Considerations 15   years   ago   our   herd   produced   up   to   25   liters   per   day   on   average,   whereas   they   only   produce between   12   to   15   liters   per   day   today   (depending      on   the   season).   Better   and   better   genetics were introduced into the herd every year while the production declined steadily and steeply. What happened??? Some    years    ago        I    read    somebody’s    quote    in    a    dairy    magazine    “To    achieve    the    maximum production   level   is   vanity,   while   to   aspire   an   economical   production   level   is   sanity”.   I   did   not   fully understand the truth about this sentence then... Yesterday   I   read   through   a   journal   of   a   group   of   dairy   farmers   who   travelled   to   South   Africa   on a   Dairy   Tour.   They   visited   a   dairy   farmer   who   had   a   large   Jersey   herd   under   extensive   grazing and   management   conditions   with   a   herd   average   of   7,000   liters   whose   finances   were   very   sound. The   next   day   they   met   a   Holstein   farmer   boasting   a   herd   average   of   over   14,000   liters,   under   a very   intensive   feeding   and   production   system.   This   actually   was   one   of   the   world’s   highest producing   Holstein   herds.   Astonishingly   (or   not?)   this   farmer   was   close   to   financial   and   economic collapse.   This   very   much   describes   our   own   situation.   While   years   ago   we   had   one   of   the   best producing   herds   in   Kenya   our   financial   situation   is   better   today   with   only   half   the   average production!   And   this   despite   highly   inflated   prices   for   all   kind   of   inputs   (feeds,   drugs,   fuel,   etc.) compared to the only moderately increased prices for all dairy produce. Through   sheer   economic   necessity   many   of   the   extremely   expensive   concentrate   feeds   and additives   had   to   be   replaced   by   cheap   and   locally   available   roughage   (natural   pasture   grass,   maize stover,   etc.   ).   Not   only   did   our   purse   profit   from   these   changes   but   the   cows   thanked   us   through much   better   fertility   levels   and   improved   general   health   (No   more   feet   problems   as   sole   ulcers and less mastitis, too). The   only   real   drawback   from   this   changed   situation   is   that   we   are   now   no   longer   able   to   tell   the true   production   potential   of   our   cows,   which   both   greatly   impairs   their   sale   value   and   also   makes selection for milk yield virtually impossible. What to do??? The   following   idea,   which   still   has   to   be   implemented   (we   are   planning   to   do   so   from   November 2014)   will   allow   us   to   reap   all   benefits   from   both   production   systems   without   greatly   impairing the   farm’s   profitability.   We   will   try   to   feed   and   manage   our   first   calf   heifers   for   the   first   100 days   of   their   lactation   in   the   best   way   possible   to   us,   without   considering   economic   viability.   So hopefully   this   will   enable   them   to   display   their   full   genetic   potential   and   additionally   prime   them for   a   lifespan   of   high   production   for   those   future   owners   who   wish   to   pursue   the   more   intensive approach. Below   management   regime   is   what   we   followed   when   our   herd   still   produced   25   liters   on   average, so   it   is   suitable   for   getting   your   cows   to   produce   those   extra   liters   of   milk.   This   might   still   make economic   sense   if   the   price   and   demand   for   your   milk   is   real   good   and   you   can   obtain   concentrate feeds   cheaply.   If   your   cows   don’t   respond   with   increased   production   you   should   consider   other factors   as   housing   (cow   comfort),   disease   management   (a   sick   cow   can’t   produce   well)   and   genetic potential   (many   cows,   in   particular   those   with   a   high   percentage   of   indigenous   blood,   simply   can’t produce a lot of milk). 100 Days Test 1 . Steaming-Up :   All      heavy   in-calf   Heifers   should   be   accustomed   to   the   people,   new   environment and   feeds   they   will   encounter   once   they   have   calved.   This   includes   training   them   to   enter   the milking-stall    without    being    scared,    accepting    being    touched    by    their    future    milkers    and getting   used   to   spending   time   on   a   slippery   concrete   surface   closely   packed   with   older   herd mates.   This   “steaming-up”   period   should   begin   one   month   prior   to   their   due   calving   date   at the latest. 2 . Three   times   milking :   After   being   born   the   calf   should   be   removed   immediately   prior   to   having suckled   it’s   dam   and   three   times   a   day   milking   should   commence   at   once   and   the   calf   bottle- fed   the   colostrum.   The   more   often   per   day   you   can   milk   her,   the   more   milk   she   will   give overall.   Never   let   the   cow   become   accustomed   to   foster   her   own   calf   as   this   might   impair   her milk   let   down   later   on.   Although   sounding   cruel   this   method   is   much   more   cow-friendly   than leaving   the   calf   to   suckle   for   the   colostrum   period.   By   the   end   of   that   time   dam   and   calf   will have fully bonded and both will cry their hearts out for days when finally separated... 