Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sorghum is an excellent fodder for cows

Sorghum fodder fed in SEVAI-OFI Cow project in Sirugamani

Sorghum is one of the most important fodder crops and the farmers in Sirugamani OFI-SEVAI Cow project area have developed better varieties that can be grown as animal feed. Sorghum has many advantages over maize and other pasture grasses: It can grow well in both high and even in low potential areas with poor soils, where maize cannot do well. As a fodder crop it can be used in adequate supply when maize and other feed sources fail. Most varieties of sorghum produce much more forage than maize. Unlike maize, the lower leaves do not dry out as the plant matures; they remain green and therefore retain a higher crude protein content. Sorghum can regenerate (grow again) after cutting the stalks for fodder and harvesting the grain (second crop or ratoon); The ratoon crop will mature early in the following season but yield slightly less than the first crop – depending on level of plant feeds available. This way the farmers can reduce the cost of replanting, land preparation, seeds and time. To get a good sorghum crop a farmer needs to observe that for both forage and food varieties of sorghum, start preparing the land at the end of the rains following a crop season. Sorghum does well in sandy soils. It can also be grown where the soils are not disturbed much, where conservation tillage is practiced, Farmers should plant sorghum at a seed rate of 2.4-3.2 kg per acre. Fodder varieties of sorghum should be planted at a spacing of 75 X 10 cm. Varieties mentioned can replace  maize for making silage and grain and even fresh chopped fodder for all animals like cows, goats, sheep etc. As animal feed, it has the same energy level as maize or other cereals. Sorghum can withstand dry conditions (600 mm annual rainfall) and remain green at very low moisture levels. The crop should be thinned when it is 30 cm high or 30 days after planting, whichever comes first, to ensure a spacing of 75 X 10 cm between rows for fodder sorghum and 60 X 20 cm between rows for dual-purpose varieties. The spacing for dual purpose varieties allows for higher grain to herbage ratio. Hand weeding should be done at least twice. A sorghum field should be kept weed-free especially at early stages of growth. Control of cutworms, aphids, shoot-fly and stalk borer is important. Birds like sorghum especially at milk stage; they prefer white-seeded varieties. Sorghum is generally disease tolerant. Sorghum meant for seed production should be harvested at maturity stage. Sorghum meant for feed can be cut when still green and fresh. Leave it in sun to allow wilting for 12 hours then chop and then feed the animals. To make silage, start harvesting at dough stage between milky and hardening stage. For dual-purpose sorghum, cut the head with a knife or use a combine harvester.-Govin

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