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Monday, December 9, 2019
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How to beat the high cost of dairy feeds

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Unless ingenious and urgent measures are employed to address the myriad challenges facing the livestock sector, in particularly high cost of feeds, farmers will continue to get low returns.

Fortunately, a few entrepreneurs have noticed the gap in fodder production and have ventured into commercial hay farming.

Before commenting on how to establish commercial hay farming as a revenue earner and rescuer of a direly threatened dairy sector, it is important to come to terms with the changes that have affected this sector in recent years.

To begin with, diminishing pastureland and, therefore, forage for livestock is a direct result of the dwindling space available for animal feeds in many parts of the country.

Shortage of land mass to support livestock and dairy farming, in particular, portends a real and worrying crisis for a population whose demand for dairy products and meat is growing geometrically.

Another reason why fodder is scarce is due to climate change. Poor management of the environment leading to unpredictable rain patterns and loss of green cover, use of natural resources with careless abandon and indiscriminate dumping of non-biodegradable waste have, among other factors, led to a catastrophe whose proportions we are yet to fully appreciate.

It seems the only time we extend empathy to such unfortunate misadventures is when communities disagree or even fight and kill each other over grazing or farming rights, a situation that was hitherto unknown in some parts of the country.

COMMON SENSE

Time has come for the government to encourage willing entrepreneurs to invest in the commercial hay sector.

You can imagine how many farmers in densely populated areas such as Kisii, Vihiga and Kiambu, with tiny pieces of land, would take up livestock farming if availability of silage was guaranteed.

But on a realistic note, no farmer in his senses would forego land that supplies subsistence for cows whose food cannot be guaranteed.

Organised commercial hay farming is as sensible in our immediate realities as it is the common sense way to a revamped dairy sector and by extension a vibrant economic venture for thousands of willing dairy farmers.

It is the duty of the Ministry of Agriculture, through its Livestock Department, to ensure that a conducive environment for hay and dairy farming is enabled through providing the right support and incentives.

More importantly, the ministry should move quickly and protect investors in hay farming from vicious encroachment by the breed of the-devil-take-it herders who seem to be the main threat to this otherwise promisingly lucrative engagement.

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