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Intercropping Napier and desmodium raises milk output

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Re­search has shown that small­holder farm­ers can in­crease milk yields for their an­im­als by feed­ing them on a mix­ture of Napier grass and Des­modium.

Napier grass is a spe­cies of per­en­nial trop­ical grass nat­ive to the African grass­lands. A ma­jor­ity of small scale farm­ers use the crop to feed their an­im­als in the dairy pro­duc­tion areas of Kenya. It is a high yield­ing fod­der crop with good palat­ab­il­ity and is highly nu­tri­tious es­pe­cially when young with dark green leaves and less than one meter tall.

READ ALSO: Bra­chiaria termed bet­ter than Napier in push-pull tech­no­logy

Des­modium is a large per­en­nial trop­ical for­age legume. It does bet­ter at alti­tudes between 500 and 2500 m in the trop­ics. It grows well on slopes. It can be grown in areas where an­nual rain­fall is above 900 mm and up to 3000 mm. Dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, it is more sus­cept­ible to drought and has bet­ter tol­er­ance of flood­ing and wa­ter­log­ging.

Be­fore plant­ing, plough and har­row the field well. Dig plant­ing holes at a space of 3 by 2 feet (90*60 cm). In each hole apply a hand­ful of farm­yard ma­nure and half a soda bottle top of DAP.

READ ALSO: A bet­ter way to grow Napier Grass for more milk (Tum­buk­iza method)

While plant­ing, place a 3 node piece of Napier cane en­sur­ing two nodes are covered into the ground or place root splits into the plant­ing hole and cover with soil. Make fur­rows along the Napier grass lines or in between rows to drill des­modium seeds or plant fresh des­modium stem cut­tings. Make sure that you keep the field weed free.

Har­vest the Napier grass and Des­modium when they are at 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) high. Leave a stem length of 4 inches (10 cm) from the ground at har­vest­ing. When feed­ing it to the an­im­als, chop them to re­duce wastage. Re-growth can be har­ves­ted when 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) high which means a period of 6-8 weeks between the cuts.

READ ALSO: High pro­tein double yield­ing napier grass re­leased

Com­bined Napier grass and Des­modium means more fod­der of bet­ter qual­ity and more milk for farm­ers. Napier grass uses ni­tro­gen sup­plied by Des­modium and there­fore saves farm­ers on costs on top dress­ing.

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