The Council of Agriculture yesterday introduced a new species of grass — Nile grass Taishi No. 2 — which can be grown all year round and then dried to provide a highly nutritious hay for animal feed.
Livestock Research Institute Director Huang Ying-hao (黃英豪) said while the total annual amount of hay needed for feeding grazing animals — cows, sheep, horses, deer and rabbits — is about 450,000 tonnes, a large proportion is imported from other countries.
Imported hay accounted for 53 percent of hay supplies in 2006, but with the government encouraging an increase in domestically grown pasture, imported hay had dropped to between 42 and 44 percent of supplies in recent years, Huang said.
However, there are still several reasons to encourage an increase in the growth of pasture, including the wish to increase the self-sufficiency of the industry by using cheaper, domestic-grown hay, saving energy by reducing international shipping and making use of fallow land across the nation, he added.
Division of Forage Crops researcher Shaug Sue-pea (蕭素碧) said while imported hay cost about NT$12 to NT$16 per kilogram on average, domestically grown hay costs only about NT$6 per kilogram.
Nile grass was first introduced to Taiwan from South Africa in 1991, as it is a species more suitable to Taiwan’s climate of often high temperatures and frequent rain and it also has a high nutrition value suitable for cows and sheep, Shaug said, adding that Nile grass Taishi No. 1 was cultivated in 2000 and that there are now about 300 hectares of pasture.
Shuang said the new Nile grass Taishi No. 2 was cultivated last year and that it features a 60-day growth period before harvest, so that it can be harvested four or five times a year. It grows to be about 80cm to 110cm in height and it produces many tillers rapidly — covering the land and stopping the growth of other plant species.