Notes to broadcasters
Content: Lonna Kegere, a farmer in Bugusege, Uganda, finds that if her cow is kept in a pen, her cow is healthier and there are more benefits for her family and her community. She cuts fodder from a nearby field and carries it to the cow every day. This practice is called zero grazing.
Which is better? One healthy cow or five skinny, sick cows? Which will make more money for the owner? One healthy cow or five scrawny, sick cows?
Many small-scale 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 finding that the practice of communal grazing does not always produce the healthiest 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 fodder from a nearby field and carries it to the cow every day. This practice is called zero grazing. Lonna finds that by keeping her cow confined, 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 local materials such as 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, and there is a ditch where manure and urine collect.
Every morning when she wakes up, Lonna feeds and milks the cow. After breakfast she cleans the shed, and gives the cow waterand more feed. Lonna’s cow has a calf, and this is when she gives the calf milk.
Every three to four days Lonna collects the manure and urine from the ditch beside the zero grazing unit and adds them 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 feed. She grows about one hectare of elephant, or napier, grass (Pennisetum purpureum). She also grows Guatemala grass (Tripsacum fasciculatum), and Guinea grass (Panicum maximum). The legumes she grows are sesbania (Sesbania sesban),butterfly pea (Centrosema pubescens), and silverleaf (Desmodium uncinatum). She has even planted leucaena (Leucaena leucocephela), a multi-purpose leguminous tree along the border of the forage area. Mixing her feed crops, which is called intercropping, helps Lonna keep the soil fertile. The legumes add nitrogen to the soil which helps the grasses to grow. Intercropping also keeps weeds and insect pests to a minimum.
Lonna and other women farmers have found that zero grazing has many advantages and is worth the hard work. Lonna received her cow from Heifer Project International, which provided the cows through a women farmers group in the community and encouraged the women to use this zero grazing method.
The major benefit of zero grazing for Lonna and her family is that they have a regular source of healthy food. The cow produces an average of 18 litres of milk a day. Her children now drink milk every day. And she sells the surplus milk for extra income. Lonna now has more than enough money to raise the feed crops and buy supplements that the cow needs. She can also pay for medical expenses, books for her children, and home improvements.
The cow is healthier because it is separated from other animals and does not pick up diseases. It is also healthier because it has good food to eat every day, which it might not have if it were grazing.
Because the cow is healthier it produces more milk and has more calves more frequently. Lonna’s cow has had two calves: she kept one and passed one on to a needy neighbour when it was a year old.And Lonna’s farm is doing better because she improves the soil by rotating forage grasses and legumes on her land.
The community is benefitting too, because there are no loose animals to overgraze the plants that prevent soil erosion.
And the women farmers in the Heifer Project International community group have found other unexpected benefits. They are now more concerned about each other. They realize they can solve many of their own problems and are pleased that this is a project they are doing themselves.
This script is based on an interview with Rose Mugamba, Heifer Project International, Bugusege Project, P.O. Box 2553, Mbale, Uganda.
1. Heifer Project International (HPI) – Headquarters
Technical Information Service
P.O. Box 808
1015 South Louisiana
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203, U.S.A.
2. HPI – Tanzania
Erwin Kinsey – HPI Representative
P.O. Box 1648
KKKT, Dayosisi Arusha
3. Arusha, Tanzania
HPI – Uganda
Bernard R. Muyeya – HPI Representative
P.O. Box 14123
Zero grazing shed for Uganda (1992), by B. Muyeya and M. Makaru, published in English and Swahili by Heifer Project International – Uganda, P.O. Box 14225, Kampala, Uganda.
“Zero grazing: successfully using livestock in a regenerative farming system” in VITA News, April 1990, published by Volunteers in Technical Assistance, 1815 North Lynn St., Suite 200, Arlington, Virginia 22209, U.S.A.
The Ministry of Livestock Development in Kenya has published five booklets about zero grazing. They cover topics such as housing, napier grass management, calf rearing, breeding and feeding. They are available from the Ministry of Livestock Development, National Dairy Development Project, P.O. Box 34188, Nairobi, Kenya.
Heifer Project International (HPI) has zero grazing projects in Uganda and Tanzania. HPI provides training for farmers in shelter construction, pasture establishment, animal care, hygiene, milk handling, group development, and record keeping. Then HPI or a farmer already involved in the project donates the first cow. Please write to HPI for more information. (See addresses above.)