Dairy cows whether exotic, hybrid or crossbred if not taken good care of in terms of feeding, housing and protection against diseases can remain unproductive and prone to diseases dwindling the farmer’s income.
Large-scale and longtime dairy farmers consider a balanced diet as a MUST for their cows which is the right feed in the right amount and at the right time. These farmers understand the role of Napier grass as fodder for animals. However, feeding their cows on Napier grass, little pasture and water, banana leaves and such is an improper diet in dairy farming.
Napier grass for example is one of the best and most reliable fodder for livestock, but farmers should know that about 70 to 80 per cent of this fodder is composed of water, meaning that the animals get only 20 to 30 per cent dry matter.
“Besides selecting good breeds, proper feeding, housing and handling of dairy cows are sure ways of getting good yields and income. A good breed that receives good feed and clean water, proper housing and friendly and gentle care gives more milk and money while a poorly managed one gives less milk and the farmer incurs huge veterinary expenses that reduce profits,” said Dr David Michuki of Dao Chem company- the company which manufactures varieties of Vitamark livestock salt.
According to Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization – Kalro, the amount of feed provided to the cows depends on the amount of milk it produces, its weight, temperature and levels of activity. The feeds should give lactating cow energy, protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins and water in the right amounts.
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Experts advise that dairy cows especially those of 400Kg should be fed with about 15 kg of dry matter fodder. This means that if you were to feed your cow on Napier grass, molasses, maize and wheat germ or any other grass fodder such should be three feet on because this length of fodder grass has enough dry matter and less water hence adequate nutrition.
Kaganda Mathias is one of the leading smallholder dairy farmers in Njeru town which is adjacent to the Nile Breweries Plant. He has been feeding his dairy cows beer by-products. “Feeling the big stomachs of my cows is not a simple task, I get other feeds from pasture grasses, fodder and my homemade silage that enables me to cater for their basal diet,” said Mathias.
After a cow has been given food rich in proteins, vitamins and energy water is key. It comprises more than half the weight of an adult dairy cow which should be given 60 litres of water per day.