In Summary
  • Rapeseed (canola) is a crop in the brassicaceae (cabbage) family that grows best in the agro-ecological zones with altitudes ranging from 1,500–2,400m above sea level.
  • Improved and high-yielding hybrid varieties such as Belinda from Bayer East Africa can be obtained from nearest agrovets.
  • To obtain accurate estimation of feeds required for your cows, it is important to know the stage of lactation (number of days from last calving) and the weight.

FEEDING A LACTATING DAIRY COW ACCURATELY
I am an auditor based in Nairobi and a telephone farmer with a small farm in an area with almost adequate rainfall throughout the year.

I built a zero-grazing unit back in 2011, bought three Friesian cows and as expected, with no experience and advice, fed them on wet napier grass and occasionally on maize stovers.

With time I realised the need to improve my herd with better breeds and today I have three good cows; good because two are lactating and giving about 15 litres each, one is in-calf and there are three heifer calves that I am rearing.

I have decided to breed my own cows after having failed to get good cows externally. Now having realised that I am taking too long to break even, I cut my coffee bush and planted one acre of potato vines and put maize on another acre.

I have inter-planted calliandra with potato vines. In addition, I have two acres with napier grass. I have extra land on which I can plant fodder but I have decided to pause and assess whether I am on the right path.

My problem is that even after reading extensively on dairy farming, I have not been able to know what proportion (in kilos) of potato vines, maize stovers and napier grass (dry) I should feed a single lactating cow.

I usually get conflicting and confusing information from varied ‘experts’. I usually give dairy meal at a rate of 5kg and 3kg for cows producing 12 and 4kg milk respectively and I am ready to add other ingredients like maize germ if I understand what proportions to feed.

For heifers that are now about five months old, what should be their daily feed and at what ration?

To obtain accurate estimation of feeds required for your cows, it is important to know the stage of lactation (number of days from last calving) and the weight. It is also important to note:

• That milk production decreases gradually from about two-and-half months after lactation.

• Maize stovers (>90 per cent), dairy meal (>85 per cent), napier grass wilted (±40 per cent) and sweet potato vines (±20 per cent) have different dry matter content.

• A cow (weighing 450kg) in early lactation needs 13 per cent dry matter intake, 20 per cent protein and 1.67 MCal Net energy for lactation.

Start with 3kg maize stovers, 5kg dairy meal, 7.5kg napier grass ad 15kg sweet potato vines. If calliandra is available, substitute 7.5kg sweet potato vines with 3kg calliandra.

Note that water and mineral licks should be availed to cows. Monitor intake and cow’s response to the feeds and adjust when required.

For calves (0-4 months), colostrum, milk or a milk replacer, calf starter and hay or pasture. Feeding will also vary with age.

Olivier Kashongwe,

Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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I WANT TO GROW CANOLA AND GINGER
I would like to grow canola and ginger on my farms in Kitui County. Therefore, educate me on the following:
Canola oil plant:

Farmer inspecting his canola crop. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

  1. Can it grow in Kitui County, from Kyangwithya to Miambani along the seasonal Thua River?
  2. Where can I get its seeds if it can grow there?
  3. What is the temperature and humidity required to grow effectively and efficiently and high quality output for competitive markets?
  4. How much is the cost of planting and how much per kilo is the price of the canola oil seeds?
  5. What is the kind of soil required and rain quantity?
  6. How long does it take to mature?

Ginger:

  1. Can it grow there since it requires long frost-free growing season with high temperatures?
  2. Can I use irrigation to increase water for its development and growth, during the August to October dry period?
  3. Lastly, can the two crops be grown in Loitokitok, Kajiado County?

Paul Mbaluka,

Miambani/Kwa Ngeka,

Kitui Central.

Rapeseed (canola) is a crop in the brassicaceae (cabbage) family that grows best in the agro-ecological zones with altitudes ranging from 1,500–2,400m above sea level.

The crop is mainly grown under rain-fed conditions, although supplementary irrigation during critical growth stages such as flowering, pod formation and filling is recommended, if they coincide with the drought periods.

Canola performs well under a variety of well-drained soils, as the crop is sensitive to water-logged conditions.

The crop is also sensitive to extreme temperatures with an optimum temperature of 21°C. Temperatures below 10°C will result in delayed germination and uneven emergence, thus, staggered growth stages and uneven maturity.

The maturity period of canola varies depending on the variety and the agro-ecological zones. Generally, the crop takes between four to five months to mature and be ready for harvest.

Improved and high-yielding hybrid varieties such as Belinda from Bayer East Africa can be obtained from nearest agrovets.

There is ready market for canola, with major oil processing companies being the main buyers. Moreover, there exists other companies that also do bulking of the produce and deliver to oil processing companies.

Ginger is propagated from rhizomes that can be obtained from fresh produce market. Ginger does well in fertile well-drained loam soil, and thus will do well in the area.

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