FORAGE CROPS

Introduction

  • These are plants which either grow naturally or are cultivated by man to be used for feeding livestock.
  • The term forage crops include pasture and fodder crops.
  • Fodder crops are purposely grown for feeding livestock.
  • They are cut or uprooted when ready
  • Pasture is a ground cover of grass or a mixture of grass and legumes grazed directly or cut and fed to livestock.

 

Classification of Pastures

According to type of stand.

  • Either pure
  • Mixed stands.

According to ecological zones .

    • Low altitude,
    • Medium altitude,
    • High altitude pastures

According to the establishment .

  • Natural
  • Artificial pastures.

Examples of grasses

  • Napier,
  • Rhodes,
  • Setaria,
  • Molasses,
  • Congo signal,
  • kikuyu,
  • star,
  • Guatemala,
  • Sudan

Examples of legumes;

  • Lucern,
  • Clover,
  • Desmodium,
  • Glycine,
  • Stylo,
  • Centrio,

 

Pasture Establishment

Seedbed Preparation

  • This involves clearing the land, primary and secondary cultivation to a fine tilth because the seeds are small.
  • This is done during the dry season.

Selection of planting materials

  • Select seeds of high germination percentage,
  • Free from impurities or buy certified seeds.
  • If vegetative materials are used, select from high yielding, vigorous-growing and healthy plants.

Treatment of legume seeds

  • Legume seeds are inoculated with the correct strain of bacteria which fix nitrogen for the crop.

    Planting

  • This is done at the beginning of the rains

     Methods of sowing are;

  • Direct sowing,
  • Under sowing,
  • Over-sowing

Oversowing

This is introduction of a pasture legume in an existing grass pasture.

Undersowing

The establishment of a pasture in an already existing crop which acts as a cover crop.

     Seeds  rate depend;

  • On purity of seeds,
  • Pasture species
  • Whether pure or mixed stand.

Apply phosphatic fertilizer when planting and later top-dress  with nitrogenous fertilizer.

Pasture management

  • Re-seeding or gapping; Re-seeding is done if the grass is completely denudated.
  • But if partially, gapping can be done
  • Control of weeds by slashing, uprooting and mowing
  • Fertilization of pastures-done by use of manures and nitrogenous fertilizer.
  • Topping;This is the removal of stemmy fibrous material left behind after grazing.It allows new growth  after the rains
  • Control of pests-done by trapping of moles, use of pesticides and biological means.

Pasture Utilization

  • Pastures should be utilized at maturity when nutritive value is high.

       It is utilized through the following methods:

  • Direct grazing – this can be done through rotational grazing or herding.
  • Zero grazing – this is where the pasture is cut and fed to the animals in the stalls.

 

Common fodder Crops

Edible Cana

  • Altitude: 1500 – 2000m above sea level.
  • Establishment: Young tubers or bulbs are used.
  • Spacing: 1m x 1m.
  • Management: Does well with application of farmyard manure and requires fertile land.
  • Utilization: Tops and tubers are sliced and fed to livestock.
  • Conservation: Bulbs or tubers are sliced and stored.

   Napier Grass

  • Altitude: 0 – 2000m above sea level.
  • Establishment: Stem cuttings or splits.
  • Spacing: 1 m x 50cm.

Management:

  • Apply phosphatic fertilizers during planting time.
  • Top-dress with nitrogenous fertilizers in split application.
  • Clean weeding when young.
  • Cut when 6-8 weeks or 1m-1.5m in height.

Utilization: Cut stem is fed to livestock.

Conservation: Ensiled when in plenty.

Types of Napier Grass:

  • Bana grass (broad-leaved with hairy leaves)
  • Clone (thin-stemmed and hairless)
  • French Cameroon (thin-stemmed and not hairy).
  • Pakistan hybrid (thin-leaved with hairy leaves).
  • Used for silage making.

Lucerne

  • Altitude: 1500 – 2500m above sea level.
  • Soil: Deep red soil are ideal.
  • Establishment: Inoculated seeds are planted 30-50cm apart in the rows.
  • Management: Weeding and fertilizer application.
  • Utilization: Cut wilted and fed to livestock before flowering stage.
  • Conservation: Hay, silage, dried materials such as cubes or pencils.

 Mangolds

  • Is a root crop.
  • Root is utilized as livestock feed.
  • Ripe ones are used.

 Kales

  • Leaves used as livestock feeds.

 Guatemala Grass

  • Leaves and stems used as livestock feed.

  Sorghum Grass

Two varieties:

  • Columbus grass
  • Sudan gras
  • Established from seeds which are drilled or broadcasted.
  • Columbus grass should be dried before feeding to animals to avoid hydrocyanic and prussic acid poisoning.

Desmodium (Desmodium spp)

Two varieties ;

  • Green leaf
  • Silver leaf.
  • Established from seeds on thoroughly prepared clean beds.
  • Can also be inter-planted with Napier grass.
  • Cut and wilted before feeding to livestock.

Agroforestry, trees used as fodder crops include:

  • Leucaenia
  • Calliandra
  • Atriplex
  • Sesba

Forage Conservation

Forage can be conserved as;

  • Hay,
  • Silage
  • Standing forage.

Importance of forage conservation:

  • To reserve excess forage for use during time of shortag
  • To avoid unnecessary wastage of f
  • Conserved forage can be sold.
  • To have sustained supply of feed for livestock throughout the year.

Methods

Hay Making

  • This is the dehydration of green pastures to a moisture content of 16-20 per cent:

Steps in hay making:

  • Cut the crop when the sun is shining.
  • Dry the materials for 1-2 days.
  • Windrow the dry material to allow for further drying.
  • Bale the dry materials for storage.
  • Store under shed or shelter.

Factors Determining Quality of Hay

  • Stage of growth at which forage is harvested.
  • Leaf content of the forage material.
  • Method of handling and curing the hay.
  • Form in which material is fed to livestock.
  • Species of forage used.
  • Amount of foreign materials in forage.

 Silage Making

  • This is a feed produced by conserving forage in succulent form through the process of fermentation by anaerobic bacteria.

Steps in silage making:

  • Cut the crop and transport it to the silo,
  • Material with a high moisture content is wilted in the sun for 4-48 hours before ensiling .
  • Material is chopped to reasonable size pieces before filling in the silo.
  • Spread the chopped material evenly.
  • Check temperature if below 31°C, needs further filling; if above 31 °C compaction is necessary.
  • Filling should be complete by the end of the third or fourth day.
  • The silo is covered with 15cm of straw, sawdust then 15cm of soil to make it air and water tight.
  • A trench is dug round the silo to keep off surface water.

Factors Affecting the Quality of Silage

  • Maturity stage of the crop when cut.
  • Type of crop.
  • Moisture content of the material
  • Additives such as molasses.
  • Degree of compaction.
  • Size of pieces ensiled.
  • Amount of foreign materials included in the silage.
  • Amount of leaf of the ensiled material.

Standing Forage

  • This is forage left in the field to be used during the dry season.
(Visited 155 times, 1 visits today)
Share this:

Written by