Pasture improvement program increases dairy farmers output

By Gloria Nakiyimba

Dairy farmers in the country say the support they received from the National Agriculture Advisory Services-NAADS has been crucial in the improvement of productivity of dairy enterprise through value addition.

NAADS has so far given out a total of 40 tractors to support 600 dairy farmers in selected districts for opening of the land for improved pastures.

Farmers use the tractors to dig the land and later grow pastures of good quality which they feed the animals leading to improved milk production.

Dr. Samuel Mugasi the executive director of the National Agricultural Advisory Services says the secretariat embarked on a program for improving the productivity of the dairy enterprise through a strategic intervention for pasture improvement.

For the last couple of years NAADS has been running a pasture improvement program in Western Uganda which is a milk shed for Uganda.

The pilot phase of the pasture improvement initiative was implemented in selected districts in the South Western region of Uganda including Kiruhura, Mbarara, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Sembabule, Lyantonde, Ibanda and Sheema.

“Under this pasture program we have been working with farmers by training them to grow improved pasture and we have been training them in dry season feeding for example by production of hay and silage. And we have taken this project a higher level by providing tractors to dairy cooperatives, we gave them initial seeds and farmers have been able to multiply these seeds among themselves to increase the availability of pasture seeds , because pasture seed is very rare on the market” said Dr, Mugasi

According to Dr. Mugasi you cannot have a productive dairy sector without proper animal feeding.

NAADS has also provided improved cross breeds of heifers to farmers across the country to increase milk production

“As a country we are producing over 2.5 billion litres of milk per year which is very good and statistics show Uganda could take over to be number one in milk production “ he said.

In Luuka district dairy farmers say the tractor that they received from NAADS has helped them increase milk production leading to improved household incomes.

“We thank NAADS because there is improvement in pasture production. We thank NAADS for bringing us a tractor and many farmers are using it. The only challenge is one we don’t have enough equipment, we have only one equipment. Secondly in our terrain we have a lot of trees which need a bulldozer. It’s not easy for us to remove all those tree stumps manually. So farmers are willing to use the tractor but those two challenges are hindering them to use it profitably” said a beneficiary.

The forty tractors were accessed through a cluster arrangement that targeted over 600 dairy farmers in the region.

The initiative was aimed at increasing milk production to meet the increasing demand of Milk and milk products locally and internationally. The target entailed raising farm productivity ten-fold from the current average of 1 litre of milk per acre per day to 10 litres per acre per day, and animal productivity from 5 litres per day to 20 litres per day, by revolutionizing cattle feeding through farm mechanization.

“To me I feel that dairy is a better project for the farmers in Uganda, what we need to do is to improve on the breed and add value to it , because one farmer can get from one cow about 500,000 a month from one local dairy cattle. So let us go back to dairy it is cheap to look after, when you want solar, they see a cow they can lend you money” said Patrick Wakabi one of the beneficiaries of the NAADS programs

As part of the pasture improvement initiative, MAIIF/NAADS availed 40 tractors and implements to support dairy farmers in the region for opening of the land for improved pastures.

NAADS procured and distributed an additional 208 tractors under the agricultural mechanization program in all districts across the country for mechanizing farm operations bringing the total number of tractors distributed to 320.

The secretariat did not stop at improving pasture for dairy farmers, but has gone ahead to donate computerised coolers to dairy farmers for better storage of their milk.

Dairy farmers in Kamuli say they are now able to earn more money from selling tested and quality milk thanks to NAADS that gave Buzaya dairy farmers a new cooler.

According to Edward Lwanga Kunina the program coordinator of Buzaya dairy farmers the cooler has the capacity to bulk more than 2000 litres of milk serving eight sub counties

“Because we are working in eight sub counties in Kamuli district, then it means that very many dairy farmers are benefiting out of this cooler. And in each sub county atheist we have around 50 farmers benefiting. We have milk collection centres in every sub county where our coordinators go and pick that milk and bring it to the cooler. We offer good competitive prices for the milk being brought to the cooler”said Kunina

Since FY 2012/13 to date, NAADS has distributed 121 milk cooling and handling equipment to dairy farmer cooperatives in various parts of the country in order to promote production and marketing of milk and milk products along the dairy value chain.

Milk coolers ensure bulking is done at all levels of production, easing transportation as milk tankers find reasonable volumes in one place and they also stimulate development in the area as different service providers will converge at the cooler.