How to feed dairy cows for success Sucessful Farming Made Possible

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Feeding is the most important factor when dealing with dairy cows. In most cases it distinguishes the successful farmers from the unsuccessful ones.

With feeding, there is not any one Golden formula that guarantees success. However, there are guidelines/rules of thumb that when followed will more often than not produce good results. It is however important for farmers to understand that they have to choose a formula that works both for the dairy cows and them. In that, the cows improve milk production and at the same time not strain the farmer. Some of the best animal feeds are expensive and this at times produces losses even with good milk production. Some farms have resorted to planting their own feeds and this has greatly driven down the costs.

It is important to first understand how cows work/their digestive system so as to understand how to feed them, what they require and why they require it.

dairy cows

Cows require good feeds for several reasons

Milk production

To maintain its body


If pregnant, growth of calf

The general rule is that cows feed should contain adequate amounts of Energy Protein and Minerals. Now it is up to the farmer to determine the best sources for the above nutrients and in the right ratios. These nutrients are available to cows in different forms ie roughage/forage, and concentrates.

Feeding Dairy Cows


These make up the bulk of a cows feed. They include fresh grass, Napier grass, hay etc. Forages go a long way in determining the productivity of a cow. They mostly provide energy and some minerals to the cow.

Bulk forages can either be fresh, dry or preserved (silage). Forages such as Napier grass should be chopped into smaller pieces (approx. 3cm) to make it easier to mix with other feeds. Forages should compose of 70%-80% of the dry matter content of a cows ration.

The quality of forages affect milk production of a cow. Fresh grass for example has fewer nutrients as compared to napiar grass or hay of the same quantity. This is because grass has a lot of water rather than nutrients. Wheat straw also has few nutrients. It actually falls under low quality forages and many farmers are guilty of feeding wheat straws alone to cows. However this does not mean that low quality forages cannot be used. They can be fed to the cows then supplemented with feeds of higher nutrient value called ‘supplementary forages’


Supplementary Forages

These can be used to either supplement for low quality forages or replace concentrates. Concentrates are high nutrient feeds e.g Dairy meal.

Examples are legume crops such as lucern and desmodium and calliandra. These are mostly of medium and high quality depending on the protein and energy levels in it. It is recommended that supplementary forages should not make up more than 25%-30% of the ration. This is because some of them cause bloat and other related problems .For example lucern is good for dairy cattle but too much of it causes bloat. The risk can be reduced by wilting fresh lucern for a few hours before feeding.



These are feeds of high nutrient value fed to cows and have more nutrients than forages. Examples are commercial dairy meal, brewers’ waste, maize germ meal, wheat bran, wheat pollard, rice bran, maize bran molasses  fish meal etc.

Concentrates should be fed depending on the quality of forages fed and milk production. High producing cows require more nutrients hence more concentrates while low producers require less. This also helps to ensure farmers make profits as high producing cows will return the investment on the concentrates fed to them.

Concentrates can be fed in many ways but the most common one is to give cows 1kg of dairy meal for every 2litres of milk above 5litres. This means that if your cow is producing 7litres a day, then you feed it 1kg of dairy meal and so on.

The most important thing when feeding cows is having a balanced diet. So knowing the quality of feeds you give to your cows is important as you can supplement for the missing nutrients.

Now it is up to you as the farmer to figure out which feed is available to you and at what price to come up with a ration. An example is Napier grass(bulk forage), desmodium(supplementary forage), dairy meal(concentrate) and mineral licks.

Remember to consider feed prices. After all, they will determine your profitability.

Below is a table with various feeds and their quality.

I would however advice farmers to seek professional advice to work out a proper feeding program.

[table id=1 /]

Leave your email address below to make sure you never miss any information.We will writ another article with more practical examples of feeding rations used by Kenyan farmers.

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More information here

Improved dairy cows in Uganda | International Food Policy …

We find that adopting improved dairy cows significantly increases milk productivity, milk commercialization, and food expenditure. Consequently, adoption substantially reduces household poverty and stunting for children 

Farmers can use the table above to choose the best feed for their dairy cattle and ways to supplement them in case they use low quality forages..


Eric K. (Farming Afrika Admin)
Eric K. (Farming Afrika Admin)
Eric is the co-founder of Farming Afrika. He is a farmer, business man and technology professional. He is determined to unwrap the mystery of profitable farming, lead the youth back to the farms and tell the story.


  1. Hou Rithy says:

    I would like to know how to feed the cow’s meat ?

  2. Hou Rithy says:

    I want to feed the cow .

  3. roba says:

    hey i would like to no how to feed dairy cow,again and pregnant cow,calf and chicken layer

  4. A Nsubuga says:

    nice one is it possible to buy semen then take to uganda

  5. Martin Thuo says:

    Hello. A nice piece there.
    What’s the best type of salt to give to an in-calf heifer?

