Livestock Research for Rural Development 26 (5) 2014 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Cost-benefit analysis and problems associated with the production of Verano seed by smallholder livestock farmers in Ghana

K E Fynn, M M Fusheini, K Oppong-Anane, D P K Amegashie, E C Timpong-Jones and F K Fianu

Livestock and Poultry Research Centre, Institute of Agricultural Research, College of Agriculture, University of Ghana, P. O. Box LG 38, Legon, Ghana   or


On-farm seed production of Stylosanthes hamata cv Verano was carried out by smallholder livestock farmers in the Ejura-Sekyedumase District of the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Technical back up was provided by a technical team comprising personnel from the University of Ghana and staff of the Ejura Sheep Breeding Farm of the Animal Production Directorate. The main objective of the project was to establish a local capacity for the production of Verano seed for improving the nations rangelands.

The major problems encountered were; weed encroachment, bush fire, insect predation of planted seeds and laborious seed processing. Income per ha earned from Verano production was higher than that obtained from maize and cowpea production. The programme successfully established local capacity for Verano production in Ghana. Total Verano seed production by selected farmers in the study period was about 150 tonnes and the benefit/cost ratio increased from 1.15 (year 1) to 2.05 (year 2) and 7.87 (year 3) showing the economic benefits of Verano seed production. However, there is a need to undertake further research to raise the efficiency of quality Verano seed production.

Key words: on-farm, out-grower, rangelands, seed yield, Stylosanthes hamata


Most of Ghana’s rangeland forage consists of grasses which mature early in the rainy season and lose their feeding value before the end of the rainy season. Although the browse component of the rangelands has been an immensely important feed resource in the diet of livestock and game animals, its contribution has declined considerably over the decades. This attrition has been caused by expansion in land clearing for farming, high incidence of wood extraction for fuel and for construction, as well as the incessant annual bushfires (Fianu 1990; World Bank 1997; Alhassan et al 1999). The effect is the reduction in the carrying capacity of the grazing land and lower animal performance.

To arrest this threat, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) instituted a programme under the National Livestock Services Project (NLSP), to undertake sod-seeding to improve those areas of the country's rangelands that had been most severely affected. These are mostly areas within accessibility for farming and within the grazing orbit of bovine livestock i.e. about 4 to 7 km radius of settlements. Indeed, during the high dry season, animals may travel as far as 12 km from the village to reach pasture (Alhassan et al 1999). The successful execution of this range improvement programme and the resultant utilisation of the improved herbage were expected to raise the national calf crop from 60 % to about 75 % and reduce the recurrent dry season weight losses of about 10 % in cattle (Rose Innes 1960). Maturity of cattle could therefore be reduced from the current 6-8 years to 3-4 years. Stylosanthes hamata cv Verano (Verona), was chosen for the exercise because of its hardiness and success in similar work in Australia. It was envisaged that 40,000 ha of heavily overgrazed and 5,000 ha of more leniently used range sites might be covered under the programme. Such large scale range improvement would require large quantities of seed which would be too expensive to import. To ensure the implementation of this range improvement exercise, it became necessary to create the capacity to produce the required quantities of Verano seed locally.

At the adoption of the National Livestock Services Project (NLSP), the production of seeds of vegetables, grain legumes and cereals was well known in Ghana and there were a number of farmers who were in the maize and cowpea seed production business. On the other hand, there was no history of commercial forage seed production in the country and this was because there was little or no pasture cultivation. To meet this new demand, therefore, the Animal Production Department (APD) was mandated to undertake to develop the capacity for commercial forage seed production in Ghana. Thus, smallholder livestock farmers in the Bonyon-Dromankoma area of the Ejura-Sekyedumase District were selected to be trained hands-on under the technical direction of a Forage Agronomist/Range Scientist. The objective of the study was to develop the capacity for Verano seed production locally by highlighting the profitability and problems associated with it.

Materials and Methods

On-farm seed production with collaborative farmers was carried out in three consecutive years with one farmer in the first year, five farmers in the second and forty-six farmers in the third year. Most of the farmers were livestock keepers who also had crop farms, such as maize, cowpea, yam and vegetables. Selection was done based on ones enthusiasm in the programme together with access to one hectare of land in an area acceptable to the technical team.


