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How a Grass Found In Africa Could Transform Cow Milk Industry

How a Grass Found In Africa Could Transform Cow Milk Industry

Image from Allafrica

Cows kept by small-scale farmers in Africa are notoriously unproductive. The average dairy cow, for example, produces about 540 litres of milk per lactation. By contrast, dairy cows in North America that belong to commercial or intensive farmers can produce up to 10,479 litres of milk per lactation.

One of the main differences between the two animals, lies in the quality of their feeds and forage. Simply put, the more nutritious cows' diets are, the more and better quality milk they produce. And small-scale farmers - of which there are about 33 million in Africa, contributing up to 70% of the continent's food supply - usually cannot afford more nutritious feed.

Brachiaria - the genus name of Urochloa - consists of about 100 documented species of grass of which seven species used as fodder plants are of African origin. This grass may hold the key to improving milk yields from cows kept by small-scale farmers as it will help to meet rising demand for animal-sourced foods - like cow's milk - as the continent becomes more urbanised and its population grows, writes Sita Ghimire for The Conversation.

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