  6. Kenneth kipsang says:

    I’m up coming dairy farmer.i wish to learn more concerning dairy farming including good breeds, feeding, management and animal diseases affecting Thanks for the side.

  7. patrick kabiro says:

    This information is really helpful. Thanks and me posted.

  8. busingye pison says:

    thank u very much for that article now how many kilograms of b dry matter can i obtain from one ton of fresh of elephant grass.

  9. […] in dairy Farming? Read about how to feed dairy cows HERE and how to succeed in dairy farming […]

  10. noah says:

    thanks for information

  11. irungu mwangi says:

    good information. Alot is being said about hydropronics but having inquired about it i wounder whether we will be able to meet the high cost of barley seeds thanxs.

  12. Alphonce says:

    very good articles.i would like to know more about feeding dairy cows and kienyeji chickens for more eggs productivity and weight gain in cocks

  13. Arthur Ondego says:

    Good advices. Please continue and give more of these!

  14. Arthur Ondego says:

    Good. Keep it up!

  15. Anthony Kiarie says:

    Thanks a lot for your Good work!

  16. Tuli Salu says:

    Hello There, I am so thankful for the information on how to keep dairy cattle. I am a Tanzanian lady keeping dairy cattle as a part time venture. I would like to know from where can I buy such high yielding cattle from Kenya and if I can get contacts of those farms.

  17. Nalama says:

    Hi,am an up coming dairy farmer based in Nanyuki which has mixed climate patterns…
    Kindly advice the best breed of cows to keep in this region,best farms l can source this cows and where l can personally be trained how to handle and manage zero grazing cows.
    l would also appreciate if you explain about this hydroponic thing in respect to dairy farming.

  18. Ruth Njagi says:

    Hi, would like to know which breed is best for lowland climates.

  19. shadrack says:

    Thanks for advice.

  20. Wilfred Ngetich says:

    i am a famer doing zero crazing.
    i need more information on feeding by dry matter materials.

    • david says:

      where are you situated at.please can you contact me for further consultation you may be helpfull to a dairy farming in elgeiyo marakwet county.

  21. Benjah says:

    Admin nyc work,

  22. Alloyce says:

    am intending to start dairy farming within kisumu west. where can i be getting advice.

  23. muthamia says:

    Kindly keep me updated on new development in the industry

  24. Dominic says:

    I would like to connected to a firm / vet/ practioner of cows embryo transfer breeding within Nairobi .

    Thank you

  25. paul mugo muhoho says:

    hi am really interested in getting more and more information about Daily cattle farming to make profit.

  26. Jacob says:

    My name is Jacob. I like dairy cow farming and I am doing it as my main source of living, here in Moshi along the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro – Tz. I would appreciate if you could assist me in getting feed additives/enzymes which I can add to my dairy concentrates to increase milk production. One of my friend told me I may get them from Kenya – Lemuru


  27. david says:

    you are doing goodwork .but mainly dwell on practicality.

  28. david says:

    farm africa ,we invite them to the ground to look at what farmers are doing and aproach and train them through cooperative socities.

  29. david says:

    where can i find the best farmer in north rift.especially those practicing zero grazing.

    • Mark Koech says:

      Hello david, if you are looking for a good farmer in North rift call 0722-688-238, just remember to reference Farming Afrika, thanks.

  30. david magaki says:

    assit to know more l am a starter in dairy


  31. wycliffe says:

    thanks for information .however where is the table on feed ration

  32. Ortega says:

    How does the a milk cow get a balanced diet

  33. hi the price of cow ranges from how to in Ugandan money and where can we get the from in uganda

    • Eric K. (Farming Afrika Admin) says:

      Hi Christopher,

      Unfortunaltely im not familiar with places in Uganda where good cows can be bought.
      Regarding price, it could cost anything from 2634611 ugandan shillings to 4939895 ugandan shillings depending on the quality of cow, whether its incalf or lactating.
      I hope this helps.

  34. birech says:

    Thanks for such nobal information on dairy farming.

  35. walter says:

    i am very happy with the information i found out i am soon starting the same thanks.

  36. Barnabas Mutinda says:

    Im very interested in doing dairy farming. ive got good space to start. I love your ideas nd id reallylike you to advise me.

  37. Margaret says:

    wonderful article!!
    Kindly, let me know if you offer training to persons interested.

  38. Kibusia says:

    Like what I read

  39. Ramesh says:

    good evening,
    I am running a cattle dairy farm with 15 milking cows. I want to know which is
    better rice bran or wheat bran.

    • Lydia says:


      As you seek good feeds for your cows.
      I am a supplier of quality wheat bran, and wheat pollard based in Mombasa.
      I can arrange free delivery of the same within Mombasa.

      If you are in up country, we can arrange affordable transport .

  40. francis moturi says:

    Great help. I need to know how i can develop a well balanced diet for my cows at manageable cost. Which ingredients to use for dairy cows.

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