A farmers' field school was organized by the technical support team for farmers at the Ejura Sheep Breeding Farm to give them hands-on training in Verano seed production.

Commitments made by stakeholders

All selected out-grower farmers were to;

The Ejura Animal Breeding Farm in turn was to;

Results and discussion

Problems associated with Verano seed production included,

Recruitment Inertia

Firstly, there was an initial low farmer response to the invitation to participate in the exercise. The very concept of pasture cultivation itself did not seem to make economic sense as livestock owners were used to free grazing on grass that grew on communal lands. Thus, to spend resources to produce seed for developing pasture was not attractive enough. Secondly, the importance of the crop Verano to livestock feeding was unknown to the farmers leading to an initial lack of interest in the programme. However, one farmer keenly interested in livestock production embraced the programme in the first year. The success chalked by this out-grower farmer in the first year and five others in the second year led to many others expressing interest in Verano seed production in the third year. Farmers thereafter expressed the desire to plant more than the 0.2 ha to 0.8 ha approved for them. One way of circumventing this difficulty and making Verano seed production attractive to farmers is to introduce them to crop diversity as practised successfully in Northern Nigeria (Lazier 1984). Additional benefits from such a system would be soil improvement by the legume after exhaustion by the cash or staple crop. This would raise subsequent staple crop yields and thus eliminate the bush fallow system and make for sustainable continuous cropping. Where grown as companion crop, Verano would need to be seeded at such a time as to minimise competition with the cash crop. In this system, the critical factor would be the time to seed the forage legume after the cash crop is planted.

High cost of land preparation

A large fraction of the production cost came from land preparation, weed control and seed harvesting. The cost of ploughing one hectare (1 ha) of land in the project area was GH¢7.50. For a good seedbed, most farmers either did a second ploughing or harrowing further increasing the cost. One major cause of this was the high cost of mechanised land preparation which set the benchmark for determining the cost of manual weeding.

On-farm Verano seed production costs as recorded at the Ejura Sheep Breeding Farm (Table 1) were higher than the costs recorded on the out-grower farms because they included the cost of fertiliser, insecticide, labour for fertiliser and pesticide application. Further, the station's seed processing was more thorough than that of the out-growers making production cost higher.

Table 1. On station production costs for one ha of Stylosanthes hamata seed at the Ejura Sheep Breeding Farm


Cost (#Gh¢)

1. Ploughing with tractor

2. Harrowing with tractor

3. Manual planting

4. 1st weeding

5. Fertilizer (50 kg SSP/ha)

6. Labour for fertilizer application

7. 1st roguing of weeds

8. 2nd weeding

9. 2nd roguing of weeds

10. 3rd roguing of weeds

11. Insecticide

12. Labour for insecticide application

13. 1st harvesting

14. 2nd harvesting

15. 3rd harvesting

16. Processing of seeds



















# 2.4 Gh ¢ (Ghana cedis) = 1 US dollar

Establishment problems

There were also problems associated with the establishment of the seed, these included:

(i) Physical loss of seed due to predation by ants and birds. This was solved by covering seeds lightly with soil after planting. Sometimes, this measure was not enough and losses to seed predators still occurred. Seed treatment with pesticides before planting has proved worthwhile.

(ii) Seed losses due to a heavy rainstorm occurred on some farms. In such an event, replanting was needed.

(iii) Poor germination due to rain failure.

(iv) Failure of germinated seed to emerge from the soil due to environmental stress.

(v) Poor emergence due to rather deep placement of seed in the soil.

(vi) Mortality of emerged seedlings due to rain failure. This necessitated replanting but problem was forestalled by planting a well into the rainy season e.g. in June-July to ensure reliability of rainfall.

(vii) Pathogen, pest or predator attack of the seedlings after emergence.

(viii) Weed control standards for seed control were rather high and this called for frequent weeding and manual roguing out of weeds. Most farmers had to weed six times, to rid their fields of weeds, to meet the desired standards. This made weed control one of the major production costs.

