse and challenging conditions is her longevity. Not only is a long-living cow the most profitable animal for her owner (every cow requires a minimum productive time to amortize her purchase or rearing costs and highest yields are not reached prior to her third to fifth lactation), but she is living proof that she can survive (stay healthy) and thrive (produce and most importantly reproduce) under difficult climatic conditions (heat stress, drought) and severe disease challenges (the list of tropical cattle diseases is shear endless…).

“Worera” is now 17 years old, has calved 14 times with 15 calves born, all from AI (she has never been served by a bull in her life!) and has produced over 75.000 liters of milk so far. She is a four-way cross with 50% Jersey, 25% Boran, 12,5% Sahiwal and 12,5% Guernsey blood.

Although purebred dairy cows (in particular Holsteins managed under favorable environmental and climatic conditions) can achieve comparable production levels, this high level of productivity can most easily be achieved by crossbreeding.

Practical Crossbreeding

Crossbreeding can be practiced by all and will achieve positive results much faster than traditional (pedigree) purebreeding systems. Please do not mistake planned and controlled “crossbreeding” as propagated in this article with uncontrolled mating of your cows with any (no matter which breed) bull of unknown quality, parentage or ancestry. It is the latter which has brought the idea of crossbreeding bad publicity and made it to be shunned or even seen with disdain by much of the purebreeding community.

You can start crossbreeding with any cow of any breed, but keep in mind that the better the cow the faster and more noticeable positive results will be. A cow will transmit additional genetic material to her calf (which is stored extra-nuclear in her egg), so all her offspring will usually resemble her more than their sire. A calf resulting out of mating a Holstein dam to a Boran sire will be a much better dairy cow and produce more milk than a calf born to a Boran dam by a Holstein sire. On the other hand latter will be hardier and exhibit more resistance to heat stress and disease.

Crossbreeding heifers should be practiced with much care and as a rule only proven easy calving sires or preferably Jersey bulls should be used on them. Often heterosis will cause crossbred calves to be born much larger and heavier than calves out of purebred matings.

Only the best quality proven bulls or sires (they don´t necessarily have to be purebred) of known ancestry should be used, which will be greatly facilitated by using artificial insemination.

Many farmers who practice purebreeding complain of problems in their herds that might be explained by a certain degree of inbreeding depression, which will appear in any purebred population over time: High mortality rates in both adults and calves, slow growth, reduced fertility, high susceptibility to disease and parasites which is often due to reduced resistance and stress related factors, reduced production & profitability and a greatly reduced number of lactations. Most of these problems will be reduced or even solved when crossbreeding is introduced into such herds.

“Sylvia” is also 17 years old and has completed her 12thlactation at over 82.000 liters lifetime milk production. In her long productive life her daily peak yields exceeded 37 liters per day and she is due to calve again in November 2012. She is a three way cross of 50% Holstein, 44% Sahiwal and 6% Ayrshire blood.

Small, but still noticeable improvements will be achieved when Finish Ayrshire, Swedish Red, Red Holstein or MRI semen is used on purebred Ayrshire herds and the resulting offspring will still have the appearance of purebred Ayrshires. The herd will fully retain its homogeneity while still profiting from some hybrid-vigor

Greater improvements, which will also cause more diversity (in shape and color) in the resulting offspring, will be achieved when crossing, for example, Holsteins to Jerseys, Ayrshires to Brown Swiss, Guernseys to Fleckvieh, etc. Any kind of combinations are possible and are limited only by your imagination.

The greatest improvements in lifetime profitability can be obtained when purebred Bos Taurus cows (all European breeds) are crossed to Bos Indicus (Zebu type) sires. There are Bos Indicus breeds that are specifically selected for milking potential as Sahiwal, Red Sindhi and Gir, and incredible results can be achieved when their best sires are used on high potential European bred dams.

The resulting offspring are called F1 hybrids and are best mated to a third, unrelated breed. This kind of crossbreeding is called rotational crossbreeding and can be continued indefinitely, with any number of breeds incorporated and always the cows should be mated to a sire of a breed that is least related to their own breeding. For practical reasons seldom more than three to four breeds are used.

Another approach to retain a good degree of heterosis is to stabilize a crossbred population into a new synthetic or “composite” breed, which will be further explained in the following topic.

