Researchers have developed new varieties of high-quality and drought-resistant brachiaria grasses that can boost milk production by 40 per cent following a comprehensive study.
The experts at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) noted that brachiaria grasses are not only hardy, nutritious and easy to digest but also produce far less greenhouse gas (methane) per litre of milk produced when consumed by cows.
The new variety of grasses were developed by CIAT plant breeders.
Dr Steven Prager, a senior scientist at CIAT, said that their research showed brachiaria grasses could be the cornerstone of productive and resilient livestock systems in the region.
The CIAT research focused on the additional milk and money the grasses could deliver to an estimated two million small-scale dairy farmers across Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. They found that investing in quality forage generates considerable benefits.
BOOST LIVESTOCK'S PRODUCTION
“The beauty of these new brachiaria grasses is that they allow farmers to boost meat and milk production while actually reducing methane emissions that contribute to global warming,” said Dr Solomon Mwendia, CIAT’s forage expert in Nairobi and a co-author of the study.
Differences in forage and feed quality are a key reason cattle in parts of sub-Saharan Africa contribute relatively more methane per kilo of meat or milk produced.
“Better pasture grass can take our dairy producers from a ‘lose-lose’ to a ‘win-win’ situation; from poor production and high emissions to strong production and lower emissions,” said Mwendia.
The centre is now working with public and private sector partners to increase the commercial availability of improved brachiaria seeds in Africa.