What is fed to the cow determines to a large extent the quality and quantity of milk produced.
It is from the feeds that a dairy cow derives energy for maintenance, growth, milk production and reproduction.
When a cow gets sick and is unable to feed well, it’s energy level goes down. The cow’s first response will be to cut down milk production to save energy for its well being.
For a healthy and productive cow, feed ratios should have a balance of quality, quantity amount of concentrates, protein, minerals and vitamins.
Fodder are bulky feeds that are rich in energy, and protein but are not whole meal. They are important for high milk production in dairy cows and constitute to 80 per cent of the diet.
Examples of fodder include, napier grass, boma Rhodes, lucern, desmodium and sweet potatoes. Napier is best intercropped with desmodium, harvested and fed together.
Fresh fodder should be fed after a day’s wilt, chopped into 2″ inch pieces to enable the cow to feed easily and minimise wastage. A Dairy cow should consume 15-20kg of chopped forage per day preferably in two spilts, one in the morning and the other in the evening.
During steaming up, extra high quantity feed is given to in calf for the last two months before calving.
Essential in milk production
After calving, a Dairy cow should be fed 3kg of concentrates (dairy meal) per day depending on the individual production. The animals may be challenged further by increasing their dairy meal ratios for up to an optimal level.
Dairy meal should be fed after milking so that the cow remains standing until the teat canal closes. This helps to avoid teat infections and mastitis.
Farmers should supplement their dairy cows with yeast either in feeds or drinking water to boost milk production.
Yeast fed dairy cow improves feed digestibility, increases feed intake and overall performance and productivity.
Yeast extracts increases the number and activity of beneficial bacteria leading to increased rate of ruminal fermentation and a subsequent increase in net energy.
As more organic matter is fermented per unit time, the animals is able to consume more dry matter which also increases net energy.
Minerals supplements should be provided as they are essential in milk production, they improve fertility, reduce incidences of retained placenta and also contributes to development of strong bones in the growing foetus.
Granular salts should be mixed with feeds in a feeding trough or fed with concentrates. It may be necessary to moisten the granular mineral licks to prevent dusting during licking as this predisposes the cows to respiratory problems.
Provide minerals salts at a rate of 150g for every 5 litres of milk produced, and an extra 60g for every 5 extra litres……