Selecting the right bull which has desirable qualities to serve his cows so that it can pass the characteristics into his dairy cows has been Geoffrey Ng'ang'a, dairy farmer from Wangige in Kiambu County’s secret weapon in getting high milk yields and quality calves than he used to two years ago.
“I was milking 18 litres of milk per cow compared to the current 24litres per cow. I also used Sh500 per week on treatment of my cows and sometimes with the worry of difficulties my cows experienced during delivery I had to hire an expert at a fee every time a cow was about to give birth to help just in case,” he said.
Ng’ang’a’s cows often developed many problems including complications that lead to still births, stunted calves, poor fertility, frequent diseases and even deformities in his cows which are some of the bad traits inherited from certain bulls. This made him realize low milk production and low demand of his heifers in the market.
“When it came to breeding, I used to mate my cows with my own bulls or those from the neighbouring farmers regardless of whether the animals could be related or the health status of the bulls. Sometimes I ended up mating the cow’s daughter with the father, which would cause inbreeding (mating closely related animals) affecting health and productivity of my cows,” said ng’ang’a.
A friend advised him to visit Kenya Animal and Genetics Resource Centre (KAGRC) in Lower Kabete for inquiries and this is where things started changing.
He has realised that breeding is key in dairy farming, his cows have improved on milk production, his calves are no longer lost before birth anyhow nor do his heifers look undesirable in the market thanks to proper breeding knowledge he got from the centre.
“I practice Artificial Insemination (AI) by the help of an expert who selects the semen from high quality bulls to fertilise my cows. I also do natural inseminating whereby upon observing the heat signs in my cows I chose healthy and unrelated bulls to my cows to mount them,” said Ng’ang’a.
Ng’ang’a who started with just a dairy cow now has five dairy cows of which three are lactating. He has observed increase in milk production among his cows since he adopted the proper breeding system. “I now milk 144 litres a day from my three cows against 108 litres I could milk from three cows per day before,” he said.
He currently has two female Friesian heifers of about 380kg which are ready for market. The two goes for Sh75, 000 each, he said.
According to KAGRC Livestock expert Eliud Mwangi, breeding is an important aspect of modern dairy farming anywhere but most small-scale farmers lack even the most basic skills in dairy cow breeding which is a big problem to the development of the livestock industry in the country.
Mwangi advices that for the farmers using AI record keeping of the bulls whose semen has been used to serve their cows is important because this helps avoid inbreeding cases. “Artificial Insemination records which include the name of the bull whose semen was used, date and age at service, number of times the cow has been inseminated, calvings and serving intervals should be well kept,” he said.