Harvesting and processing

Farmers had to harvest the seeds manually and this was time consuming, labour intensive and expensive. This could have been eliminated by mechanisation but at that time, no mechanical processor was available in the country.

Insect pest infestation

Caterpillars damaged the leaves and flower buds in some fields. This resulted in a yellowish leaf coloration, leaf curling, loss of floral buds and consequently, low seed yields.

Bush fires

In the project area, annual bush fires are common. One reason for Verano being prone to this hazard is the fact that harvesting is normally done in the dry season when the bush fires occur. These fires are normally started by hunters and also herdsmen who use fire to clear mature grass and induce a fresh flush for their animals. The fire sometimes spreads by being wind-blown from tall grasses. Bush fire destroyed one farmer's entire Verano seed field. To minimise the risk of bush fire, the project insisted on the creation of fire belts around the Verano seed crops before the onset of the dry season.

Seed yield

Average seed yield ranged from 75 kg/ha to 682 kg/ha (Table 2). The more experienced farmers had higher yields so yields increased steadily from year one to the third year. These yields compare favourably with the 300-600 kg/ha reported by Skerman et al (1988) but fell below the 1,143-1,775 kg/ha reported by Agishi (1977) in Northern Nigeria. Thus the farmers’ yields in this programme were good.

Benefits of Verano seed production

Table 1 shows the benefit-cost analysis of Verano seed production by out-growers in the three year study. Average cost of production/ha of Verano farmers ranged from Gh¢554.60/ha in the first year to Gh¢832.30/ha in the third year. It can also be seen that the average revenue to farmers ranged from Gh¢637.500/ha in the first year to Gh¢6547.20/ha in the third year with the average net profit ranging from Gh¢82.90/ha in the first year to Gh¢5,714.90/ha in the third year. This means that the revenue was increased at a higher rate than the cost as depicted in the benefit-cost ratio which rose from 1.15 in year one to 7.87 in year three (Table 2).

Table 2. Cost - benefit analysis of 1 ha Verano seed production by out-growers


No. of

Total plot
area (ha)

Mean plot
size (ha)

Mean Seed
Yield (kg)

*Mean production
cost (#Gh¢)




cost ratio

Year 1










Year 2










Year 3










* Excludes fertiliser and pesticides as none were applied
2.4 Gh¢ (Ghana cedis) = 1 US dollar

 Verano seed production (Gh¢5714.90) was three times more profitable than cowpea (Gh¢1705.10) and nineteen times more profitable than maize (Gh¢ 297.30) production (Table 3).

Table 3. Profitability of Verano seed production compared with other crops

Type of crop

Seed production
cost per ha (#Gh¢)

Seed Yield
per ha (kg)

Price per
kg (Gh¢)

revenue (Gh¢)

profit (Gh¢)



















# 2.4 Gh¢ (Ghana cedis) = 1 US dollar



Agishi E C 1977 Potential for pasture seed production in Nigeria. Livestock & Veterinary conference, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Alhassan W S, Karbo N, Aboe P A T and Opong-Anane K 1999 Ghana's savanna rangelabds: agro-ecology, current improvement and usage practices, research needs and sustainable management criteria . National Agricultural Research Project (NARP), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Accra.

Fianu F K 1990 “Popularising Integrated Forage Strategies for the Take-off of the Ruminant Sector”. In: Proceedings Third and Fourth Annual Conferences of the Ghana Society for Animal Production. University of Science and Technology, Kumasi. pp. 4-20.

Rose Innes R 1960 Sugar in the Sky or Beef for the Butcher. In: First Grassland Symposium. MoFA, Accra.

Lazier J R 1984 "Global ventures in Stylosanthes in West Africa". In: Stace, H.M., and Edye, L.A. (eds.) The biology and agronomy of Stylosanthes. Academic Press, Sydney. Pp503-527

Skerman P J, Cameron D G and Riveros F 1988 Tropical forage legumes. Rome, FAO

Received 4 February 2014; Accepted 5 April 2014; Published 1 May 2014

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