Thursday, July 25, 2024

Phylis Wangari: How I feed my cows to produce more milk

With the rising cost of animal feeds in the country, dairy farmers are looking for ways to increase production while keeping the production cost low.

One of the tricks farmers have adopted is the use of homemade feeds. Phylis Wangari, a dairy farmer in Kinangop in Nyandarua county, says high production costs forced her to quit maize farming for livestock feed production.

On her three-acre farm, she grows super Napier grass, Ryegrass, and Lucerne, which she uses to feed her cows.

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The farmer who has six Friesian cows explains that before she started feeding the cows on Super Napier, they used to produce 10 liters each, but this has gone up to 12 liters, with the best cow producing more.

She mixes the super Napier with Ryegrass and Lucerne to form a nutrient-rich feed. She also mixes super Napier with maize stocks to make silage for the cows. Wangari says her six Friesian cows give 80 litres of milk per day.

Super Napier contains 16-18 crude protein and Lucerne 18-22 per cent crude protein which is crucial for milk production.

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The grass is a hybrid obtained by crossing the ordinary Napier (elephant grass) with pearl millet. Due to its milk-boosting capabilities, it has become the most sought-after grass by dairy farmers.

James Gathumbi a farm consultant in Murang’a, says super Napier grass has a very high biomass with a protein content of 18 percent, which is double the amount of protein found in ordinary Napier grass.

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“It is a fast-growing fodder that will attain a height of 2.4 meters just 60 days after planting and is a highly vegetative plant,” he said.

Alex Gathii, a Dairy Production, Processing, and Marketing consultant, says for high milk production, a cow needs quality feeding that contains proteins, energy, minerals, vitamins, fiber, 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.

“The cow’s meal – mixed up well – should be divided into six potions, which would then be given to the cow throughout the day,” he adds.

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