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September 12, 2019

Kenyan Farmers Grow Maize For Animal Feeds Amid Changing Climate

About a decade ago, maize was mainly grown in Kenya as a food crop, with the cereal being the east African nation’s staple. Over the years, however, many farmers are growing the crop for animal feeds in a shift prompted by the changing climatic conditions.

While some of the farmers, who are dairy keepers, are growing the crop to feed their herd, others are farming it for sale in what has turned out to be a more profitable business.

The rains in Kenya have become extremely erratic, affecting maize growing which is mainly rain-fed in the east African nation. This year, for instance, the long rain season in Kenya that usually lasts for three months from March to May was barely a month long, according to the Meteorological Department. This affected maize planting, with most of the crop in the country’s breadbaskets of western and Rift Valley currently at tussling stage instead of being harvested.

In other regions, however, most of the crop failed due to low rains. But farmers who plant the crop for making animal feeds – mainly silage – harvest at an early stage thus avoid ending up with a failed crop due to erratic weather.

Maize prices currently stand at an average of 3,500 shillings (about 33 U.S. dollars) for a 90kg bag but prices normally decline to as low as 10 dollars when most farmers harvest.

... the early harvesting saves farmers the cost of fighting pests, harvesting, drying and storing the grain before transporting it to the market for sale.

Maize is harvested for making silage at four months when their seeds are soft, but not milky if squeezed open. If harvested at the right stage, the crop has more starch than sugar.

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