Its time for farmers to ask themselves where their milk comes from.
The ingredients for milk production is good quality fodder; (energy fodder and protein fodder), minerals concentrate (dairy meal) and water. The ideal ratio for feed intake by the cows in Kenya mainly consist of fodder and dairy meal. Because of costs and other cow factors, more than 70% of nutrients for the cow should come from fodder while the rest can come from concentrate
Gitonga a smallholder farmer in Meru has one Friesian cow called Betty producing 23 liters of milk in a day. Gitonga milks 3 times a day each time he feeds his cow with 2 kg of dairy meal meaning Betty consumes 6 kgs of dairy meal in one day.
What this means:
As a rule of the thumb every kilogram of dairy meal should result in two liters of milk. For example, a good cow can produce up to 15 liters of milk from good quality fodder only. To challenge the cow to produce more, a farmer can decide to add dairy meal and see if it results in additional production i.e see if 1 kg of dairy meal will push the cow to produce 17 liters, or 2 kilograms of additional dairy meal will result in 19 liters.
Back to Gitonga’s case,
- 6kg of dairy meal he feeds a day results in 12 liters of Milk.
- Milk produced by his cow from other sources is 11 liters (23 liters total production – 12 liters from dairy meal.)
Good quality fodder like maize silage (45-50% energy), Napier grass cut at 3 feet tall has (12-15% energy) and protein fodder, sweet potato leaves and vines 18% Crude protein, Calliandria 23% Crude protein are cheap alternatives that enable your cow produce more milk from fodder at a cheap cost with a flexibility to used dairy meal to challenge your cows to produce more. From our previous blog, a kilo of maize silage can cost as low as Ksh 5 to produce, while a kilo of dairy meal costs between Ksh 20 and Ksh 30. In addition to reduced costs, fodder will optimize rumen function and reduce cases of rumen acidosis.
Good quality fodder + all year availability is still the key to sustainable diary farming.
When you have good quality energy and protein fodder, it is recommended to feed dairy meal if:
- I kilo of dairy meals results in 2 liters of milk
- The cost of one kilo of dairy meal is lower than the cost of one kilo of milk.