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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dairy farmers to unlock milk supply shortage

By Lilian Wangui

Beef ranching is known to be the predominant economic activity in Laikipia County. It has led to most farmers inclining more into rearing beef cattle than dairy cattle. Due to this imbalance, milk shortage has become a rampant especially in Laikipia West. Farmers, therefore, need to be encouraged to venture more into dairy farming business. However, dairy cattle management is not as easy as a walk in the park, relevant husbandry skills are necessary for better profitability in the venture. The farmer should be ready to put an extra effort if at all they need to fetch handsome amount of money.

With all this in mind, a group by the name Wangwache dairy farmers, comprising of about 100 members have made a wise decision to be seek husbandry skills in regard to dairy cattle keeping before diving into the business as a group.  They sought assistance from the divisional livestock officials in sipili; Mr.Peter Mukono and Mr.Muriithi. The farmers meet every Wednesday in the afternoon and the trainings has been on for the last five weeks. Lessons cover topics on: how to design a zero grazing unit, feeding ration for dairy cattle, how to take care of a lactating cow, record keeping, calf management and breeding.

Breeding is one topic that seemed to excite them a lot because it entailed issues such as cycle of a cow, benefits of artificial insemination and signs that depict a cow is on heat. These and many others issues are most frequently asked by farmers. Prompting Mr. Muriithi, the livestock production officer to respond by training them. The following is a brief highlight of the trainings.

The four types of breeds known for milk production are Friesian, Ayrshire, Guernsey and Jersey. Friesian weighs over 160kgs, predominantly black and white and it’s known to produce the highest amount of milk with no fat compared to the other breeders. However, it’s a heavy feeder. Ayrshire comes second in the production of milk. Guernsey is third highest producers of good quality milk though with lots of fat. Jersey is the smallest of all the mentioned breeds, produces milk with the highest content of fat.  The breeds can survive in a wide range of conditions.

Another critical issue was depicting signs of a cow on heat (estrus), failure of which can lead to low pregnancy rates and lower lifetime milk production. Therefore, some of the signs highlighted were: mounting, a sure sign, mooing a lot and refusing to eat, clear mucus discharge at the vulva, sniffing around the vulva region between her and other cattle and many other subtle signs. The farmer should be keen on these signs lest she/he misses the critical moment.

Artificial insemination (AI) is a technique a farmer handling dairy cattle cannot afford to assume whatsoever. It comes with its own benefits which are: a farmer can decide to select the desired breed semen to transfer to his/her cows, one is able to keep an accurate breeding and calving records and it prevents the spread of certain diseases.

Finally the group is currently mobilizing each other to try and collect about 2000 litter’s day for them to qualify as a dairy farmer group. Their future plans are to stock high quality dairy cattle and to have milk preserving machine they call it (cooler) established at Sipili town.

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