Milk is a tasty beverage (According to me 😀)… that has long been associated with good health, making it one of the most consumed drinks throughout Kenya and the world.
Milk contains valuable nutrients that offers a range of health benefits. One of these nutrients is Calcium which prevents a condition called osteoporosis.
The fact that so many people in the world love milk and are drinking it daily, means the demand for milk is high and you can earn a living by being a producer of raw/processed milk.
However generating a stable income from milk production is not that easy. You need to put in a lot of effort, time, brilliance and patience to get good profits.It does not matter if you own a pedigree dairy cow or indigenous (local) breed in Kenya. You need to have the right skills and information to know what makes the cow tick so that it can produce more milk for you. Milk means money, more milk means more money. Without further ado, let me get straight to the point and explain how you can boost your milk production.
The aim of keeping a dairy cow is to obtain the maximum amount of milk. A cow will perform at its best only if its basic needs are met. These include:
- Food and water should ALWAYS be available to your cows.
- Your dairy cows should always be in good health.
- The cows should have a good living environment that is free from discomfort and uncomfortable temperatures.
- Cows need to be handled well. Make sure you treat your cows with care and not harrass them. No necessary whips! Mmesikia?! 😅
Good feeding and nutrition alone constitute 60 per cent of the production cost of milk. Hence, feeding management play a vital role in farm economy. Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used in the body to promote growth, maintenance, reproduction and production. Important nutrients that dairy cows need are energy, proteins, minerals, vitamins and water
According to the East Africa Dairy Development Project by Cgiar, Ensure your dairy cows get the following everyday to boost your milk yield;
The energy portion of the feed fuels all body functions, enabling the animal to undertake various activities including milk synthesis. This is the major nutrient (in terms of quantity) that dairy cows require. Energy can be obtained from several types of feed stuffs that contain either carbohydrates or lipids (fats and oils). Carbohydrates are the major source of energy in the diet of dairy cows.
- Grasses i.e Kikuyu, Rhodes, Star, Bracharia and Napier
Carbohydrates constitute between 50% and 80% of the dry matter in forages and grains.
Giving less energy: The most obvious sign of energy deficiency is poor body condition due to excessive
weight loss. Lactating cows are unable to reach peak milk production in early lactation
resulting in low lactation yields.
Giving too much energy: Cows consuming too much energy become too fat, resulting in low conception rates. They are prone to difficult calving, retained placenta, and higher incidence of milk fever and ketosis. In early lactation, feeding too much energy, especially in the form of grain, may lead to too much acid in the rumen (acidosis), increased risk of displaced abomasum, depressed feed intake and low milk fat percentage.
Proteins provide the building material for all body cells and tissues (e.g. blood, skin, organs and muscles). Proteins are also major components of products such as milk and meat. Lack of protein therefore adversely affects milk production.
Sources of protein for dairy cows are;
Oilseeds and oilseed cakes: Residues after the oil is removed from oilseeds, e.g. cottonseed meal or cake, whole cottonseed, whole soybeans (cracked) or meal and sunflower meal or cake.
Products of animal origin: Such as fish meal, blood meal, meat and bone meal, feather meal and by-products from milk processing (e.g. skim milk and whey).
Herbaceous legumes: Such as lucerne, desmodium and fodder trees (e.g.
calliandra and sesbania).
Non-protein nitrogen: Cows can obtain protein from sources that do not contain true proteins, such as urea and poultry waste (contains uric acid). These sources are referred to as non-protein nitrogen sources. Microorganisms in the rumen use the nitrogen in urea to synthesize protein for their own growth.
Giving less protein: For lactating cows, there is a sudden drop in milk production if the amount of protein in the diet is suddenly reduced. Severe deficiency may cause excessive weight loss in lactating cows, reduced growth rate in calves and heifers, and result in underweight calves being born.
Giving too much protein: Protein is an expensive nutrient and feeding excess is a waste of money as protein is not stored in the body but is broken down by microorganisms in the rumen and excreted in
the form of urea.
Minerals are nutrients required in small amounts in the feed. They are required for the body to function properly, i.e. remain healthy, reproduce and produce milk.
Although roughages and concentrates contain minerals, the types and amounts vary widely and hence may not meet the requirements. During ration formulation, macrominerals calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are taken into account. Roughages will supply adequate amounts of potassium and common salt can adequately provide sodium. Some ingredients (supplements) are added to supply a specific mineral (e.g. limestone, salt, magnesium oxide).
• Poor fertility: lack of heat signs and low conception rate
• Low milk production
• Poorly developed bones in young animals (rickets)
• Health disorders, for example, milk fever
• Poor body condition, which may be accompanied by a change in coat colour
Vitamins are nutrients in the feed required by the body in tiny amounts for normal functioning of the body, through their involvement in many body processes.
Giving less vitamins: Deficiencies are rare under normal conditions but may occur under certain conditions e.g extreme stress, drought, diseases.
Giving too much vitamins: There is no important health consequence of excess vitamins as the body is able to get rid of the excess. However, vitamin supplements are expensive and hence feeding too
much is an economic loss to the farmer.
Water, though not classified as a nutrient, is essential for life in all animals. Water accounts for 74% of the calf’s weight at birth and 59% of that of a mature cow. Every 100 kg of milk contains up to 87 kg of water.