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Letters to the editor: Donkey manure is good for crops; avoid dog and cat waste

Monday June 13 2016

Donkey manure is safe for use as manure for crops.

Donkey manure is safe for use as manure for crops, so long as it has been allowed to compost adequately. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Some people say donkey waste cannot be used as manure. Has this been proven? What if I feed worms with the waste?

Donkey waste, like all waste from livestock, is safe for use as manure for crops, including vegetables so long as it has been allowed to compost adequately.

The manure should be allowed to age and cure for several weeks before it is used to avoid the risk of burning the crops, especially vegetables.

The chemical composition, nutrients and texture of donkey manure is very similar to that of horses, and because they feed on plants, their manure is also free from strong unpleasant odours.

Animal manure offers short and long-term benefits when used and applied correctly. It provides essential nutrients required to grow healthy plants and adds organic matter to the soil, improving microbial activity, water drainage and overall soil structure.

It should be noted, however, that the nutrient content in the manure is not the same for all livestock and farm animals.


For example, chicken manure has high nitrogen content, whereas dairy cow and horse manures provide a more balanced boost of soil nutrients.

Manure from sheep and goats provide needed nitrogen to soil and also add more potassium than dairy or horse manure. However, cat, dog and pig waste should not be used as manure.

This is because they carry parasites like roundworms that survive the decomposing process to be passed on to human through soil contamination or even the vegetables grown.

Dr Jane N. Maina,

Veterinarian, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, Egerton University.



A pig farmer tends to her pigs in her farm in
A pig farmer tends to her pigs in her farm in Juja. PHOTO | KINGWA KAMENCU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

I am about to start rearing pigs and I would like to get some details about feeding. I would prefer the information in the following order.

• How much creep feed should I give to each piglet, the age of starting the feeding and age to start them on sow and weaner meal?

• How much sow and weaner meal should I give to each weaner and up to what age?

• How much pig finisher do I give up to slaughter weight of 60-70kg?

• How much sow and weaner meal do I give to the sow?

Kariuki DG

Piglets should be offered creep feed from seven days to weaning time at 21 days by providing 0.2–0.5kg/piglet/day of the meal.

Upon weaning at 3-5 weeks, weaners weighing 11-13kg should be continued on the starter diet until they reach 18kg. Thereafter, introduce sow and weaner meal from eight weeks at the rate of 0.6kg/piglet/day gradually increasing the feed to 2kg by the time they attain 16 weeks with an average weight of 30-40kg.

From this point, introduce the finisher at the rate of 2.5kg gradually increasing the feed level so that they are consuming 3kg by the time they are 24 weeks old with slaughter weight of 60–70kg. Dry sows and gilts require 2.5kg a day of sow and weaner meal.

Give an extra 1kg/day one week before serving gilts and sows and one week after service. Give lactating sows 2.5kg a day of sow and weaner meal for maintenance and 0.25kg a day extra for each piglet being suckled.
Sophie Miyumo,

Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.



Passion fruit farmers attend to their passion
Passion fruit farmers attend to their passion fruit crop. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Please let me know when and how to prune my passion fruit vines.

Graham, Webuye

Although the crop does not require special pruning techniques to produce fruit, they are pruned to develop fruiting surface, control their size and spread, change cycle (rejuvenate) and to allow sunlight to filter through the vines to help ripen the fruit.

Pruned vines also produce strong new growth that in turn produces fruit. The pruning process also makes harvesting easier, promotes growth and keeps vines growing in designated spaces.

In what is called formative pruning, encourage only two vines to reach the trellis wire; the extra vines and early flowers that appear before the two selected vines reach the trellis wire should be pruned off.

Also carry out maintenance pruning by removing dead vines, old/unproductive shoots close to the main vine to encourage new vines that are productive and more vigorous.

Tendrils, which entangle the laterals, should also be regularly pruned to allow more light and reduce pest infestation. Laterals touching the ground should be pruned 5-15 cm above the ground so that they hang like curtains.

After three years of cropping, vines are cut down (change of cycle) to level of the trellis wire (where the two main vines first touch the trellis wire) to renew (rejuvenate) growth for a further two years.

Some authorities do not recommend the extra two years of cropping. It is argued that fruit yields from the ratoon crop are not economical.

Prof Joe Wolukau,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.


