analysisBy Isa SA'idu
Zaria — Grass farming may be new to most Nigerian farmers, but findings by Daily Trust show that it has the potential of drastically changing the income of the farmers for the better, apart from reducing the recurrent problem of farmers-herdsmen conflict. Daily Trust reports that it is one of the most profitable ventures of the agricultural sector.
Grass farming has since turned out to be a reliable source of income for many farm owners, aside of its potentials of solving the problem of animal feed's scarcity.
Unlike other types of conventional crops, grass only needs to be planted once and thereafter the plant would continue to grow on its own immediately it rains. Many farmers in Zaria and the entire Kaduna State have different, positive stories to tell on grass farming, checks by Daily Trust show.
During a visit to one of the farms that has discovered the potentials of grass farming, our correspondent gathered that if Nigerian farmers realise the profitability of grass farming, it is most likely that most of them would abandon the farming of routine crops like maize, sorghum, millet, wheat, cassava; etcetera.
A director of Maidoki Interagric Farm Nigeria Ltd located in Dinki Village of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Suleiman Tafida, said his farm has been enjoying the benefits of grass farming, and because their farm is multidimensional; they don't face the problem of animal feed throughout the year.
"In our farm, we engage in farming different types of crops. You can find mango, guava, Indian lemon, orange, bitter lemon, cows, goats, bees, fish, chickens, quail birds, yam, grass and many other things.
"Grass farming has many benefits. If Fulani herdsmen would realise the benefit of grass farming; it would stop them from moving to places in search of animal feed. If they can settle in one place and cultivate grass, it would be enough for them for the whole year. This is because there is no difficulty in farming grass. Its cultivation requires little effort and above all it doesn't require much fertilizer," Tafida said.
Aside of being a source of food for animal, a farmer can as well generate income from grass seedling.
"If for example you buy one bag of the grass seedling, you would have at least 30 kilogrammes of seed in it. When we bought our own from Cameroun, we bought only one bag but we are selling each bag at the rate of N60,000. We also sell in kilos. For example, ABU-NAPRI sells their kilo at the rate of N3,500 but here in our farm we sell at the rate of N2,000 because we are just starting and we want people to appreciate the potentials of this grass.
"If a Fulani herdsman would plant six bags of this grass; it can feed about 100 animals for about six to seven months. And when the grass is combined with other feed, a herdsman doesn't need to go anywhere in search of animal feed because during the rainy season fresh grass is available and a farmer or herdsman can depend on his dried grass during the dry season," Tafida explained.
He said he came across the idea of grass farming at the National Animal Production Research Institute of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria during a visit.
Having appreciated the aptitudes of the grass, the Maidoki Farm boss travelled to Cameroun Republic to source for more seedlings.
"Honestly, I have never seen this grass anywhere before until the time we visited NAPRI. There was the time we went to Cameroun with NAPRI in purchasing the seedling. There are different categories of the grass seedlings. There is brachiry that is given to cows. There is also senticema, which is also given to cows. There is mobona, it looks like beans and it is given to different animals. In a nutshell, we have five different types of these grasses in this farm.
There is the one meant for cows. There is the one for goats or sheep, among other animals. For example, the brachiry grass is given to cows and we have about 15 hectares of it in this farm. The senticema, we have about five hectares. In a nutshell, we have about 40 hectares of grass in this farm, and it is all meant for animals," Tafida explained.
On the profitability of the grass, Tafida explains further; "when we first imported our grass from Cameroun, we planted two bags. At the end of the rainy season we got 12 bags. We re-imported additional two bags and planted 14 bags in 40 hectares. At the end of last farming season we harvested 125 bags of grass seedlings. You can see the profit margin. This was why I said that if our farmers realise the potentials of grass farming, most of them would pay less attention to crop farming, and the problem of animal feed would become history.
"If you plant one bag, which is sold at N60,000 in our farm, a farmer can realise up to about N1 million on seeds alone and when you harvest the grass; it is not the end of it because immediately it rains the grass would reinvigorate. Therefore, when you plant it, it would remain there for life," Tafida said.
One interesting thing about the grass, according to Tafida, is that animals like it. In addition, he said, no part of the grass is a waste. Animals eat all parts of the grass.
The grass is also less prone to diseases. According to Tafida, they have never experienced any form of disease relating to the grass.
Tafida also said that cows can feed on this grass throughout the year without the combination of any other form of feed.
"As at now that I talk to you, we feed our cows with the grass only and nothing has happened to them; their growth is also excellent.
"One important thing of this grass is that different animals can feed on it, including polo horses. In fact, every animal can feed on this type of grass, and it has the required protein content.
"Those farmers that rear cows for milk can depend on this grass and the result would be excellent. In fact, the result would be beyond expectation," Tafida said.
With the potentials of grass farming highlighted above, it is obvious that the sector is waiting for Nigerian farmers to roll in and begin to tap those benefits for their growth and that of the agricultural sector in general.