Calliandra, a silent multi-purpose tree that boosts milk production
Calliandra Farming: Most small-scale farmers in Africa feed their dairy cows on inadequate and low-quality fodder, resulting in low milk production. Feeding an easy to grow shrub may boost milk production.
Animals fed on calliandra produce thick milk and good fat. Calliandra helps the animals produce a lot of milk and boosts their health, especially if it is mixed with animal feeds.
The leaves and pods of calliandra are rich in protein. They constitute 40-60% of all ruminant feeds needed.
Calliandra, a shrub with red flowers (red powder puff), can also be fed to other animals like sheep, pigs, rabbits and poultry.
Calliandra contributes 25% to animals’ diet, as compared to elephant grass and other grasses which contribute between 8% and 10%.
How to feed
Farmers who cannot buy animal dairy feeds can mix two kilograms of calliandra with other feeds like maize bran (a kilogram), one part shrub fodder (chopped and mixed with other protein rich materials) to every three parts of napier grass or other grasses. If without a dairy meal, feed each cow on 6 to 10kg fresh fodder per day. If fodder and dairy meal are mixed, feed 6kg fodder and one kilogram of dairy meal per cow per day.
In case of drying, this should be done in the shade to avoid losing nutrients. The dried leaves can be stored for a long time.
Where and When to plant
Calliandra grows well and fast, especially near lake shores and around hills, and in areas with coffee trees. After one year, the shrubs can be harvested every 8-12 weeks. Cut back to approximately 15 cm after 6-7 years to promote new growth.
It is advisable to start planting calliandra during the rainy season. The planting holes should be approximately 20 cm wide and 60 cm deep and one metre apart.In the dry lands, the holes have to be larger enough to store more water. The topsoil is mixed with manure and thrown back into the hole.
For easy seed harvesting, maintain the shrub at a height of 2 m. A farmer can put manure or decomposed plant materials mixed with new ash around the plant. This helps calliandra to grow well in poor soil and also repels termites.
Shrub trunks are prone to pest attacks. As a solution, mix washing powder and water, and spray on the attacked part of the trunk, using a pump. Tiny insects that can attack the trunk, can be eradicated by destroying their nests. One can also smear wet cow dung or used car oil on the trunk or spray ash around the stem to repel them.
Note: Feed is the most important component of milk production, representing up to 70% of a farmer’s production. Good quality cows will only produce good quantities of good quality milk if they have access to sufficient quantities of good quality feed and clean water