Making money out of hay from Boma Rhodes

The ongoing scarcity of cattle feed, particularly in the dry season, presents a good opportunity to profit from the sale of Boma Rhodes grass hay. Both large-scale and small-scale farmers favour Boma Rhodes due to its excellent yield and quality per unit area.

In Kenya, Rhodes, the grass is the most significant pasture grass because it is so simple to establish and maintain. Major producers of Rhodes grass hay in Kenya also export their products to other nations. 

You can make hay for sale whether or not you have animals, in addition to keeping the grass for use during the dry season. Though the larger the farm, the less significant its size although the bigger the farm the higher the profit arising from economies of scale. One can start with half an acre if the land is too limiting. There are plenty of idle lands lying around whose absentee farmers do not know what to do with. Some of the reasons arise out of the demands of other crop productions which always require that they are around most of the time to monitor their progress and take action where appropriate.

Boma Rhodes production and haymaking for sales can easily be practised by such farmers because the methods of pasture establishment and propagation demand less capital. First, you need to prepare a good seedbed by ploughing and harrowing twice for virgin lands. On previously cropped land, you will need to plough and harrow just once before the beginning of the long rains.

Sowing should be done very early, usually in April, so that weeds do not overtake the germinating seeds. Others prefer to sow during the short rains to take care of weeds. Drilling is preferred because it ensures that the seeds are buried and distributed uniformly and others are not left on the surface to dry as in broadcasting.  The seed is first pelleted for them to flow readily during drilling, which is done at a rate of 0.5-1 kg/ha in rows 30 – 40 cm apart. The seed is best sown on asurface not deeper than 2 cm followed by rolling. For broadcasting, the seed is best mixed with sawdust or sand. Seeds germinate in 1-7 days and seedlings develop rapidly.

Apply fertilizer or manure during planting to promote strong root development. Recommended fertilizers are SSP at 2-4 bags/ha or SSP or DAP at 1-2 bags/ha. If manure, broadcast at 10 tons/ha and harrow before planting.
Returns depend on how effectively you manage the pasture stand. The most important is weed control. Of course, grazing should not be allowed as this will deplete the crop. While the numerous fungi and nematodes have been isolated from the grass, they rarely have any economic impact. Control the weeds during the first year by hand weeding or by use of herbicides.  In subsequent years, keep fields clean by slashing, hand pulling or mowing weeds.

During the establishment year, soil nitrogen is adequate for grass productivity. Additional nutrients in the form of inorganic fertilizer or farmyard manure are required in subsequent seasons. Topdress grass with 5-7 bags CAN or ASN per ha per year in 3 splits during the rainy season or 5-10 tons of farmyard manure. Topdress with 2 bags SSP or 1 bag of TSP per ha per year in addition to the nitrogen fertilizers after the establishment year in areas with phosphate deficiencies.  Nitrogen fertilizer can be applied one or two months before the dry season to increase yields during the dry season.

DM yields generally range from about (2-) 10-25 t/ha, depending on soil fertility, environmental conditions, and cutting frequency.  Yields in the second year may be double those of the establishment year, but this also depends on management and environmental conditions.  While yields of 35-60 t/ha DM are reported, these are not the norm.

Cost of establishment

ItemCost (Ksh)
Land preparation 
Seeds @ Kshs. 1,000 per Kg1,000
Fertilizer application 
2 bags DAP @ Kshs. 3,000 per bag6,000
5 bags CAN @ Kshs 2,700 per bag13,500
Harvesting labor charges3,000
Total cost54,500
400 bales per hectare per harvest 
Harvest 3 times a year 1,200 bales 
Sales @ Kshs 200 per bale240,000
Net income185,500

As you can see, the profit in the first year is Kshs. 185,500. This profit can significantly increase the following year because there will be no cost on crop establishment and yields may double. Maintenance and harvesting will be the recurring cost in the second and third years. After the third year yields diminish and it is better to remove the crop

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