Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Inside Nyandarua farm with 250 dairy cows producing 60,000 litres on cheap feed

Investing in dairy farming can be a profitable venture if done correctly. Many farmers who have tried the venture have raked in good incomes thanks to new technology that has made it easier for them to handle their cows.

Nyandarua County is one of the leading producers of milk in the country, with many farmers in the region practicing large-scale dairy farming.

Billy Mwaura is one of the farmers reaping big from dairy farming after stepping into the venture about 10 years ago.

He runs Grazers Barn Dairies, one of the biggest dairy farms in Nyandarua. The farm has adopted modern technology that has eased the handling of cows, including feeding and milking.

According to Mwaura, Grazers Barn Dairies currently hosts 250 dairy cows, most of which are Friesian breeds while the rest are Ayrshires.

He explained that he prefers the Friesian breed due to their high milk production adding that their only disadvantage is low butter fat content in their milk.

The farm is divided into sections with each hosting a certain number of animals. The cows are grouped according to their productivity.

Cheap dairy feed producing 30 litres of milk per cow daily

The highest-producing section hosts 9 dairy cows, each producing about 50 litres of milk per day, with the highest yielder producing 56 litres of milk per day.

”We started with very few low-quality cows. Production was very low, at an average of 6 litres per cow. This was due to poor management because we were not conversant with feeding, but over the years, we have improved,’’ he says.

Mwaura notes that getting high-quality breeds, high-quality seeds, and quality feeds is crucial for profitable dairy farming.

He has adopted the total mixed ration (TMR) feeding method, which he says has helped his cows achieve maximum performance.

”TMR is where you blend all the silage, Boma Rhodes, and the concentrates together to ensure the cow gets all the nutrients it needs,’’ explains Mwaura.

His cows are fed varying rations depending on production. He notes that they mostly feed on concentrates, which he formulates on the farm to cut production costs.

Kiambu farmer making Sh6.7 million from 158 dairy cows

”We don’t buy commercial dairy meal; we do on-farm formulation. So when formulating, we put more protein for the high yielders, while low yielders get less protein,’’ he adds.

He, however, explains not all protein sources will give the desired results, adding that he conducts a lot of lab tests to identify materials with the highest protein content.

According to Alex Gathii, a Dairy Production, Processing, and Marketing consultant, not providing the cow with the right nutrients leads to low milk production.

He notes that a cow is properly nourished when it is fed proteins, energy, minerals, vitamins, fibre, and water.

These nutrients can be obtained from forages such as maize stalk, sorghum, Napier grass, and silage, as well as concentrates like grains and seeds.

“In total, a lactating cow should consume dry matter equivalent to at least 3 percent of its body weight. For instance, if the cow weighs 600kg then its total feed should amount to at least 18kg of dry matter per day.” Says Gathii.

He adds that good forages for dairy cows include grasses such as Kikuyu and Napier, Boma Rhodes, lucerne hay, Brachalia, sweet potato vines, desmodium, sorghum, and maize, among others.

On the other hand, good concentrates for dairy cows are dairy meal, maize germ, wheat bran, undiluted molasses, and seed cakes.

On the best breed, Gathii says Friesians are at the top as they produce the most milk on average, followed by Ayrshire, Guernsey, and Jersey.

He explains that the best dairy cows have certain physical features such as a high body frame, large and wide in size, and a well-developed udder.

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