Some livestock farmers in Rwanda have witnessed a remarkable increase in milk production by adopting innovative farming practices, primarily centered around grass cultivation.
Livingstone Abiyingoma and Thomas Rukera, both local livestock farmers in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province, shared their practices with Xinhua recently on how the cultivation of various cow fodder species has transformed their dairy operations, allowing them to provide for their families and support their children’s education.
Abiyingoma initially faced challenges with low milk production during the dry season. He, however, has witnessed a significant boost in milk yields with support from the Rwanda Dairy Development Project of the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board to cultivate cow fodder.
“Before cultivating the cow fodder, I had a cow that produced four liters in the morning and two liters in the evening, totaling six liters a day,” Abiyingoma said. “After growing fodder, I am able to feed the cows during the dry season in one place and also provide water on the same spot, allowing them to rest adequately.”
“Now, I have a cow that yields 15 liters of milk in the morning and eight liters in the evening, thanks to the fodder I cultivate and the consistent watering, eliminating the need for the cows to wander from place to place where they could be exposed to diseases. As a result, milk production has significantly increased,” he explained.
In addition to increased milk production, Abiyingoma generates income by selling both cow fodder and seeds. This diversification of income sources has significantly improved his financial stability, allowing him to support his children’s education, with three attending university and three in secondary school.
Abiyingoma’s success story serves as an inspiration to fellow farmers in the region. Rukera echoed Abiyingoma’s success story by emphasizing the importance of planting fodder and providing cows with consistent and well-mixed grass feed during the dry season.
“In the past, as the sun blazed, our milk production would completely dwindle. But now, we continue to supply milk to the dairy during the dry season, although it’s not as abundant as during the rainy season,” he said. “If we hadn’t planted fodder, we would likely have had to stop milk production because the unfed cows would have run out of milk.”
Rukera also highlighted the importance of constructing dam sheets to ensure cows have access to water and building hay hangars to stockpile feed for the dry season. His message to fellow farmers is to prioritize grass cultivation and proactive planning to ensure the well-being and productivity of their livestock.
Both farmers encouraged their fellow livestock keepers in Nyagatare District and beyond to consider cow fodder cultivation as a key strategy to ensure adequate feed for their cows during the dry season. They stressed that readily available fodder seeds and proper farming practices could make a significant difference in improving the livelihoods of farmers and sustaining dairy operations year-round.
The Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources recently ordered 70 percent of pastureland in the districts of Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kayonza, and Kirehe in Eastern Province to be put under the cultivation of crops that provide cow fodder while 30 percent is set aside for cow sheds in a bid to enforce the zero-grazing system and increase milk production. Farmers are obliged to have fodder storage facilities to help feed cows in case of dry spells.