Persistent shortage of livestock feeding materials and changing weather patterns have pushed farmers in Nakuru to abandon the traditional maize and wheat farming to hay farming.
Sochon farm director Noah Chemirmir said the lethal necrosis disease that affected thousands of hectares under maize in the past two seasons has forced farmers to abandon the crop.
Speaking in Rongai, Chemirmir admitted that with the usual green fodder unavailable during dry spells, farmers are forced to spend a lot of money and travel long distances in search of feed.
Chemirmir, who is also the chair of Rift Valley Hay Farmers Association, said lack of adequate and good quality feed is a problem experienced in many parts of the country and is one of the reasons that annual milk shortages persist.
“The dry season opens a sound opportunity for making money selling Boma Rhodes grass hay at the expense of maize and wheat farming whose production is determined by weather patterns,” he said.
Chemirmir noted that the high productivity and quality per unit area of Boma Rhodes makes it the grass of choice for both large and small-scale farmers.
“From an initial capital of Sh800,000, my farm is currently worth about Sh25 million with several farm machinery like harvesters, balers and tractors,” he said.
He is currently contracted by Kenya Seed Company to grow Boma Rhodes seeds.
“An acre produces an average of 200 bales of hay unlike maize and beans, the common crops grown in the area. Boma Rhodes do not need a lot of attention,” said Chemirmir.
Machira Gichohi, Agricom Resource Centre director, said the demand for milk has gone up drastically in the past year.
“Commercial hay farming is a viable and lucrative venture for Kenyan farmers whose potential has not been fully exploited,” he said.
Gichohi disclosed that the dairy sector contributes four per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product per annum and called on counties to support commercial hay farming.
Mary Geta, a hay farmer for the last 19 years, abandoned maize growing in 1996.
Geta said the affordability of the hay, coupled with its guaranteed quality, has made it very popular among farmers in Nakuru over the last five years.
“Not only is hay cheaper but it is also reducing dependency on green fodder and is a commercially viable venture with a readily available market,” she said.