- Experts answer all the burning questions on crops and livestock from farmers at the eighth Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic held last weekend in Kisii.
- Feeding is key in zero-grazing as it constitutes 50 per cent of production. First, ensure you have land where you can grow fodder, with an acre being standard for a dairy cow, especially the Friesians which are heavy feeder.
- Record-keeping, importance of marketing farm produce through saccos and due diligence when acquiring a dairy cow were other burning issues.
- Testing and treating the soils ensures there are no soil-borne pests and diseases therein. Also use the right pesticides for your crops.
Birds chirped cheerily, signalling day break as the Seeds of Gold team went through their check list to ensure everything was in place before farmers started trooping at the Kisii Agricultural Training Centre for the eighth farm clinic held last Saturday.
Shortly after 8am, the first farmers and agribusiness enthusiasts started to arrive, and they came from Kisii, Homa Bay, Nakuru, Kisumu, Bomet, Nyamira and as far as Murang’a.
To interact with them were experts from Elgon Kenya Ltd, Simba Corp, Coopers K-Brands, Bayer East Africa and the Ministry of Agriculture, among others.
Soon, farmer William Nyanoti from Masaba-South set the ball rolling, seeking to know why his dairy cow did not conceive even after inseminating it severally.
Ignatius Muteshi, from the Ministry of Agriculture, explained that timing is key in serving a cow on heat.
“Ensure you serve your cow as soon as it starts showing signs of heat. When you do it late, the cow will hardly conceive,” he said, adding that a cow needs a balanced diet if it is to conceive.
Robin Nyakundi from Kisii wanted to know whether it is normal for a cow to have an extra teat and teeth, with many in the region believing that such cattle hardly conceives and should be slaughtered.
Muteshi noted that those are deformities and there is nothing wrong about such animals. “With the help of a qualified vet, you can clip the extra teat and teeth usually when the animal is young at about a month. The abnormalities, however, have no effect on the cow’s productivity.”
Jackson Nyakundi wanted to know more about zero-grazing, to which Kennedy Osoro, a livestock production officer, responded.
“Feeding is key in zero-grazing as it constitutes 50 per cent of production. First, ensure you have land where you can grow fodder, with an acre being standard for a dairy cow, especially the Friesians which are heavy feeders,” he said, adding that one can lease land, preferably for more than five years.
A well-kept dairy cow should produce milk 305 days per year, offered Kenneth Lang’at from Coopers K-Brands.
However, most farmers milk for only 270 days. “The remaining 60 days will be for steaming-up. During this time, the cow should be given dry-cow salt lick to prevent milk-fever. To ably produce milk throughout that duration, the cow requires proper feeding, the reason why you should invest in feed provision.”
ENHANCE BIOSECURITY MEASURES
Record-keeping, importance of marketing farm produce through saccos and due diligence when acquiring a dairy cow were other burning issues.
“Always buy a heifer from certified dealers who have the cows’ comprehensive records. Avoid buying from markets as in most cases, sellers try to get rid of their unproductive stock,” said Osoro.
Kennedy Nyairumbi from Mulot wondered why his chicken had an egg-eating habit, fatal flatworm and roundworm infestation and produced greenish-diarrhoea.
The diarrhoea, according to Dr James Aura, Elgon Kenya’s regional animal health manager, is a sign of Newcastle disease, which alongside gumboro, are lethal poultry killers.
“Vaccinate your poultry according to the right regimen prescribed by animal health providers,” advised Aura.
He added that egg-eating is a sign of calcium and phosphorus deficiency and the birds should be given plenty of greens such as sukuma wiki and calliandra, egg formulations and DCP mixed in their feed.
He added that birds should be dewormed every three months with the recommended drugs and biosecurity measures enhanced on the farm.
For day-old chicks, he asked farmers to give them electrolyte-balanced feed from day one to 10. “Glucose should preferably be mixed in their feed on day one and enough water to prevent constipation.”
Chicks should be vaccinated against Newcastle and gumboro when they are four to seven, and ten days old respectively, and antibiotics, which sometimes are contained in some of the birds’ vitamin-feeds, should be withdrawn at least two days before the vaccination, as they may counteract the vaccine.
“Avoid letting free-range chicks outside their housing early morning when it is still dewy to curb diseases, let it get sunny first. The first 10 days of the chicks are key in determining their successful survival to maturity,” said Aura.
Maurice Mabeya, from Kisii, wanted to know why his passion fruits, which had hitherto been productive, had suddenly began producing hard fruits, then dried and died. He also asked how he could control pests destroying his tomato crops.
Vincent Hainga, an agronomist from Bayer East Africa, attributed the problems to diseases, poor untested and untreated soils and lack of enough water in the soil.
“Testing and treating the soils ensures there are no soil-borne pests and diseases therein. Also use the right pesticides for your crops,” he said.
FACILITATE NUTRIENT PROVISION