Climate change has seriously affected our climate, seasons and thereafter agricultural sector as whole. For the last two years Kenya has being hit by the recurring droughts that has led to total loss in the livestock sector. Interventions have been put in place like rain water harvesting, pasture and fodder preservation techniques and many others which have benefited many farmers but there is still a gap that is not yet filled.
Today as we talk, many farmers are not aware of the recent technology entitled ‘hydroponics fodder production’. I remember a certain day I posted on Facebook concerning hydroponics and most people never understood this jargon but I feel it’s the high time we move an extra notch higher to ensure that these technologies are available to farmers, our mind set to achieve co-goal: “food security”
Hydroponics have many advantages, one is that its water saving. The system requires 2L of water to produce 1kg of fodder as compared to 80-90L of water to produce 1kg of green pasture. This tells me that water harvesting alongside hydroponic fodder production will actually solve the “cattle hunger”
Another advantage is that the production is high compared to field fodder production and the cycle is very short, it ranges between 6-10 days producing 50kgs of fodder on 20 by 10 feet. Barley is mostly preferred due to its superior performance; the grains germinate to develop roots and green shoots which assume a dense mat.
Finally, the technology saves expensive fodder storage facilities as it guarantees farmers a constant supply of high quality fodder, no need to buy silage bags, constructing underground silage silos and no much labor in ensiling and bailing hay as the fodder is harvested and presented to the animals directly.
How to get started
- Construct tray shelves in a zigzag manner-this allows easy flow of nutrient solution from the top trays to the bottom ones through gravity thus minimizing labor on watering all the trays. The structure should have polythene sheet on top, at least 3m high and the sides covered with a black shade net, this allows free flow of air in the structure minimizing disease prevalence such as powdery mildew.
- Buy aluminum a tray, aluminum material does not rust and its recommended for it will not react with water and mineral nutrients.
- Purchase barley seeds
How to seed on Trays
- Soak the seeds for 4 hours in plain water, use a bucket
- Drain and incubate the seeds, remove all the water and cover the bucket using perforated lid to allow air for the sprouting seeds. The incubation period last in 48hrs, check the seeds daily for moisture. If dry sprinkle some water
- Transfer the seeds into aluminum or plastic trays, 2kgs per tray and spread inform of a mat
- Watering should be done three times a day, the drain out should be recycled. In watering make sure plain water is used.
For poultry harvest the fodder 4 days after seeding
For pigs the harvesting should be after 6 days
For ruminant animals e.g goats, sheep and cows harvesting should be after 8 days
NB: Hydroponics production require basic training as it is a sensitive system in which if a single mistake is made it can translate to a total loss in one’s investment due to fungal attacks, one need to invest in good hygiene.