The sun is setting and its light is fading away through the leaves of the banana plants that almost surround Gladness Pallangyo’s compound. It’s almost dark but, as usual, Mrs. Pallangyo is using an axe to chop banana stems and leaves into smaller pieces in front of her house. She is making feed for her four cows, who are eagerly waiting.
Mrs. Pallangyo says, “I feed my cows with banana plants every morning and in the evening before I start milking so that they give me more milk.”
To get more milk and ensure that her cows are healthy and grow quickly, she mixes the banana cuttings with sunflower seed cake.
Mrs. Pallangyo lives in Tengeru village in Arusha, a city in northeast Tanzania. She has been a dairy farmer for almost 35 years.
She learned how to use banana plants to make cow feed from fellow farmers and from an extension worker. The banana and sunflower-based feed has resulted in her cows producing her more milk, which increases her income.
Dairy farmers can buy a 50-kilogram bag of sunflower seed cake for 1,600 Tanzania shillings ($0.70 US). Mrs. Pallangyo notes that, while sunflower seed cake should be mixed with banana plant cuttings, individual cows should not consume more than two kilograms of the cake per week.
Her farm has many banana plants, but when she runs out, she buys them from other farmers at 1,000 shillings ($0.43 US) per plant.
Mrs. Pallangyo used to feed her cows grass, but each cow produced a maximum of 16 litres of milk per day. With the banana plant and sunflower seed cake feed, milk production has increased dramatically.
She milks her cows twice every day, in the morning and evening. She now gets about 30 litres of milk per cow per day, which she sells at 800 shillings ($0.34 US) per litre to shops and companies. Loy Manja is another dairy farmer in Tengeru village who feeds his cows a mixture of chopped banana plants and sunflower seed cake. He says his cows grow fast and give him more milk because of the feed.
He adds, “I buy thin cows and I feed them banana plants so that they grow fast and give me more milk, which I sell.”
Niko Luambano is the extension officer in Arusha. He says banana plants are a good source of carbohydrates, which help cows grow fast. He adds that farmers should mix them with sunflower seed cake, which provides protein, fat, and calcium to promote good health.
Mrs. Pallangyo says she will continue feeding her cows banana plants and sunflower seed cake because she is now getting enough income to support her family. Her family’s health is also improving because they use the milk to prepare different types of food.