October 28, 2019


Study finds East Africa's Napier grass improves dairy cattle diet and reduces greenhouse gas emissions



Growing and utilising native Napier grass as animal fodder that's high in nutrients also increases milk production, according to research by the Lancaster University, UK and the Wageningen University, Netherlands.


The new study, in collaboration with the Centre for International Forestry Research in Kenya, found that milk production per dairy cattle increased by between 44% to 51% through a Napier-grass-only diet, locally-grown corn diet or a mix of both.


Additionally, overall greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of milk produced reduced by 2.5% as the richer feed reduces methane produced by cattle.


However, planting Napier grass causes less soil disturbance and emissions compared to planting corn. Napier grass yields a richer biomass per hectare than corn, with reduced impact on carbon emissions.


Currently, livestock in Kenya are fed through forest grazing and wild grasses grown on local grassland. Forests require more time to regenerate as natural vegetation is consumed by livestock.


Professor Martin Herold, co-author of the study from Wageningen University said the study has shown that both the forest and agriculture industry can benefit if policies are aligned. He believes the study has broad consequences for the entire East Africa as food security and maintaining forests are at the top of countries' national policy agendas.


Professor Mariana Rufino, principal investigator on the study from the Lancaster Environment Centre, said at the moment, greenhouse gas emissions from the region's dairy sector only considers what is produced from farms. This study shows that emissions can also be produced from feed production or involving changes around the farm area. 

The study used a data-driven approach. It merged field and farm studies together with remote satellite detection and a simulation model to evaluate the different situations connecting the forest and livestock sector.