The Theory behind Crossbreeding

Crossbreeding occurs when males and females of different breeds (or even species) are mated and the resulting offspring are then called crossbreds or “hybrids”.

The hybrid offspring display varying amounts of both breed complementation and “hybrid vigor” or heterosis which is measured as the performance advantage of crossbreds over the production average of both their parents. Occasionally, crossbreds will perform even better than either parent. However heterosis should be measured against the average of the parental breeds. Heterosis can impact many traits, but is especially useful in improving performance in lowly heritable traits, such as productivity, fertility, adaptability, vitality and especially longevity.

The less favorable for dairy production the environment is, the higher the expression of above traits will be. In particular Coast and other low lying dry and hot areas are most suitable for maximizing benefits from crossbreeding.

The greater the genetic difference between the parental breeds the larger and more dramatic the expression of heterosis will be. Maximum heterosis is therefore found in crosses between Bos Indicus (Zebu) cattle and Bos Taurus (European origin) cattle because they do not share any recent common ancestors.

Hybrid and Composite Breeding

While hybrids and composites are both crossbreds, hybrids are generally considered to be F1 or first crosses of purebred parents and composites are a stable inter-mating population originating from crossbred parents. Composites usually incorporate a combination of breeds, each of which contribute a characteristic desirable for good performance or environmental adaptability and designed to retain heterosis in future generations without crossbreeding and then being maintained as a purebred. Zebu breeds have contributed to several composites because of their adaptability to hot climates.

Whereas crossbreeding with the goal to produce hybrids has revolutionized production systems from crop farming to commercial livestock keeping as in poultry (meat and eggs), pig keeping and even some beef production systems, science has shown that long-term crossbreeding of dairy cattle for the sake of utilizing heterosis is very difficult unless the intent is to synthesize a new breed.

Many breeds that are considered purebreds now are actually composites if you go back far enough in time. The understanding of genetics involved in crossing breeds of cattle has progressed enormously in the last 15 years. We now better understand the results of producing synthetic lines of cattle, which can be maintained on an ongoing basis when interbred, hence stabilizing new composite breeds. So, composite cattle are a range of new breeds or new lines of cattle bred specifically to improve hybrid vigor. A planned mating scheme is designed to combine the desirable traits of two or more breeds into one “package” (or composite).

Although composite breeds do not sustain as high a level of heterosis as F1 hybrids do, they still offer some heterosis, with the amount depending on the original breed composition. As more breeds contribute to the composite, retained individual and maternal heterosis increases.

Composite breeds offer the opportunity to use genetic differences among breeds to achieve and maintain the performance level for such traits as climatic adaptability, growth rate and mature size, carcass composition, milk production and fertility that is optimum for a wide range of production environments and market scenarios. Further, composite breeds may provide herds of any size an opportunity to use heterosis and breed differences simultaneously.

Some amazing facts about cross- and composite breeding:

  • “KIAN” who was leading the Dutch Holstein charts is actually a 75% Holstein * 25% MRI crossbred
  • Some of New Zealand’s top index sires over the years have been crossbreds, having better breeding values than either purebred Holsteins or Jerseys. Semen of crossbred sires is marketed there just as intensively as that of purebred sires
  • The very same imported Norwegian Red sire (Norwegian Red is not even considered a true breed yet…) was adopted and used by an Ayrshire breeders society as “purebred” Ayrshire and also extensively used by Dairy Shorthorn breeders in their pedigree breeding program
  • Composite dairy breeds are primarily found in hot tropical countries or where cheap pasture based production is mandatory for the farmer’s survival as for example “Jamaica Hope” in the Caribbean, “Australian Friesian Sahiwal” and “Australian Milking Zebu” in tropical Australia and…
  • “Girolando” in Brazil who where developed through combined effort of farmers and an initiative of the Brazilian Government and who now produce 80% of the country’s milk
  • “Girolando” can produce in excess of 22.000 litres of milk per 365 days lactation!

Most of above are extracts from http://www.makitosha.com/cows.htm where much more information about this subject can be found for the interested reader!

Choosing the best rabbit breeds for your farm

There are several rabbit breeds in Kenya you might consider. The breed you choose will depend on its use. Rabbits are used for their wool, fur, and meat. They are also used as testing specimens by laboratories and very popular as pet.

