With the arrival of Dutch farmers at the Alfa Fodder & Dairy farm, the techniques of producing and preserving good quality maize silage have come to Debre Zeyit. In the bedding of Lake Hora, which falls dry for some months during the dry season, about 60 hectares of maize can be grown. Last year, this went quite well (though there were some problems with insects) and there was a good harvest. As there are no cows at the Alfa farm yet, all this maize can be sold to local farmers.
Three times a week bags of maize silage are distributed to the nine dairy farms around Debre Zeyit. The maize is used to increase milk production of the stall-fed cows and to fatten bulls in the last months before slaughter. With a good combination of maize silage and concentrates fed with the local available straw and grasses, milk production can reach levels of over 25 litres per cow per day. Often these cows are purebred Holstein cows or cross-bred Holstein-Borana. The fattening bulls are of the local breed, mainly Borana.
The other two days of the week, new farmers are visited and calculations are made to analyse if buying maize is beneficial for them. If the farmers are focused on milk production and have good management, buying maize is often very profitable and will increase milk yield with low extra costs. However, it is difficult to show benefits in a short timespan and farmers are not willing to make big investments. Therefore the Alfa farm is constructing a new cow stable and will have 100 Holstein cows producing milk the coming year. If this works well, other large investors can adopt this concept. Because of the high demand for milk and because of the good nutritional value this can give many more Ethiopian people access to an improved diet all over Ethiopia.