3 . Feeding:    Animal   nutritionist   will   study   this   subject   for   years   prior   to   their   graduations   and whole   libraries   are   filled   with   volumes   of   books   detailing   feeding   particulars...   This   paragraph won’t   be   able   to   summarize   all   this   information   and   knowledge   and   won’t   pretend   to   even scratch it’s surface, but these few practical thoughts can get you a long way nonetheless: For   all   the   fundamentals   please   consult:      How   to   boost   milk   production   in   cows ,   Practical considerations in feeding dairy cows  and Formulating home made rations for dairy cattle Roughages   we   use   include   natural   pasture,   green   and   as   standing   hay,   napier   grass,   maize stover and silage made out of all these Forages   with   a   good   protein   content   used   are   leuceana   leaves,   gliricidia   leaves   and   stems, cassava leaves and stems, mucuna and natural occuring wild legumes Concentrate   feeds   used   include   dairy   meal   (I   still   believe   Mombasa   Maize   Millers’   “Faida” brand   is   the   best   locally   available   product),   cotton   seed   cake,   sim-sim   cake,   maize   germ   cake, maize germ meal, wheat bran, wheat pollard and molasses Adding    some    yeast    product    and    mycotoxin    binder    to    your    ration    will    greatly    improve digestibility,   reduce   heat   stress   caused   by   the   cow’s   metabolism   and   even   help   to   absorb some   unwanted   or   even   poisonous   contaminants.   “Alltech   Biotechnology   (K)   LTD”   and   “Cooper K-Brands   (LTD)”   supply   such   products   on   the   Kenyan   market.   Other   necessary   or   useful additives include a suitable mineral premix and urea (only for the more experienced!) (Unless   done   by   an   expert...)   Never   attempt   to   increase   the   concentrate   part   of   a   cow’s ration   to   over   the   amount   of   roughage   provided   and   this   must   be   strictly   calculated   in   terms of dry-matter Try   to   utilize   as   much   as   possible   locally   and   readily   available   ingredients   to   mix   a   ration   of sufficient   energy   and   protein   content.   Abrupt   changes   to   a   cows   diet   will   harm   her,   adding   or removing   ingredients   should   always   be   done   gradually.   It   is   wiser   to   use   lower   quality   feeds that   can   always   be   provided   than   high   quality   inputs   that   alternate   with   non   at   all   when regular supply can’t be guaranteed Chopping   all   roughage   to   about   1”   size   will   greatly   improve   intake   (more   food   has   space   in   your cow’s rumen), reduce leftovers (as stalks) and enable you to mix all ingredients together Total   mixed   Rations:    To   make   a   cow   eat   as   much   as   possible   her   food   must   taste   nice   to   her! Masking   the   taste   of   less   palatable   ingredients   (like   many   high   protein   feeds   or   minerals)   by mixing   them   under   very   tasty   material   will   make   a   cow   eat   more   overall   than   if   all   feeds   are presented separately. This is one of the main reasons for adding molasses to rations. Mixing   all   ingredients   together   will   greatly   improve   utilization   of   less   digestible   material   with high   fibre   content   while   reducing   chances   of   causing   stomach   upsets   (acidosis,   diarrhoea, etc.) caused by rapid intake of excessive starch and sugar Present   fresh   food   to   your   milking   cow   as   many   times   per   day   as   feasible,   but   at   least   twice, always   removing   left   overs   before   refilling   the   trough.   This   will   help   to   maintain   a   good   taste and   also   prevent   heating   and   nutrient   losses.   Refusals/leftovers   of   10%   of   the   original amount   presented   are   optimum.   This   will   guarantee   each   cow,   even   the   weaker   one,   has   eaten to    her    full    satisfaction    while    minimising    waste.    These    leftovers    can    still    be    utilized    by offering them to dry cows or bulls. Never feed rotten or mouldy food to your cows! A   suitable   and   sufficient   moisture   content   of   the   ration   will   guarantee   speed   and   ease   of swallowing    (ever    tried    to    swallow    plain    dry    wheat    flour    yourself???)    and    will    keep    all ingredients glued together to prevent sorting and digging for the more favoured particles Feed   trough   design   is   also   very   important:   Provide   sufficient   feed   trough   space   so   all   cows can   eat   simultaneously   without   having   to   fight.   Food   trough   floor   should   be   smooth   and   easy to   clean   and   at   least   8”   higher   than   the   floor   on   which   the   cow   is   standing.   Otherwise   she can’t   access   the   feeds   at   the   bottom   of   the   trough.   Add   some   type   of   railing   to   prevent   cows from    stepping    inside    the    trough    (which    contaminates    the    food    with    dung    and    makes    it unpalatable) or falling/being pushed in (which might even prove fatal to the cow!) Use   your   common   sense   (or   better   cow   sense....)   and   spend   some   time   each   day   watching   your cows   while   eating.   Many   shortfalls   in   your   feeding   regime   will   become   obvious   if   you   just spend this little extra time with your herd!
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