Rabbits are generally classified according to size, weight and type of pelt. Small rabbits weigh about 1-2 Kg at maturity, medium breeds 4 -5 kg, and large breeds 6 – 7 pounds. Giant breeds, while sometimes used for meat, have a feed/meat conversion ratio which is less profitable than medium breeds. Small breeds are used primarily for pets, shows and hobbyists. The medium breeds are considered dual purpose and are commonly used for meat and research laboratories. The commercial rabbit processing plants today desire a white animal.

The two most popular rabbit breeds in Kenya are the New Zealand and Californian. These rabbit breeds are popular because they combine white fur usually preferred by processors and good growth characteristics. New Zealand rabbits are slightly larger than the Californian, 4 -6 Kg versus 3 -4.5 Kg. The New Zealand rabbit has a completely white, red or black body, whereas the Californian is white with colored nose, ears and feet. The Chinchilla is a grey/brown breed that is also preferred for meat because of its larger mature wait.

Before starting a rabbit farm, it is important to determine the market for the rabbits. It can be restaurants, meat shops, individual purchasers, schools, laboratories, hospitals or breeders. The markets for rabbit fur tend to be unstable, therefore make sure there is sufficient demand before you embark on raising rabbits for fur.

The cost of production depends on the system employed for production. The major cost is usually that of feed. The rabbits will consume about 25 g of pellets per day which translates to 2.25 Kg in 90 days. At 90 days the dressed weight is between 1-1.2kg. Feed/pellets will cost Kshs. 51 and you will be able to sell the meat at between Ksh 200 and 300 per kilogram dressed wait. Obviously you should add other costs like labour, depreciation of the houses and other infrastructure; transport to market etc.

Breeding stock for a rabbit farm may be bought from local breeders. Medium-sized rabbits breed at 6 to 7 months of age and give birth after a month of gestation. Female rabbits can produce up to 50 live rabbits annually. They produce an average of 9 kits per birth.

Rabbits can be kept in any part of the country so long as they are housed properly and protected from predators. Visit the nearest Livestock Office to provide you with specific details on rabbit production like sources of breeding animals and other details.

New Zealand White

New Zealand White Rabbit

New Zealand White Rabbit

This breed of rabbit was initially bred for meat and fur. They grow fast and the large one could grow up to 4 to 5 Kg in weight. Other than their meat and fur they are often used for laboratory purposes and are also very popular as pet.

The fur is thick around the body, shorter near the ears and long, straight up ears. The eyes are normally bright and range from pink to red in color. One good thing about them is that they are resistant to most diseases.

Californian white

Californian white rabbit

Californian White Rabiit

The Californian rabbit breed is a meat rabbit bred from a cross between the New Zealand White and the Himalayan. Its round shaped body tends to be plump and fleshy meaning there’s a good ratio of meat to bone.  They weigh about 4 – 4.5 Kg and have a coat of dense white fur with black nose, ears, feet and tail. They have bright pink eyes.

The Chinchilla

Chinchilla

Chinchilla

The Chinchilla is a large sized rabbit breed developed as a multi-purpose animal for fur as well as meat. The coat is soft and beautiful. The rabbit breed attracts a lot of attention because of its large size and beautiful coat. People want to see it and most of all they want to touch it!

Adult Chinchilla rabbits weigh between 4 – 6 Kg. These stout rabbits have a slight curve to their medium length bodies, beginning at the nape of their necks and following through to the rump. They carry their ears straight and erect.

MORE ON RABBIT FARMING IN KENYA http://www.farmerstrend.co.ke/category/livestock-farming/rabbit-farming/

Why establishing lucerne crop is a very good investment for the dairy farmer

Lucerne, also known as alfalfa, is the single most important fodder crop that a dairy farmer should always have in the farm. The term Alfalfa is an Arabic word meaning “best fodder” because of its palatability and high feeding value. It can substitute up to 80% of commercial feeds purchased for the dairy cow. Despite the immense benefit it can bring many farmers have not seen the need for establishing the crop. Lucerne can grow in many areas across the country.

Practice by farmers

The practice by many farmers in Kenya whenever they desire to increase the area under pasture is to cultivate more forage rich in carbohydrates such as Napier grass, Rhodes grass, fodder maize, fodder sorghum and the like. It most often happens out of ignorance on the feeding and nutrient requirements of farm animals. More quantities of the same type of feed are then presented to animals. The end result is more areas under forage but with insignificant or no increase in the amount of milk produced, so that the farmer is left wondering whether the output was worth the investment.

