By Abachi Ungbo
Since its introduction to East Africa which has a comparatively developed diary industry, the grass has enjoyed a deluge of a rave review and wide acceptance with a study showing that it could boost milk production by 40% and generate millions of dollars in economic benefit for struggling East African dairy farmers.
It is not out of place to confess that I knew next to nothing on livestock production which apathy was the primary contributory factor. Thankfully, a chance encounter with someone I now regard as a mentor jolted me out of it. And, that became the starting point of a whirlwind of discovery and exposure culminating into more than a nodding acquaintance with different breeds, management, and dynamics of the business of ranching. Also, that marked the point of intersection between me and the magical Brachiaria grass. The piece is basically to highlight its salient features and capacity to curb global warming.
Brachiaria is indigenous to Africa where it grew in the wild but went through remarkable improvement in South America before the repatriation to the continent. It is nutritionally rich with 9% crude protein, highly digestible and the cows find it highly palatable. Excellent Forage or fodder grass is significant to animal nutrition and productivity which translates into huge economic benefits. It goes without saying, that the productivity of animals is a function of the quality of the forage or fodder. So, growing Brachiaria grass comes with positive effects on the dairy industry, the economy as well as profound benefits for the environment.
Hitherto, Brachiaria was literally in the realm of obscurity but amazing results and the tales of quality are now making it gain considerable currency in Nigeria. Since its introduction to East Africa which has a comparatively developed diary industry, the grass has enjoyed a deluge of a rave review and wide acceptance with a study showing that it could boost milk production by 40% and generate millions of dollars in economic benefit for struggling East African dairy farmers.
Intriguingly, Brachiaria has the capacity to curb the agricultural greenhouse gas emission footprint. It is well known that cows emit huge quantum of gases. And, studies has established that the difference 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 produce than in other parts of the world. Improved forage and feed quality can make digestion more efficient, boosting milk productivity and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
So, the widespread establishment and management of the grass will serve as a smart means of mitigating the contribution of agriculture to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions which myriad of studies including by the United Nations (UN) put at closer to 15 or 20 percent. The U.S Food and agricultural organization stated that the agricultural methane output could increase by 60% by 2030. Also, the grass possesses the ability to capture nitrogen and fix it into the soil. Up to 40 percent nitrogen fertilizers applied to crops are lost through conversion into a nitrous oxide which according to research has a more powerful warming effect than methane and carbon dioxide. In light of the foregoing and the necessity for a corresponding rise in livestock productivity in meeting nutritional requirements not least protein as our population continues an inexorable climb; Brachiaria remains a smart option towards the campaign in curbing the expected rise in global warming.
The Brachiaria grass is remarkably resilient, it quickly regenerates after grazing and acts as an erosion retardant due to the secretion of exudates by the roots that bind soil particles. Research has proven that it has the capacity to survive pest and disease attacks better than any other grass owing to the self-produced chemical that enables it survives pests attack. It is tolerant of the vagaries of the climate due to its developed root system which enables it to draw water and nutrients from the soil and hence adapting well to changes. The grass can endures many years after been established with good management practices.
The grass has become the most extensively used forage in the world as a result of its many benefits. The Brachiaria grass has a lucrative business angle that has seen the seed production commercialized with a demand-side growing exponentially. The investment in the establishment of grass comes with an almost non- existent risk. To the uninitiated, investment on the magical grass will continue to remain a serious conundrum.
Abachi Ungbo can be reached at Abachi007@yahoo.com