Pregnancy loss due to abortion is one of the major causes of reduced fertility and contributes to adverse economic effects for dairy farms. After five months of pregnancy, abortion is frequently characterized by retained placenta or a cow failing to expel foetal membranes for a few days after losing the foetus. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, the general causes of abortion include infectious agents like bacteria such as brucellosis, leptospirosis and salmonellosis.
Abortion can also be due to viral agents such as Bovine viral diarrhoea, fungi and mycotoxins, genetic abnormalities, high fever, environmental stresses like excess heat, protozoal parasites, injuries, poisons and toxins from plants.
Feeding mouldy feeds like hay or silage is also a possible cause of mycotoxins. An affected cow may return to heat but does not settle until she recovers from the infections after several heat cycles.
Note that all abortion prevention measures start with herd health and other management programmes. Work closely with your veterinarian to determine the cause and develop a vaccination or management programme to prevent further losses.
Take bio-security measures to minimize the risk of introducing diseases, develop proper feeding strategy and control the use of bulls. The main cause of abortion is determined by sending a freshly aborted foetus to a diagnostic laboratory.
To achieve more liters of milk per day, check what you feed your cow as it determines the quality and quantity produced.
The most popular dairy cow is the Friesian, which produces more milk, compared to the Ayrshire, Jersey and Guernsey breeds.The cow that produces the most milk in the world hits 110 litres in a day, but in Kenya the highest is 70 litres.
Breeding cows takes many forms, including artificial insemination. This involves a farmer giving cows semen that will enable a cow produce more milk. The animal feed should contain the necessary minerals to spur milk production. Farmers can grow different types of grass like Napier grass, brachiaria, lucerne and desmodium which are mixed to make cows produce more milk. Molasses are an important ingredient in dairy farms as it provides sugar to animals, improve palatability of food rations and is used in silage making to aid fermentation.
Grass value is added once fermented as molasses have starch and carbohydrates. Fermenting the grass also eases digestion, which makes the cow produce milk faster. The recommended ratio for a milking cow should be 30kg of silage to produce 30 litres of milk per day.
A Friesian cow eats about three per cent of its body weight of dry matter. The Friesian cow also feeds more compared to the other breeds. The dairy meal also forms part of the cow’s feed. It is made of ingredients that give the right balance of energy, protein and minerals.
Milk comprises almost 90 per cent water, therefore, animals drinking water usually have better milk output. For every litre of milk produced a cow needs to drink at least three litres of water. Water also helps to regulate a cow’s body temperature, growth, digestion, reproduction, metabolism, lubrication of joints, excretion and boosts eye sight. Dairy cows should be milked twice a day – early in the morning and around lunch time.
A farmer should also deworm the cows, first when it is two to four months then with intervals of every three months, for maximum production. Calves are dewormed monthly. After deworming the farmer goes for 72 hours without using its milk as it is not fit for human consumption. Good hygiene is essential when milking cows by ensuring hands and clothes are clean and the farmer is in good health.
The cow udder should also be cleaned with warm water using a clean cloth
We can use the following information to facilitate our AI program.
1) The length of standing heat is variable, averages 8-9 hours, and is considerably shorter in some situations.
2) Ovulation (release of the ovum/egg) does not occur until 24 to 32 hours after the start of standing heat … the average is 28 hours.
3) The egg has a fertile life of less than 12 hours after it is released from the ova.
4) Sperm live for an average of 24 hours after they are deposited in the cow’s reproductive tract.
5) The first 6 hours sperm are inside the cow they undergo a biochemical change called capacitation. Capacitation is necessary for sperm to be able to fertilize the egg.
6) The goal is to time insemination so there are many live capacitated sperm cells in the oviducts to greet the egg at the time of ovulation. While these average figures vary between animals and from one heat cycle to the next, they are a valuable guide to determine the best time to breed.
The time-tested rule for when to breed is the a.m./p.m. -p.m./a.m. rule:
1) A cow observed in standing heat in the morning should be bred the afternoon of the same day.
2) A cow observed in standing heat in the afternoon or evening should be bred the following morning.
The a.m./p.m.-p.m./a.m. rule is the industry standard, but it is interesting that acceptable fertility has been achieved when insemination is scheduled only one time each day as long as it is the same time every day. In one study with over 7,000 insemination the 75 day non-return rate was similar for a.m./p.m. and once a day insemination. Cows bred extremely late will have lower conception rates.
The take home message is if we are inseminating our own cows, the a.m./p.m.-p.m./a.m. rule is the rule we should use. That said, if breeding twice a day results in logistical issues, then we can breed once each day and not lose a lot of sleep over that management practice.