What could be the cause of death for chicks in the brooder which are in their second week after hatching? Mine become weak and throughout that week, they die about 10 of them per day.

Then they stabilise after the second week. I have observed this pattern for the third time now and it is worrying me.

Johnson, Athi River

Mortality during the first two week of chicks’ life is often related to the quality of hatched birds. Chicks must be active, clean and dry with open, bright and alert eyes.

Check for navel infection which comes due to unabsorbed yolk. Environmental conditions are likely to pre-dispose the chicks to high stress levels making them dull and inactive.

To minimise losses, ensure the brooder is pre-heated prior to chick transfer into the facility to avoid cold from stress, provide warm water mixed with glucose and chick formula (contains vitamins and antibiotics) to provide energy and boost appetite and immunity.

Sophie Miyumo,
Department of Animal Science, Egerton University


Kindly advice on the best variety of njahi to plant in Mbeere (lower parts of Embu). Let me also have information on the soil types, plant spacing, fertiliser or manure, pests and pesticides, expected yield, and any other relevant details.

I am currently growing bananas, onions, garlic, hoho and watermelons. I have water for irrigation.
Nick Nyaga

Ecology for best yields

Dolichos Lablab (Lablab purpureus (L.) commonly known as lablab bean or turtle beans, (locally referred to as njahi) is a legume small species native to Asia.

It is a bushy, semi-erect, perennial herb, a multipurpose crop grown for pulse, vegetable and forage.

Njahi is a versatile crop that grows in altitudes from 500-1,800m above sea level, tolerates droughts, heat as high as 28-350C, and wide range of soils, including acidic and black cotton.

You can grow it in Central, Eastern, Coast and Rift Valley. Soils should be free draining, sandy-loam of pH 5-7. For best yields, apply a tonne of manure per acre and 30-50kg of DAP at planting.

The crop can grow in areas with rainfall as low as 400mm with dry spell incidence and where deep soils are available, but best in excess of 750mm but not above 2,500mm.

The crop is extremely tolerant to soil texture, growing in deep sands to heavy clays, provided drainage is good. Salinity reduces the plant population and produces chlorotic leaves.

Lablab does not easily nodulate with native strains of rhizobia, and although it is often not inoculated, it is preferable to treat the seed with the cowpea strain CB756 found in Mea Ltd.

Check colour of nodules on lablab to be dark pink at six weeks, and black at 12 weeks as indication of nitrogen fixation, as diagnostic check on successful strain inoculation.

The most common varieties are KAT/DL-1, KAT/DL-2 and KAT/DL-3 sold by Kenya Seed Company, Dryland Seeds and Kalro Seed Unit and they yield between 2.5-4 tonnes/acre.

The fodder dolichos bushy-legume types can be conserved into hay or silage or fed green to dairy cattle or as a legume supplement and varieties for fodder purposes include DL1002, DL1009 and Rongai.

It can produce up to 5-10 tonnes/ha of green matter, which can be used as fodder or green manure. To increase N-fixation, inoculate with Biofix inoculants.

Agronomy and yield
Seedbed for planting of dolichos should be well-prepared, by 1 plough and 1-2 harrows. Seed rate is 25kg per acre, space at 45cm between rows and 30cm from plant to plant (placing two seeds per hole), or 40x10-15cm and one seed per hole in pure stand.

It has excellent ability to compete with weeds when once established, but its early growth is slow and so it should not be subject to weed competition at this stage.

Weeding should be done two to three weeks after germination and should be weed-free until harvest. Dolichos is a hardy legume, has no enemies (pests and diseases) of economic importance.

It is commonly attacked by stem rot caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum under wet conditions. Insects attack roots mainly the nematodes like Helicotylenchus dihystera, Meloidogyne hapla and M. incognita and also attacked by leaf-eating insects.

Spray with any contact or systemic insecticides like Dududrin to control insects. Of all the bean varieties in the market for sale, Dolichos fetches the highest price ranking from Sh5,000-Sh7,000 for a 90kg bag.

The pods of Dolichos are cooked and eaten like green beans. Young leaves are eaten raw in salads while older leaves are cooked like spinach.

Dry beans make stew and are mostly served with chapati or rice in restaurants.

Prof Paul Kimurto,

Crop Science Department, Egerton University.