Feeding Options For the Dairy Cow

by Country Vet

The dairy industry in Kenya is the most developed of the livestock sub-sectors and is relatively well developed compared to other sub-Saharan countries. This industry is dominated by Small-scale farmers. Dairy utilizes pasture more efficiently than other ruminants for production of human food.

Despite the Kenya dairy industry being fairly advanced, average milk production is still below expectation. This is due to various challenges facing the industry. One of these challenges is the lack of adequate feed resources and where available, it is seasonal and quality is poor. This is also coupled with high cost of concentrates as a result of competition with the human population since these are derived from human food.

Many small-scale dairy farmers struggle to identify the correct feeds to give to their cows. Other potential investors in this business hold back from venturing into dairying because they lack ideas as to what feeds to use. This is despite the fact that many feed resources are naturally available and only little effort is needed to obtain them. In this post, we’re going to look at some of the local and readily available feeding options you can utilize to start or further develop your dairy business.

Forage Feeding

These are mainly green feeds such as Napier grass, Lucerne and sweet potato vines among others. All forages should be chopped and fed in feeding troughs to avoid feed wastage. Forage have a total crude fibre (CF) of more than18%. They have low nutrient density and usually have low digestibility except for the lush young forage. Crude protein in forages is variable with a range of 2-4% in straws to 20% in legumes such as lucerne. Mineral content (Ca, Mg, K high, P may be limited) also varies from good to poor.

Other forages include: oats, sugarcane, sorghum and brassicas.

Straw

Straw refers to the agricultural byproduct consisting of the dry stalks of cereal plants after the grain and chaff have been removed. These include materials such as wheat straw, rice straw and maize Stover. It is recommended that these are first soaked in water and molasses to soften them before being fed to cows. A cow should be given about 40-70 kg of straw daily.

Ration

Ration or better known as Total Mixed Ration or simply TMR refers to a feeding system in which weighing and blending all feedstuffs is done to come up with a complete ration with balanced and containing high nutrients. In this system cows are fed based on production for the milking herd and growth rate required for young stock, growth rate and fat deposition for the beef animals. It has several advantages over the adlib non planned feeding system; among these are:

  • Minimizes wastage, enhances voluntary feed intake,
  • All feeds roughage and concentrate are mixed together allowing no selection,
  • Feeding done with an aim of meeting specific needs,
  • Grain mixture can be liberally fed without fear of grain overload,
  • Its’ cheap in relation to feeding labour cost
  • It’s possible to estimate the feeds requirement etc.

Dairy cattle ration should contain 70% energy source, 30% protein source and required minerals.

Concentrates

Concentrates are rich in nutrients (energy and/or protein) and provide far more nutrients than an equivalent weight of roughage. They are low in fibre and usually have higher dry matter content. Their production entails processing of raw feed materials. Energy concentrates are prepared from materials such as Cereal grains and by-products such as maize, wheat, barley and cane molasses; Root crops, such as potato and cassava; and fats and oils. Protein concentrates are usually plant derived from soya residue, sunflower, cottonseed, groundnut and leguminous seeds. They can also be animal protein derived from fish, meat, blood, milk products and poultry waste.

Concentrates should always be given to lactating cows especially during milking. Dried off cows and heifers should be given concentrates beginning 2 months before calving.


To Better settle with the best feed for your dairy cow. Consider consulting your veterinarian. This will go far in ensuring the success of your dairy business.

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