News and knowhow for farmers

Moving from concentrate to fodder-based dairy farming holds key to smallholder profitability

Moving from a concentrate to a fodder-based dairy production system can slash smallholder farmer production costs increasing farm profitability.

Results from the Ireland-Kenya Dairy Project in Nyandarua and Nakuru Counties have shown that feeding cows on improved forages can provide over 90 per cent of the diet requirements of dairy animals.

According to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Kenya’s dairy sector depends on the importation of animal genetics which are bred for high milk yields based on the feeding of high-quality concentrates.

A 70 kg bag of dairy meal costs a minimum of Sh2,800. A steep for many smallholder farmers, but refusal to feed dairy cows adapted to concentrate on dairy meal daily results in shorter, and lower lactations lowering milk yields as well as increased calving intervals which handicaps a dairy farm’s profitability.

“Kenya’s productivity per milking cow is low compared to the potential of our cows because most farmers utilise breeding systems in which animals are picked from genetics that heavily rely on concentrate use,” explained KALRO Research Officer David Mbugua.

Without being fed on high concentrate diets, these animals produce below their capacity, providing low gross margins and poor farm profitability.

David, also the Ireland-Kenya Dairy Project Innovation Manager, added that farmers need to shift to forage-based dairy technologies to reduce the cost of milk production per liter to enable the country’s smallholder dairy industry to remain competitive internally and in the region.

Through funding from the Irish government, KALRO has been able to develop pasture-based dairy systems that can meet more than 90 percent of a dairy cow’s diet at its Dairy Research Institute at Naivasha.

Read more:

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Dairy farmers raise incomes five fold through fodder conservation

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