It is always difficult to start something new. Especially farming. I came to realize this when I decided to start dairy farming. My initial plan was to purchase several high yielding cows and build from there but after giving it some thought, I decided to try improve the cows that were already there. Now here is the challenge, the cows were nothing close to pedigree, some crossbred beyond breed identification and on a normal pasture diet. At the time, only 3 cows were being milked producing a total of around 6 litres.
I was determined and convinced that with the right feeds and proper management, this would improve. I started off by buying 300 bales of hay from a neighbor. This, i figured would be enough for some time since there was no rain at the time. The bales were shredded into small pieces and this formed the first part of the improved diet. Milk production improved by at least 1 litre per cow per milking making it 2 litres per cow per day.
I did a bit of reading on proper dairy nutrition and realizes that I had to add some proteins and energy to the diet. I had visited several farms and had an idea of a good protein source (cotton seedcake) and coming from a farming area maize was available. This however I had to grind coarsely. At this time two other cows had calved and the overall milk production was slightly higher.
My research had shown that a rapid change in a cow’s diet may cause digestion/rumen problems since the rumen is not used to the feed yet. This is especially dangerous in high grain diets. I also learnt of a disorder known as acidosis. This is common when the feed is cut into pieces too small. Less than 1cm I think. Anyway, for this reason I changed the cow’s diet gradually especially when it was time to introduce ground maize. This acidosis business had gotten me very scared especially when death was a possibility. I successfully introduced grain and the cows now consume about 2 kg’s per day per cow. I decide to stop here as some of the cows started showing grain in the dung and I figured this meant that not all of it was being digested hence no need for increasing the grain amount.
It is during this period that I recognized the importance of maize grain in my diet. One cow, the best producer which was at 7kgs in the morning (9.5 per day) reduced daily production by 2kgs in the morning and 1.5 in the evening one day after I ran out of maize. I did some reading and found out that cows in early lactations have require a lot of energy. The cow actually starts using up energy from its body to compensate and hence start losing body weight. Maize being a good source of energy seemed to be a good supplement and when it wasn’t available, the cow dint have enough energy for itself and milk production.
At the moment, the cows are on a diet of Grass hay and ground maize. This diet lacks an adequate source of protein (I ran out of cotton seed cake and the stuff costs ksh40 per kg so you understand). The highest producer is at 6kgs in the morning and 2 in the evening. The others are at an average of 4-6kgs per day. This I guess is mostly due to the fact that most are first calver’s and they weren’t on a good diet before calving. Its been around 5 weeks now since the feeding program started. Il have to wait and see if production changes especially since I intend to reintroduce proteins.
Despite not hitting the record milk yields that most good farmers get, I take positives from fact that the cows reacted positively to diet change. This for me proved that proper feeding can affect milk production. Maybe the production would have been higher if the cows were on the diet before calving and had better genes.
I hope I get the chance to carry out this experiment on improved high yielding cows some day.
Moral of the story, Feeding GREATLY affects milk production.
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