With efforts to produce highly nutritious green fodder for livestock and poultry, farmers and those wishing to venture into fodder production have been challenged to maximize the technique of hydroponic farming.
Speaking to KNA, Mary Wanja, a hydroponics administrator and trainer with Hydroponics Africa in the Zambezi region of Muguga district, said that using this modern method to grow green fodder for animals is more beneficial for the farmer and the livestock that consume it because of the nutritional value.
“When using the hydroponic method, there is no use of soil and chemicals but rather enriched forage seeds, water and absorbable nutrients which reduce the preparation period by 12 weeks. in case of conventional cultivation at a maximum of 4 to 7 days depending on the animal the fodder must be fed”, explained Wanja.
“Forage preparation times vary. If grown for poultry feed, the maturity time is 4 days, for sheep, goats and pigs, it takes 6 days while for cattle and camel feed, it takes 7 days before to be cut into pieces that are easily fed to the respective animal,” she added.
Green fodder, adds Wanja, has a high level of carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins which are easily broken down in the digestive system of the respective herbivorous animals with ease, which is due to the sprouting process where all the designed nutrients are put into water are all absorbed.
She added that producing fodder hydroponically saves on costs, including water, because the system has drainage where all the excess water is collected and reused, while little is left behind. Space is needed to set up the structure and reduce labor as there are no weeds, pests and diseases.
“In the smallest space, an individual has for example 1 meter (width) by 2 meters (length) by 3 meters (height), the hydroponic fodder system can hold up to 21 trays which can feed 3 cows in one day as a single cow requires at least 7 trays to be considered well fed,” Wanja explained.
As Wanja explained to KNA, the structure does not use electricity while on the other hand no waste of produce is suffered by a farmer as the animal consumes everything including roots and leaves. green fodder.
Scaling up to equip farmers and those who want to learn about fodder production using hydroponics, founder Dr Peter Chege said setting up workshops and trainings has been central to their efforts to reduce the information gap in animal feed farming since their inception. in 2013.
According to the Hydroponics Performance Evaluation Report (2019), this farming technique reduces the environmental problems caused by the conventional farming method while being attractive to young people. Therefore, Dr. Chege urged the youngsters to be aggressive in understanding technique and execution. for commercial purposes to other farmers.
“Going the hydroponic route is the easiest way to produce healthy pet food as there are no fungi or pathogens due to chemically treated trays with temperature and humidity controlled systems, making it easier to produce fodder all year round with neither sun nor rain being a factor,” said Dr Chege.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), green fodder is highly digestible and nutritious when fed to dairy cows, as it greatly stimulates milk production with minimal impact on milk production. environment, although it does require proper maintenance for durability.