Decision making

Merits of Zero grazing over free range.

Zero grazing is a form of dairy farming where cattle are kept within housing structures, forage by is brought to them and with little or no direct contact with pasture land.

With increased pressure of land for human settlement and the absence of resources for farmers to run large scale dairy set up, zero grazing is increasingly becoming a production system of choice to many.

Photo /courtesy

Since the requirements for land is limited to only the dairy shed and areas to grow forage, zero grazing enables farmers with less land to indulge in intensive dairy farming.

With cattle restricted to dwell only in the shed, there is no excessive trampling or overgrazing of pastures.

Forage can thus be allowed to grow to desired levels and continue to be harvested all year round to feed the cattle, especially when irrigation is done.

The dung collected from zero grazing units can be tucked away for use as fertilizer in the pastures grown for feeding the cattle. It can also be used with appropriate harnessing technology, as a source of biogas.

Zero grazed cows consume more grass but spend less time eating in comparison with cattle on free range grazing system. Cattle here spend more time resting and ruminating, compared with those grazing in field. It thus allows the animals to convert its food into production and reproduction easily.

What are the disadvantages of zero grazing.

However good it is, zero grazing has some demerits.

The capital requirements to set up structures for housing cattle and handling them could be a limitation.

It is also labour intensive which calls for maximum supervision.

Managing the animals throughout the day involves, cutting grass and conserving some of it, feeding, providing water, checking on signs of ill health, cleaning their dwelling places, milking, looking out for signs of heat or impending birth among others.

For those that have no need for the dung urine mixture from cattle zero grazing, it can be costly getting rid of it.

Also, cattle is not provided with softer modification of the ground (sand, loose soil) where they rest, this can lead to foot injury problems.

In other countries some cattle sheds are improperly built. They thus can expose cattle to extreme heat from the sun, unhygienic conditions, improper air flow and injuries from slippery floors.

Advertisements
Decision making

How to feed a Dairy cow and increase milk production.

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.

Photo /courtesy

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……

Decision making

Factors affecting Milk Quality.

The quality of milk a cow gives directly affects how much a farmer is paid for it. That’s why farmers go to such great lengths to assure quality of milk.

Photo /courtesy

Factors impacting the quality of milk a cow gives includes

Cow health

A cow’s health has the highest impact on the quality of milk it produces. Just like humans, cows can catch illness such as cold or flu. They are also susceptible to irritation or inflammation of their udders if stall conditions are poor. Exposure to mud, manure and runoff can expose the herd to more pathogens, increasing incidents of infections. Rainy seasons can predictably lead to higher somatic cells.

Somatic cell counts

These are the best markers of cow health. High somatic cells count in milk indicate an increased presence of white blood cells, a signal that the cow is fighting illness. Other types of somatic cells can degrade the fat and protein content in the milk. This hurts the quality of the milk and can lead to deduction in pay.

Diet

Just as a cows diet impact the quantity of the milk it produces, it also affects the quality composition. In times of food scarcity, both will suffer. When feed is plenty, farmers have more rooms to adjust feed to enhance the components of milk.

Milk handling

Another factor affecting milk quality is how its treated once it leaves the cow. Because milk is naturally good place for bacteria to thrive, bacteria count taken during processing can show whether milk was taken with clean equipment and the faster the milk is cooled, the lower the bacteria count will be.

Decision making

Signs of a healthy dairy cow

To be profitable, a Dairy herd must be in good shape. It’s therefore crucial to be able to recognise a healthy dairy cow, and know when things are not right.

With practice it is relatively easy to identify a healthy dairy cow. This will then enable you to tell when something is not right and take immediate action.

Photo /courtesy

Here are some of the signs to tell whether your dairy animals are healthy.

General appearance

It is a alert and aware of its surroundings. It stands squarely on all four feet and holds its head high with watching what’s happening around.

Eyes

They should be bright and alert, with no discharge at the corners.

Movement

The cow should be able to walk easily and steadily with all four feet bearing its weight. It’s steps are regular, irregular movements suggest pain in its feet or legs.

Ears

These should be upright, move to pick up any sound, and flick rapidly to get rid of files.

Mouth

There should be no dribbling of saliva. If chewing is slow or incomplete, there could be a problem with the teeth.

Hair /coat

The hair coat of a healthy animal is smooth and shiny.

Breathing.

This should be smooth and regular at rest. If the animals is in the shade, it’s difficult to notice the chest moving as it breathes. Activity and hot weather will increase the breathing rate.

Dung/Urine

The dung part of a healthy animal is soft. Watery dung and difficulty in defecating are signs of ill health. The urine should be clear and the animal will urinate with no signs of pain or difficulty.

Appetite and rumination

The cow should eat and drink normally. If feed is available, it will have a full belly. A poor appetite is an obvious sign of ill health. When a herd of healthy cows are at rest of most of them are ruminating.

Milk

There should be no swelling of the udder and no sign of pain when it’s touched. The teats must not be injured. In a lactating cow, a sudden decrease in milk production could indicate a health problem. Blood in the milk points to an udder infection.

Body temperature

An abnormal high body temperature is a sign of infection, although environmental factors must also be considered.

Note: remember that a healthy animal tends to behave calmly so any behaviour not usually seen may be a problem.

Decision making

Traits to consider when buying a Dairy cow.

While it is true you can mint millions selling milk produced by your dairy animals, farmers fail to attain this lack of good planning at the foundation level. At the very core of any good dairy farming, breed selection and subsequent animal husbandry are of paramount importance.

There are many traits to consider when buying a Dairy cow. However, Milk production is a factor of the generic make up and the environment like housing, feed and health management.

Photo /courtesy

It is important to consider the following factors before deciding on the dairy cow to purchase.

1.Production traits

These traits refer to milk volume and the contents ie percentage of butterfat level, protein and other non-fat solids. Milk volume should be considered relative to amount of feeds consumed since more produce from relatively lesser fodder is proof of a high feed conversion efficiency. More solid in milk generally increase the quality.

2.Conformation traits

These traits give an indication of the performance of the dairy animals and include the udder structure, nature of feet or legs, and general dairy character.

The udder should be pliable, silky in texture, sack like in nature and non pendulous but firmly attached with strong suspensory ligaments high up the vulva region. A huge udder is not necessarily a sign of high milk production. The teats should be average sized and evenly placed and pointing straight down on the udder.

Good feet and strong legs lead to longevity of a Dairy cow and facilitates it to be able to feed comfortably especially when in-calf.

Observed from the behind, a Dairy cow’s hind legs should stand straight and wide apart while the side view should show a slightly set back sickled ending with slightly angled feet.

3.Fertility traits

The number of inseminations per conception will always determine the success of a breeding programme. The fewer the inseminations per conception, the better the fertility of a particular.

4.Longevity traits

This determine the amount of total lifetime milk production of a cow but it is usually influenced greatly by other traits such as health and fertility. Choose heifers or bull semen from families with a history of cows that can maintain high production ability across many lactations as well as have as many normal calvings as possible in their lifetime.

5.Health traits

Emphasis should be laid on choosing disease resistant and Hardy animals to remain in production for long.

6.Calving ease traits

Physical traits that facilitate easy calving include a wide pelvic diameter and a gentle slope from pin to hip bone. A cow’s body frame should portray a strong straight back or loin which is essential during gestation in enabling the animal to comfortably feed as well as carry the foetus to term.