While dairy farmers in Uganda do it as a source of income or just to get milk for their own consumption, most do not getting the quantity that they expect from their cows.
Even the dairy breeds like Holstein-Friesian that are known to produce a lot of milk (about 20 litres a day) produce as low as five litres or even less. Low milk production in most instances, stems from improper animal husbandry practices, which have a direct impact on output.
Bruhan Lugoloobi, who owns Lubus Mixed Farm and Information Centre, a dairy farm in Ntooke village, Kayunga Sub-county in Kayunga District, likens a dairy cow to a factory.
“A dairy cow is like a maize mill or any other factory. If you want 20 kilos of maize flour, you should feed the mill with at least 20 kilos of maize grain,” Lugoloobi says.
“The same applies to a dairy cow you should not expect a lot when you put in little in terms of care and feeding. Therefore, proper feeding is essential for high milk production”
To boost milk production, a dairy cow should be fed on dry matter like hay or silage and not green or fresh grass.
This is because the microbes found in the rumen of all ruminants, do not work on just any feed especially fibrous feeds when they are not fermented.
Therefore, hay or silage, which in this case is already fermented outside its stomach will ease digestion.
Hence the feed will be quickly digested and at the same time well utilised to increase milk output.
The silage or hay should also include legumes, which provide proteins that are a major milk component.
A dairy cow should also be fed a Total Mix Ratio, which is a feed made from a mixture of silage, hay, dairy concentrates and grains.
This mix provides the highly required balanced diet to the dairy cow, hence the cow’s milk output will increase.
A dairy cow uses a lot of energy to move and also make milk. So feeding it on molasses will provide it with energy since this sugary substance produces glucose.
Molasses can be either mixed with hay or silage or fed to the cow exclusively.
There are also livestock microbes. These boost the growth of microbial bacteria in the stomach.
Once they grow well in the rumen of the animal, they will produce enzymes that eventually improve on the digestion especially of fibrous feeds during dry seasons when feeds such as elephant grass and other pastures are more fibrous.
These microbes break down the feeds given to the cow to increase its milk output.
Comfort has a direct influence on how long cows are healthy and productive. You can do this by improving their environment.
Your cows need a soft and clean resting surface plus sound footing.
They should be able to behave naturally and stand or lie down easily.
A dairy cow should be kept in a clean place with enough space. To enable it live in a comfortable place, facilities should be provided for it to sleep on.
If a dairy cow is not comfortable, it will not relax as it will move up and down looking for somewhere comfortable enough to sleep. These movements will use up energy which it would have used in the production of milk.
A dairy cow should be provided with adequate clean water if its milk output is to be high. This is because almost 90 per cent of milk is water.
Hussein Kigozi, an animal husbandry expert, aises that the water source should not exceed five metres from where the animal is kept.
If it is far away, the animal moves a long distance which drains the energy it would have used to make milk. For every five litres of water a cow drinks, it should give at least a litre of milk.
Disease control and breeds
Diseases have an impact on milk production. Therefore, effective disease control will ensure high yields. An unhealthy cow will not feed well and therefore not be able to produce enough milk.
Also, it is important for a farmer to know which breed of cow heshe keeps. Is the breed meant for dairy or beef? Many farmers keep beef cattle thinking that they are for dairy. For instance, Friesian and Gernsey are good dairy breeds.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor