Isaac Shilaro, a smallholder dairy farmer in Kakamega showcasing his cow during a past Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) show at Kakamega Showground.
A healthy fertile cow gives one healthy calf per year. The cow also produces more milk and delivers more calves during her lifetime. A majority of small scale dairy farmers in Kenya practice domestic dairy farming which involves keeping traditional cows for subsistence milk. Farmers sometimes keep cows that produce little milk yet they consume more feed. Heifers that give much milk can replace cows that give less milk. Surplus heifers, male calves and milk should be sold for profit.
According to research done by the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Organization, poorly fed cows take long to conceive. Thus cows should be given different good quality feeds that they require. These should include:
- Bulk: Napier grass, maize stover and wheat straw.
- Protein: Sweet potato vines, lucerne & fodder tree leaves.
- Minerals: Dairy lick, Maclick super and Unga high phosphorus.
- Concentrates: Maize germ meal, cotton seed cake and dairy meal.
- Water: At least 2 buckets of water per cow per day
- A well–fed cow served between 45 and 90 days after calving will give a calf every year. Cows often lose weight after calving. Good feeding of the cow can reduce this weight loss, which you can check by regularly measuring the chest girth.
Farmers are advised to serve their cows when they are on heat. There are signs of a cow on heat which include; a cow looking for the company of other cows or bulls, she attempts to mount them, sniffs at other cows or is restless and noisy.
The clearest sign of heat is when the cow stands when being mounted. This means that the cow can be inseminated or served by the bull. If after two days you notice bloody, mucus discharge from vulva, this is a confirmation that the cow was on heat. The next heat period will occur after about 3 weeks (18-25 days). Look out for signs of heat during these days. If you see them, put the cow back to the bull to ensure conception.
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To see the heat signs, watch the cow carefully three times a day: In the morning before and after milking, in the afternoon before and after milking and in the evening around 10 o'clock. Spend at least 20 minutes each time. The more times you observe the better.
A farmer can arrange for artificial insemination or service by a bull. For artificial Insemination best results are obtained when insemination is done at the end of the heat period or at the start of the late heat period. Cows that are in standing heat early in the morning should be inseminated in the afternoon of the same day. Those that are on heat in the afternoon or evening should be inseminated the next day in the morning.
In case a bull has to be used for service, then the cow should be brought to the bull when the heat is observed.
“It should however be noted that not all inseminations are successful. At times, a cow does not conceive at all even after repeated inseminations. It can also happen that cows conceive, but the embryo of the foetus dies. This is most frustrating. In case this happens, call a veterinarian to investigate and advise accordingly” says Vincent Ochieng, a research officer at KALRO.
Information sourced from KALRO website