A new hybrid Napier grass is the talk of the town among dairy farmers in Thailand. The Thai Department of Livestock Development (DLD) calls it Napier Pakchong 1 but it might as well be called Super Grass.
Why? Because it is so nutritious. It is claimed to contain 16 -18 percent crude protein. It is very fast growing and high-yielding. One rai or 1,600 square meters can yield 20 tons of herbage per harvest and since there are 4 cuttings a year, that’s 80 tons per rai. That’s equivalent to 500 tons per hectare in one year. That means one hectare can produce enough grass to feed 50 dairy cows in one year. It also means that 16 hectares can already take care of 800 dairy cows!
The Super Grass was developed by Dr. Krailas Kiyothong, animal nutritionist and plant breeder of the Department of Livestock Development in Pakchong, Nakhon Ratchasima province, Thailand. He developed Napier Pakchong 1 by crossing the Pennisetum purpureum with Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum). We have learned that India has also developed a cross of P. purpureum and P. glaucum but the Indian cross is not as spectacular as this one in Thailand.
The Super Grass is very palatable because the stalks are tender. It has a wide range of adaptability so that many farmers can benefit from it. Harvesting is done at intervals of 60 to 70 days. The first harvest, however, is made three months from planting. Then succeeding harvests are every 60 to 70 days. The stalks are cut close to the ground, and in no time, new shoots or ratoon will come out.
It has other uses aside from fresh feed for farm animals. If there is excess harvest because there are not enough animals to eat the newly cut grass, the same could be shredded and made into silage. The shredded leaves and stalks could also be made into organic fertilizer by mixing the same with cattle manure.When shredded into fine particles, the same could be fed to vegetable-eating fish like tilapia and Pangasius.
Planting materials, setts or cuttings, are now being bought by livestock farmers from Malaysia. Filipino livestock raisers are not far behind, however. Danilo Fausto who heads a Murrah buffalo cooperative in Nueva Ecija, Dr. Libertado Cruz of the Philippine Carabao Center, and Juan P. Lozano of the Batangas Dairy Cooperative have already ordered their own planting materials.