Many dairy farmers is to inseminate in the mid-morning and inseminate all cows which have been seen in standing heat since the mid-morning insemination the previous day.
Processors have cut the price of raw milk by Sh3 a litre as the market responds to a steep rise in production but retail prices remain unchanged.
The move has upset farmers currently grappling with high cost of production resulting from increased cost of feeds, with some expected to earn as low as Sh26 per litre of milk from an average of Sh38 earned before the review.
The co-operatives where farmers are attached to normally deduct about Sh4 per litre from farmers as administrative fee and transport cost usually charged by the processors.
“Dear supplier, due to market forces beyond our control, raw milk prices have been reviewed downwards by Sh3 per kilogramme from January 21,” reads one of the text messages sent to farmers.
The Kenya Dairy Board (KDB), the sector regulator, says milk production has steeply increased since November last year, prompting processors to review the price downwards.
“There has been an increase in volumes of milk coming in from farmers and this is what has forced processors to adjust the price. It is a case of supply and demand,” said Margret Kibogy, KDB managing director.
Ms Kibogy said the two main firms — Brookside and New KCC — are now processing an average of 1.2 million litres of milk daily from 800,000 litres around November last year.
The price of 500m long life milk is on average still retailing at Sh50 for all the brands while the ones in pouch, for the same quantity, is selling at Sh45 in most retail shops.
Farmers have protested the cut arguing that low prices in the wake of high cost of feeds will keep them out of business.
“This news has come as a shocker to farmers especially at this time when we are grappling with high cost of animal feeds,” says Stanley Ng’ombe, chairman of the Kenya Dairy Farmers Federation.
Mr Ng’ombe says production cost per litre of milk is Sh22.75 adding that the current price makes it hard for farmers to break even.
However, the board puts the cost of production at Sh19 per litre for zero grazing, Sh17 for semi-zero grazing and Sh10 for the open field grazing.
This is the first time in two years that processors have cut the price by a huge margin, after it remained constant for the whole of last year.
The Business Daily was unable to get any response from the processors as phone calls and email sent went unanswered.
The consequences, especially with a herbicide, can be costly. Apply too much and the crop may be damaged or suppressed; apply too little, and weeds may be inadequately controlled.
Using more than is necessary is also a waste of expensive product
When calibrating the boom sprayer , first carry out the necessary calculations and adjustments on a section of road. Next, test the rig on the land; wheel slippage might result in a slightly higher volume than that used on the hard road.
The difference will not be enough to be harmful, but it is worth taking into account – especially as it may vary from land to land, depending on the condition of the soil and whether it is an even, prepared land or has furrows formed into beds.
Follow these steps to carry out calibration accurately and to ensure that the tractor driver follows the correct procedure for spraying:
Measure a 100m section of road. Decide on a suitable tractor speed for spraying by selecting the correct gear and engine speed. Use a permanent marker to mark the engine revolutions on the glass of the rev counter. In a suitable spot, mark the gear to be used.
Bring the engine up to the correct speed and adjust the spray pressure to get the correct droplet size for the operation. Mark the spot on the gauge where the pressure needle should remain.
With a herbicide, use a flat nozzle and adjust the pressure so that the droplets are the right size: the spray should not be so fine that it drifts away. Getting this right involves both pressure and nozzle size. When checking for drift, look at the spray from the front and the back; it is easier to see the fine droplets from certain positions.
Measure the time it takes to drive the tractor for 100m and record this in a suitable place.
Place a measuring vessel under a nozzle and let if fill for the time it took the tractor to cover 100m.
Multiply this volume by the number of nozzles on the boom to obtain the volume of spray mixture applied over the width of the spray boom every 100m. If the spray boom is 10m wide, you’ll have the amount of mixture applied to 1 000m² (100m x 10m). Multiply this by 10 to obtain the volume in litres applied to 1ha.
Before you spray the land, take the volume of the spray tank and calculate the area that the tank should cover. If you end up covering slightly less area due to the condition of the soil, make the new calculation and adjust the spray accordingly.
To double-check, take the measuring vessel and walk behind the boom, collecting spray from a nozzle over the time it takes the tractor to cover 100m. Measure this volume to ensure that it conforms to your calculations.
Check that each nozzle sprays correctly and all nozzles deliver the same amount. Inspect for damaged nozzles. Remember that nozzles wear out and deliver more mixture as a result.
Most farmers use the correct product but neglect calibration as it requires extra work. The effort is worth it, believe me!