Notes to broadcasters
The woman in the following story participates in a project operated by Heifer Project International (HPI). HPI works with families who want to raise livestock and gain skills in agriculture and community development. Their country offices are listed on an insert included with this package. Please announce the contact person and address of the office nearest you for the benefit of your audience.
Which is better? One healthy cow or five skinny, sick cows?
Many farmers think that it is better to put more work into keeping one animal well-fed and healthy than to keep a number of animals that fend for themselves. They are learning that allowing animals to graze together in a common area does not always produce healthy animals.
Lonna Kegere, a farmer in Bugusege, Uganda, is one of these farmers.
She does not allow her cow to graze freely. Instead she cuts grass from a nearby field and carries it to the cow every day. This practice is called zero grazing. Lonna has learned that by keeping her cow confined in a pen, the cow is healthier and there are more benefits for her family and her community.
Lonna keeps her cow in a small outdoor pen which she built using tree poles and banana fibres.
The pen has water and feed troughs, a sheltered resting area, and an area for milking. The floor of the pen is on a slant. Manure and urine drain into a covered collection pit outside the pen. The pit is covered so children and animals won’t fall into it.
Every morning when she wakes up, Lonna feeds and milks the cow. After breakfast she cleans the shed, and gives the cow water and more feed.
The cow is healthy because it is separated from other animals. For example, Lonna’s cow has fewer ticks than most cows. Ticks are a common problem in dairy cows because they carry disease. But Lonna’s cow is not in contact with other cows and she treats it regularly to kill ticks that might be hiding in the cow’s hair.
Every three to four days Lonna collects the manure and urine from the ditch beside the cow pen to add to her compost pile. When the compost is ready, she carries it to the fields to fertilize the crops she uses to feed her cow.
Lonna grows a mixture of grasses and legumes for cow feed. She grows napier grass, Guatemala grass and Guinea grass, sesbania and silverleaf and butterfly pea. She has even planted a multi-purpose tree called leucaena along the border of the forage area. Mixing her feed crops, which is called intercropping, helps Lonna keep the soil fertile.
Lonna and her family now have a regular supply of healthy food. After it gives birth to a calf the cow produces about 18 litres of milk a day. Her children can drink milk every day. And she sells the surplus milk for extra income.
Because the cow is healthy it produces a lot of milk and has calves more often. Lonna’s cow has had two calves: she kept one and passed one on to a needy neighbour when it was one year old.
Based on a interview with Rose Mugamba, Heifer Project International, Uganda. Originally published August 1992.
The scientific names for the grasses and legumes that Lonna grows are as follows:
Napier grass – Pennisetum purpureum
Guatemala grass – Tripsacum fasciculatum
Guinea grass – Panicum maximum
Sesbania – Sesbania sesban
Butterfly pea – Centrosema pubescens
Silverleaf – Desmodium uncinatum
Leucaena – Leucaena leucocephela