The Sunday Mail
Word from the market with AMA
The livestock sector is a source of livelihood for more than 60 percent of the rural households in the country and makes a significant contribution in terms of foreign currency generation and food security to mention, but just a few.
The growth and development of the livestock sector hinge on the availability of good nutrition in the form of pastures, fodder, and feed among other important factors.
This article will focus on the production of fodder crops particularly the Lablab bean.
The Lablab purpureus is an important fast-growing fodder crop that is highly nutritious and can provide fodder within three months from planting. In the face of climate change, livestock farmers are confronted with major challenges in terms of clean water supply and feed availability for their livestock.
The scarcity of high-quality pastures well after harvesting time is a perennial problem that continues to negatively affect livestock production especially among smallholder farmers that need a permanent solution.
In the same vein, the livestock growth plan cited the availability of adequate nutrition in the form of pastures, feed, fodder, and water as one of the major challenges affecting the livestock sector.
Lablab is a leguminous fodder crop that can be grown in summer and has a high tolerance for dry conditions offering a unique solution to the fodder problems facing small-holder farmers during the dry season. The crop has been used as fodder for dairy cows in Kenya and yielded immense results.
In the previous article, farmers were encouraged to treat farming as a business and this means planning on time.
Farmers are encouraged to grow Lablab seed to supplement their livestock feed to improve the quality of their livestock even when nutritious pastures are scarce.
The Government of Zimbabwe has taken a proactive approach by distributing seed for fodder crops that include Lablab, sun hemp and velvet beans and doing farmer training under the Presidential Pasture Production Scheme to promote the production of fodder by over 500 000 rural households.
Awareness campaigns and investments by the private sector into the production of fodder crops can buttress these efforts by the Government and encourage many smallholder farmers to adopt Lablab production thereby improving livestock productivity.
The Lablab crop, depending on agro-ecological zones, can be grown once a year, and with irrigation, the farmers can continue harvesting for a prolonged time. It is a light feeder with nitrogen fixation properties and can be grown as an intercrop with crops such as maize and sorghum.
A seed rate of 25kg is generally recommended for a hectare and most farmers grow it without applying basal fertiliser.
Bollworms and aphids are chief among pests that affect Lablab. The yield potential of Lablab is an average of 2 tonnes grain, 4 tonnes stem and 2 tonnes leaf per hectare.
Other researchers found out that combining it with sorghum and maize produces hay that is rich in nutrients. Lablab can be fed to livestock as fresh forage, or it can be cured before being used to make hay.
Mr Tafirei of Leguminosea, a major fodder crops contracting company, said farmers were recommended to harvest Lablab before flowering for fresh forage and for drying before making hay for maximum forage quality.
In terms of nutrition, the crude protein levels for Lablab range from 8-20 percent in the stem, 21-38 percent in the leaf, and 20-28 percent in the grain.