Pulverizer machines can help small-scale farmers in East Africa transport, store and stall-feed their ruminant animals with the bulky dry forages they may have at hand, such as grass and legume hays, fibrous crop residues such as cereal stovers of maize, sorghum, millet, cereal straws of rice, teff, wheat, barley, oats, and haulms of beans. Pulverizers shred this forage into lengths of a few millimeters.
Although pulverizers have been around for a long time, they have been little used on small-scale farms. But now this technology is being promoted by EADD to improve the use of the crop residues and roughages available to smallholder farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. This promotion involves helping service providers to purchase pulverizers through loan schemes, setting up business development services as part of local dairy ‘hubs’, and providing technical back up support. A rapidly increasing number of providers of this technology is generating competition and sparking innovations, such as the introduction of mobile service providers.
How exactly does this work?
Physically treating roughages is a main way to enhance the availability of their nutrients for cows and other ruminants. Pulverizing roughages on farms reduces their wastage by 30–60% while easing the fodder packaging, storing, transporting and feeding by farmers and enhancing the feed intake of farm animals by 30–60%.
When did these services start?
Pulveriser services started in 2009 with about 20 operators in Kabiyet and Kipkaren districts in Kenya’s North Rift Valley; these have mushroomed in the last year to more than 200 operators in Siongiroi and Kipkelion in South Rift Valley as well Kieni and Ol-Kalou districts. The technology has also been replicated through dairy farmers business associations in Kiboga and Masaka districts of Uganda and Rwamagana, Gatsibo and Nyagatare districts of Rwanda. Local producers have now ventured into fabricating the machines making it easily and cheaply available to the farmers.
Use of the pulverizer technology can increase profitable beef and milk production through more efficient use of forages, a benefit particularly valued by farmers during dry seasons, when forages are scarce. Among the most common users of the technology are service providers that transport and trade dry forages and those that pulverize forages on farms.
What we have learned
EADD hubs are enhancing development of markets for livestock foods and farmer access to credit (the credit is provided against their milk sales), which they often invest in improved feed production.
The clustering of dairy input services through local dairy hubs is enhancing community access to feed information, business skills and other resources useful to agribusiness entrepreneurs.
Smallholders are very interested in making better use of their crop residues for dry-season stall feeding.
To increase adoption of pulverizers, service providers should demonstrate how the technology could directly benefit farmers before going into technicalities.
It is important to build mechanisms, such as through dairy farmer business associations, by which farmers and farmer groups become the vehicles scaling up the technology.
Ben Lukuyu made inputs to this article.