YOUR ANIMAL DOCTOR: Dairy cow feeding regime

Friday November 24 2017

Sesae Bogolla feeds his cows in his dairy farm

Sesae Bogolla feeds his cows in his dairy farm in Badasa area, Marsabit County. PHOTO|FILE 

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I’m new in dairy farming and I have a challenge on what rations I should feed my three cows? Please assist.
Charles Chepkwony

For a healthy and productive cow, feeds should provide the right balance of energy, proteins, minerals and vitamins. Fodder such as napier and Boma Rhodes may be supplemented with sweet potato vines, lucerne and desmodium, which are rich in protein. If fresh, they are best fed after a day’s wilt and chopped into 2 inches for the cows to feed easily with minimal wastage. Silage if available would be a great alternative. You may add molasses which is rich in energy and minerals although low in protein. Each of your cows should be fed 15-20kg of chopped forage per day. Additionally, feed 3kg concentrates (dairy meal) per day for each cow depending on individual production. You may challenge the animals by increasing their dairy meal rations to an optimal level. Provide mineral salt at a rate of 150g for every 5 litres of milk produced, and an extra 60g for every extra 5 litres. Free lick Intromin Mineral block should be availed at all times. Wholesome drinking water must be available all the time.

Getting into pig farming
I want to venture into pig farming and I am requesting for any crucial information that I should be armed with before starting.

Your pig unit should be located in a quiet area far from any residential settlements for purposes of disease control, manure management and avoidance of inconveniences to the public. The house should be constructed in such a way that there are pens for breeding, furrowing and feeding with good lighting and ventilation. The floor should be cemented with a slant for drainage. Good sanitation is a must. Identify a reliable source of feeds near you; pigs have a sow and weaner and finisher rations. Have fresh clean drinking water. Your local vet should help you design a parasite control and vaccination programmes. You must keep records for all activities undertaken. Lastly, have market for your animals.

Ready for use desomodium
I would like to buy ready desmodium for my cows. What is its nutritional value, how should I use it and can I get it packaged?
David Bor

Desmodium is rich in protein. It is best inter-cropped, harvested and fed together with napier or Rhodes grass. You can bale it into hay or feed fresh (after wilting). If fed fresh, chop it into pieces of 2 inches or so for ease of feeding and to minimise wastage. You may buy desmodium seeds from Kalro.

When to serve a heifer
When is the best age to serve a heifer that has never had a calf?? Any recommended breed or semen for virgin heifers and how should I prepare it?

The best age to serve a heifer is 13-15 months so that she calves down between 22-24 months. She should have attained between 230 to 300kg body weight depending on the breed. You may use sexed semen for heifers or just standard semen from a reliable source. For milk quantity, you may go for a Friesian and a Jersey breed for quality. Preparation of heifers for breeding starts when the calf is born. Feed her colostrum first week after which you could introduce ‘Intromilk’ milk replacer. Intromilk helps in faster rumen development thereby allowing the calf to start digesting fodder for early maturity. At breeding, heifers must not be underfed or overfed as any of these may cause challenges. Feed the heifers with good quality fodder, 0.5kg of concentrates (dairy meal) per day, mineral supplements to boost heat and Stimosol oral to improve gut health and digestability of fodder. Deworm your heifer every three months.

Feedback:Dr Muchibi is a vet surgeon and the Animal Health Manager at Elgon Kenya. Send your questions on livestock to [email protected] or [email protected] Call him on 0733715102.

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