Over 4000 smallholder dairy farmers in Central and Eastern region have embraced animal record keeping, a venture that is not only doubling their milk yields but also reducing the rate of animal loss to diseases like Mastitis and foot and mouth diseases.
The practice which has been fronted by Pioneer Feeds limited a company selling animal feeds to farmers has received tremendous backing by the farmers for the benefits it promises. In a bid to enhance tidiness and proper farm management methods, the company introduced animal record card for their esteemed clients. “We realized that many farmers were losing out on their animal yields. There were also increased cases of over expenditure on the veterinary services due to the rising cases of animal diseases and most of these were aided by the fact that they did not have a well-managed archive of records about their animals hence the need to mitigate these problems with organized record keeping methods,” noted Joseph Karoli a Nutritionist Officer. He also added that the need for the record management mainly was initiated through the extension services and open field days that the company conducts through their community outreach services as it came out to be the most pressing challenge to the farmers.
The model is quickly being adopted as farmers are enlightened on the benefits of having such records about their animals whenever they visit the company outlets to purchase animal feeds. “Farmers actually wanted to keep the records and some tried to implement but did not have a clear knowledge of what details to be documented and how frequent the information should be updated. This is why we decided to introduce to them a simplified model in form of a card that is sold at Sh10 but with all the major details covering the health, feeding and milk production of a cow,” explained Karoli.
Although most farmers tend to have records about their animals, most of the details is always focused on the yields like the milk production while ignoring the most essential details that contribute to the good welfare of the animals which if well administered then automatically the higher yields are realized.
The animal record cards are meant for each and every animal and the details include the feeding habits of the animal for instance what quantity of feeds it eats in a day, water among others. Karoli explained the cards and documentation are best introduced right from the time the cow is served onwards.
The documentation of every detail about the cow in the card helps the farmer to monitor any change in feeding habit which may signal an illness hence quick intervention of a veterinary officer to ascertain the root problem and eventually save the animal’s life. Feeding documentation also helps to ensure that a farmer does not under-feed or over-feed the cow as underfeeding contributes to challenges like the cow taking longer periods to be served. The monthly feeding record of cow also helps a farmer to plan and budget well for their livestock.
The card also include details about an animal’s health where the health history record is documented for instance which disease was diagnosed on what date, what treatment administered and the dosage among others. This helps a veterinary officer to follow up in case there is a sign of disease to the animal and also helps one to administer the right medication basing on the details documented in the card noted Karoli. He added that this contrasts greatly with the farmers who have no record about their animal hence when they attacked by diseases, diagnosis takes a longer time and sometimes the longer periods results in the loss of the animal.
The animal record card in the long run helps one to know whether the venture is profit making or a mere burden to the farmer. Karoli noted that this is one way of encouraging farmers to embrace dairy smart farming and realise the benefits of this lucrative venture.