Dairy cattle production in East Africa has increased recently due to the high demand for fresh milk for a growing population and demand for a value added milk products for an expanding urban middle class. To meet this increase demand there is need to increase the amount of available milk. This increase can be either by increasing the milk yield per cow or by increasing the number of animals. Due to the pressure on land, increasing the milk yield per cow is the preferred option.
A dairy cow can be thought of as a manufacturing factory.
Into any manufacturing company go raw materials, which are processed and out of the factory comes a new product. The raw materials that go into the milk manufacturing are the nutrients. The quantity and quality of these nutrients depend on the feed consumed by the cow. If the cow is fed on poor quality feed in large quantities or high quality in small quantities, little milk will be manufactured. The size of the factory can be compared with the size of the cow where a large factory will hold raw materials, so will a large cow have a large rumen.
Requirements of a Dairy Cow
(a) Energy – requirement here depend on the following: Maintenance Amount of milk the cow produces. Reproductive condition – a pregnant cow requires more energy to cater for the growth of the calf.
(b) Protein – protein is essential for the development of the cow, crude protein of 18% is recommended in ratios for high yielding cows. Animals that are fed during this phase come on heat and achieve a 365-day calving interval.
(c) Minerals Minerals are essential for production and reproduction of dairy cows. We have different types of mineral supplements for different stages of animal development. Other methods of increasing productivity in dairy cattle include use of the following. Challenge feeding. Use of T.M.R (Total Mixed Ration)