lucerne is also known as alfalfa. It is a perennial crop that belongs to the legumes. It is good when grown as a fodder crop as it has a protein content of about 20%. As protein is one of the limiting factors in animal production, more so dairy farming, if a farmer is able to grow their own protein, they will be at an advantage.
We decided as a farm to try growing lucerne as the first on farm protein source. We went about researching and were able to source seeds.
In as much as lucerne is a very good crop and protein source when grown, establishing it is not very easy. For one the seeds require a fine tilth. This is because the seeds are quite small. Once the land is prepared, the plant requires fertile well drained soils which are not acidic. Most of the soils in Kenya tend to be acidic because of overuse of chemical fertilizers. We planted our lucerne in two seperate plots.
On the first plot, germination was sparse and poor. We came to find out this was because of the acidic soil. Despite ploughing and re-planting the section, the regrowth was not any better. This was also caused by the roots of the germinated plants. They emit some hormone that prevents seeds from growing.
Butternut squash is a type of pumpkin that has a pear shape and is a light brown or cream in colour, when mature. I began growing after talking with some market traders who told me that the butternut was popular among mothers weaning their children. It is thought to be very nutritious and a good combination with some mashed potatoes or plantain and some greens.
I thus figured that it would be a good plant to venture into as children are born everyday I figured. The butternut are sold per piece according to the size. Although the preference was the not so big ones. For some reason, very big size of farm produce at the local markets is not preferred. I have always wondered why this is so. Some market trader told me the larger sizes are only preferred by hotels and food eateries.
I found that the butternut varieties available weren't that may. I thus chose the one I could find and got to work. I did direct drilling, which is sowing the seed directly where it will grow without planting in a seedbed first. Spacing has to be done right as it is from the pumpkin family and thus they do get a lot of long vines.
Water is vital for life and this applies to farming too. Water is needed by both plants and animals.
The water supply on the farm has gone through a few changes. There is a small river that passes through the farm and is the primary source of water. It is pumped to the farm using various means.
My grandfather had installed a diesel powered water pump some years back. This was costly as the price of fuel, including diesel has been rising throughout the years.
Water flowing from a hydram
At some point there was a hydram pump(hydraulic ram- a kind of pump that only uses the flow of water to pump water) installed by the settler farmers who once inhabited these here parts. It is a very cheap system to run as it doesn't consume any power or fuel, being powered only by the flowing of water.
I got into dorper sheep also through the encouragement of my grandmother. She used to love to eat meat and mores o mutton. She maintained that among all the sheep breeds, dorper sheep had the tastiest meat. Since I have spent many a school holiday on the farm, I have seen how sheep are reared. I also have to concur with my grandmothers assertions that dorper meat is indeed among the tastiest.
Sheep farming in my view, is pretty straightforward. Once you plan for feed, shelter and keep up with the de-worming and vaccination programmes, it is fairly easy to raise sheep. In my case the sheep were let out to graze in a paddock. The only time feed was supplemented was during the dry season where hay and other green forage was given.
Sheep love salt/mineral lick. Among the farm animals, I think sheep are among the highest consumers of salt/ mineral lick. It doesn't matter whether you give it as a hard brick or powdered form. An amount of salt that would last our herd of cows a day or two would last our herd of sheep at most a day. So determined were they to have their daily dose of mineral lick, that a salt block offered no difficulty in getting as much as they wanted. When licking got tiresome, they would use their teeth to bite off bits of the block and chew it up.
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