Lucerne is not the only legume that can be incorporated in the pasture profile. There are many more legume species which can serve the same purpose but when compared, lucerne comes out with gleaming attributes. It has very high protein content (15 – 25%), highly digestible (60 – 75%) and has high levels of energy (ME 8 – 11MJ/kg DM). It comprises about 50% of all protein supplements in livestock feeds. It can be pelleted and stored in bags.

Growth conditions

Lucerne grows well in deep soils that are not acidic. Acidity in soils can be corrected by applying lime. If the area is dry the crop can be put under irrigation. The plant is perennial with very deep roots that can go up to 6 metres under, so it can survive drought once established. It can be harvested 3 – 4 times in a year if the rains are good. There is no need of replanting because it has the ability to re-grow from the cut stems. This ability to re-grow is very important because it eliminates the need for recurrent land preparations and sowing.

Conservation

To the farmer, the most important quality of lucerne is its ability to be conserved. Other legumes have very poor keeping qualities. Lucerne can be conserved as hay and fed to animals at a later date. This is important during dry periods when pastures are scarce, but even more important is that it allows the farmer to organize a comprehensive feeding plan for the herd. The assurance that adequate quantities will be available throughout the year makes it possible to formulate suitable rations and project the potential amount of milk that can be produced in the year.

Establishment

One impediment that has faced farmers is their lack of knowledge or skills on how to establish the crop. Many farmers simply purchase lucerne seeds from agrovets and sow them directly into improperly prepared seedbeds. Some of those who have attempted to inoculate the seeds have done it wrongly. The outcome has been very poor germination thus discouraging the farmers from establishing the crop.

The correct way to establish lucerne is by first properly inoculating the seeds. Appropriate inoculants are available in agrovets. For a good sticker make a solution of sugar or molasses in molasses to water ratio of 1:4. Thoroughly mix the sticker with lucerne seeds ensuring that all the seeds are covered by a thin layer of the sticker.  Then pour the inoculant on the mixture and mix thoroughly. Do not expose the inoculant to sunshine because it can kill the bacterium. Coat the resulting mixture with lime. This activity should be carried out shortly before sowing.

Use certified seeds to sow on rows 45cm apart on a fine, moist and weed free seedbed at a rate of 3 – 4kg per acre. The soils should be deep and well drained. Avoid any soils that are saline, waterlogged or have damaging herbicides. To avoid scorching of the seeds with fertilizer, ensure that the seeds do not have direct contact with fertilizer by mixing it with soil before sowing. Sow the seeds shallowly at a depth of 5 to 15mm and cover with light soils because they may not emerge if sown deeper than 20mm and covered with deep soil. Lucerne need sufficient moisture to germinate therefore sow the seeds at the beginning of the rainy season or when you are sure that enough rains will follow soon. Irrigate the seedbed if the soils are dry and continue this until all the seeds have germinated and strong enough to withstand low moisture levels. Ensure that there are no weeds affecting the crop.

Harvesting

Depending on rainfall and climatic conditions, the first cut should be made when the crop is around 40mm tall, has several stems and appears bushy. Cut when about 10% of the crop is flowering because if done earlier it can reduce the lifespan of the stand. Thereafter the crop can be harvested every 4 -5 weeks under irrigation or 3 months under rainfall. This can go on for 5 years when the crop should be replaced. Cut the crop at the base 50mm above the ground and allow 2 to 3 days in the field for the leaves to wilt before raking and baling. The wilted crop is ready for baling if the skin around the stem can be easily removed. Do not let the leaves to overdry because of the risk of severe losses. Start baling very early in the morning when dew helps in reducing losses. Collect and remove the hay from the field as soon as possible and store in a barn protected from rainfall and sunshine.

Under good management yields are more than 8 tons per acre. Given that on average a cow is fed about 15kg per day on top of the grasses to satisfy its nutritional requirements, an acre is enough to feed 2 cows for one year. This is an immense saving given the high costs of commercial feeds.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the single most important forage crop that can bring sufficient increases in milk production when introduced to the dairy herd is lucerne and farmers are well advised to take this crop very seriously.

