For the dairy and beef sector to grow as part of the Kenya’s Big Four Agenda, the problems in fodder production need to be urgently addressed. Kenya needs year round supply of quality fodder at prices that are profitable to both livestock farmers and fodder producers.
It is therefore exciting to see a new crop (pun intended) of upcoming farmers who want to get into the fodder business, particularly Rhodes Grass farming for hay production.
Upcoming farmers, as well as the old hands – shouting for myself, need support from the national and county governments, because if fodder production is not profitable, they will easily transfer their capital to other business ventures.
That said, upcoming Rhodes Grass growers need to be aware that quality hay production is expensive, and a level of skepticism is needed when analyzing the wonderful business plans that grossly underestimate the challenges in production and specifically hay marketing.
- Quality Rhodes Grass seeds should be certified as of a known genetics, have high purity (not mixed with other seeds) and should be viable with a high germination rate
If one wants hay that will command a premium price even at times of market glut, the hay should be of good quality which is achieved by treating Rhodes Grass as a “crop” and shedding the si nyasi tu!( its only grass) tag.
All good crops, be they onions or maize start from a foundation of purposefully sourced quality seeds. In my opinion, which is informed by interactions with upcoming farmers, there is a tendency to oversimplify the sourcing of Rhodes Grass seeds to a point that it has become a quick firing phone call of: “Do you have seeds? Price?”
- How can you minimize the risks when sourcing farmer-to- farmer Rhodes Grass seeds?
Fine there is airtime to save, but even in the age of True Caller, I am often left trying to figure out the kind of a farmer-to-be, who approaches the purchase of seeds with this level of casualness.
Bear with me, but the farmers who do well in agriculture, treat seeds as the lifeline in their farms.
They put effort and resources to procure quality seeds, which all things being constant, give them the highest return on their fixed costs such as – purchase or lease of land, land preparation, fixed infrastructure and permanent labor.
- I recommend that a farmer wishing to buy farmer–to-farmer Rhodes Grass seeds, removes the his grass hat and puts on a livestock breeder’s hat on a mission to buy a prized heifer
Quality seeds are also the best way for tapping into natural resources such as rain, the sun and the natural fertility or condition of the soils.
Similarly, the returns on variable inputs such as fertilizers / manures and casual labor are best realized if quality seeds are used.
The closing pitch for using quality seeds is reserved for the telephone farmer – the returns on your airtime and the occasional grass inspection trip to the farm are more likely to be covered if you start off with quality seeds.
Quality Rhodes Grass seeds should be certified as of a known genetics, have high purity (not mixed with other seeds) and should be viable with a high germination rate.
In Kenya, the overall responsibility of seed certification is by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). This is a Kenyan parastatal whose core function is to independently test the quality of agriculture inputs and produce.
- Once the …to-to-to …chain gets longer, the traceability of the seeds producing farmer is lost and the potential risks of the seeds being of unknown genetics, contaminated or being non viable are increased
However, there is a window for farmer–to- farmer seeds that are not certified by Kephis. But farmers using these types of seeds, need to be aware that it is upon them to do due diligence so as to minimize the risks associated with uncertified seeds.
How can you minimize the risks when sourcing farmer-to- farmer Rhodes Grass seeds?
If you take the phrase farmer-to-farmer on its face value, meaning seeds from one farmer to another, you will most likely be entering the seed quality safety zone.
Once the …to-to-to …chain gets longer, the traceability of the seeds producing farmer is lost and the potential risks of the seeds being of unknown genetics, contaminated or being non viable are increased.
I recommend that a farmer wishing to buy farmer–to-farmer Rhodes Grass seeds, removes the his grass hat and puts on a livestock breeder’s hat on a mission to buy a prized heifer.
Do for the grass what you’d do for the heifer, starting with visiting the seed producing farmer when his grass crop is standing in the farm.
Call me old school but a picture, regardless of the pixels and the phone specs, can’t substitute a physical farm visit in which you get to see the crop and also the farmer – seeds buying is personal. Things to look out for in the grass farm:
1) Does the grass look healthy with a deep green colour and is it dense? If yes, then there are high chances that the seeds are going to have similar characteristics. After all the plant is the mother of the seed, so what you see of the plant is what you will likely get from the seeds.
2) Is the crop pure? Presence of mixed grasses and of weeds in the farm mean that the seeds harvested from this field will inevitably be of mixed grasses and as well as weeds.
However the farm visit, which at most is a one day affair, only helps to tick a few boxes on the long list of what makes quality seeds.
Other factors from this point onwards will depend on the integrity of the seed farmer. If you are still wearing your heifer buying cap, you know that being in the same WhatsApp group or friends on Facebook may not confer the integrity needed to make a crucial decision like seed buying.
While on integrity issues, avoid delegating your seed buying decisions to your twice removed cousin of your auntie’s in-laws. Because should things go wrong on the quality of seeds and the amount of money paid, you will only have managed to sow family discord.
Factors that are based on the seed farmer’s integrity are:
1) Maturity of seeds: Assuming the grass crop was healthy, but the seeds are harvested when they are immature – their germination ability and rate will be severely compromised.
2) Curing of seeds: Here we are moving from a healthy crop from which mature seeds were harvested but if they are not dried well, all potential germination benefits can be lost.
3) Post harvest damage: Rhodes Grass seeds that have met the threshold of good maturity and were well cured can still lose their quality due to contamination from moisture, dust, excessive heat, chemicals and physical damage from implements and rodents.
4) Post harvest adulteration: This is whereby superior seeds are deliberately mixed or bulked up with inferior seeds, unwanted grass seeds, weeds seeds and inert materials.
To recap, if you are not buying Kephis certified Rhodes Grass seeds, keep the phone down and do the foot work needed for genuine farmer-to-farmer seeds just as you would if you were buying a heifer.
Good luck and join in making Kenya fodder secure.
For comments and opinions on this post, contact the blog writer:
Anne, Tel: 0725-520627