By George Munene
When Sharon Muthoni bought a Friesian cow from Marimanti, Tharaka Nithi and brought it to Kanga, Menu she was sure it would thrive. It was, after all, moving to a region with abundant feed and a cooler climate – all of which she’d known to be factors that enable a cow, especially a milking one, to excel.
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But things turned out a little different. Despite giving it abundant feed, the cow’s milk production fell, from 12 kgs daily to 7 kgs. She learnt the hard way that feeding isn’t the be-all and end-all in good milk production. The environment your cow is acclimatised to plays a crucial yet understated role in getting the best out of it.
Sharon had factored in everything else, bar the sudden change in climate, before bringing the new cow to her herd. A story Mr.Ezekiah Oyugi, a livestock production consultant and animal scientist, has sadly seen repeated too often. Farmers pay little regard to the outsized impact of the environment in dictating a milking cow’s performance.
At a basic level, Oyugi asks that farmers understand how a cow’s environment defines it on three levels:
Genotype and Environment
Alleles (a series of genes that determine characteristics that are inherited) are expressed differently in varying environments. A cow used to the cool and wet climate of Nakuru when taken to a hot and dry region, such as Kisumu, will suffer high lipid metabolism due to the high temperatures. This stresses the cow and may cause blood regulation to fail, this, in turn, irrevocably alters the animals’ genetics and lowers it’s production. That’s how you wind up having bought a pedigree cow who’s production continually diminishes.
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You should work to make the environment, such as hot and dry Kisumu, less vigorous by planting trees, placing fans in the shed and giving a diet similar to the one the cow was used to.
Breed and Environment
Different breeds are adapted to various environments. Since Friesian cows are reputed as the best milk producers, most farmers opt for them regardless of their specific environment and rule out breeds that are better suited to their locality. You should get help from vets to help you in picking out the best breed for where you are.
Individual and Environment
If you are hell-bent on just keeping Friesian cows, irrespective of your environment, pick out a Friesian stock adaptable to your area, a Friesian sire can be sourced from anywhere else through AI