Best Agricultural Blog in Kenya 2018 Farmers Trend :: http://www.farmerstrend.co.ke/lucerne-might-wonder-crop-dairy-farming-success/

Making money with Boma Rhodes hay

The persistent shortage of feeding materials for livestock especially during the dry season opens a sound opportunity for making money selling Boma Rhodes grass hay. The high productivity and quality per unit area of boma rhodes make it the grass of choice for both the large and small-scale farmers.

In short Rhodes grass is the most important pasture grass in Kenya due to its ease in establishment and management. In Kenya there are major suppliers of rhodes grass hay which they also export to other countries.

Other than storing the grass for use during the dry season, you can make hay for sale irrespective of whether you have animals or not. The size of the farm may not be important although the bigger the farm the higher the profit arising from economies of scale. One can start with half acre if the land is too limiting. There are plenty of idle lands lying around whose absentee farmers do not know what to do with. Some of the reasons arise out of the demands by other crop productions which always require that they are around most of the time to monitor their progress and take action where appropriate.

Boma rhodes production and hay making for sales can easily be practiced by such farmers because the  methods of pasture establishment and propagation demand less capital. First you need to prepare a good seedbed by ploughing and harrowing twice for virgin lands. On a previously cropped land you will need to plough and harrow just once before the beginning of the long rains.

Sowing should be done very early, usually in April, so that weeds do not overtake the germinating seeds. Others prefer to sow during the short rains to take care of weeds. Drilling is preferred because it ensures that the seeds are buried and distributed uniformly and others are not left on the surface to dry as in broadcasting.  The seed is first pelleted for them to flow readily during drilling, which is done at a rate of 0.5-1 kg/ha in rows 30 – 40 cm apart. The seed is best sown on the surface not deeper than 2 cm followed by rolling. For broadcasting, the seed is best mixed with sawdust or sand. Seeds germinate in 1-7 days and seedlings develop rapidly.

RELATED ARTICLE: http://www.farmerstrend.co.ke/complete-guide-boma-rhodes-production-hay-making-kenya-smart-way-make-money/

Apply fertilizer or manure during planting to promote strong root development. Recommended fertilizer are SSP at 2-4 bags/ha or SSP or DAP at 1-2 bags/ha. If manure, broadcast at 10 ton/ha and harrow before planting.
Returns depend on how effectively you manage the pasture stand. The most important is weed control. Of course grazing should not be allowed as this will deplete the crop. While the numerous fungi and nematodes have been isolated from the grass, they rarely have any economic impact. Control the weeds during the first year by hand weeding or by use of herbicides.  In subsequent years, keep fields clean by slashing, hand pulling or mowing of weeds.

During the establishment year soil nitrogen is adequate for grass productivity. Additional nutrients in the form of inorganic fertilizer or farmyard manure are required in subsequent seasons. Topdress grass with 5-7 bags CAN or ASN per ha per year in 3 splits during the rain season or 5-10 tons of farmyard manure. Topdress with 2 bags SSP or 1 bag of TSP per ha per year in addition to the nitrogen fertilizers after the establishment year in areas with phosphate deficiencies.  Nitrogen fertilizer can be applied one or two months before the dry season in order to increase yields during the dry season.

DM yields generally range from about (2-) 10-25 t/ha, depending on soil fertility , environmental conditions, and cutting frequency.  Yields in the second year may be double those of the establishment year, but this also depends on management and environmental conditions.  While yields of 35-60 t/ha DM are reported, these are not the norm.

Cost of establishment

ItemCost (Ksh)
Land preparation
Ploughing10,000
Harrowing10,000
Sowing5,000
Seeds @ Kshs. 1,000 per Kg1,000
Fertilizer application
2 bags DAP @ Kshs. 3,000 per bag6,000
5 bags CAN @ Kshs 2,700 per bag13,500
Weeding
Herbicides3,000
Labor3,000
Harvesting labor charges3,000
Total cost54,500
Yields
400 bales per hectare per harvest
Harvest 3 times a year 1,200 bales
Sales @ Kshs 200 per bale240,000
Net income185,500

As you can see, profit in the first year is Kshs. 185,500. This profit can significantly increase the following year because there will be no cost on crop establishment and yields may double. Maintenance and harvesting will be the recurring cost in the second and third year. After the third year yields diminish and it is better to remove the crop.