Dairy farming

Feeds your cow requires for optimum production

By Smart Farmer Writer

Cows need a daily supply of all the nutrients required for maintenance and production of milk, meat, growth and pregnancy. This means that feed rations for dairy cows must have for ages, concentrates, vitamins, minerals, salts, and water. (A ration is the amount of feed for a cow in one day.) Calves, young heifers, pregnant cows, and new mothers all require different combinations, and you should provide for this in the daily rations.

Energy & proteins

Cattle get most of their energy and protein from forages. They include grass, Lucerne, Napier grass, banana leaves and stems and more recently, canola. Different forages have different nutrient levels. They make up a huge chunk of animal feeds.

According to experts, too little energy in the diet will cause the animal to lose its body condition and become thin and weak, while too much will be stored as fat in your cow’s body. For milking cows, yields will drop. A cow will use a lot of energy during digestion and for milk production. Pregnant cows may become ill after calving.

Protein is important for good development of your dairy animals. Provide your animals with enough dry matter to ensure they get adequate protein. Dry matter is the total weight feed that remains when water and moisture is removed.

A mature cow takes about three per cent of dry matter of its body weight in a day. If your cow weighs 400 kilos it will need 12 kilos of quality fodder. A bale of hay weighs about 15 kilos and is sufficient for the cow. However, if it wants more, give it more.

Use what is available and affordable. Just because your neighbour uses soya does not mean you have to use it, too. He might have a good, affordable source of soya while you don’t. Seek the advice of an animal nutritionist on how to control the cost of your feeds, without compromising the health of your animals.

Concentrates

These supplement forages and provide energy (carbohydrates), proteins, fats, and vitamins. They include cotton seed cake, sunflower seed cake, rice germ, polished rice husks, maize germ, canola seed cake, wheat pollard, and brewers’ waste, among others. Concentrates can be premixed. Dairy meal is one such concentrate.

Feed companies aim at matching the nutritional value of their dairy meal to the required nutritional needs of the aniFeeds your cow requires for optimum production By Smart Farmer Writer info@smartfarmerkenya.com COW NUTRITION mal. The feeds market is flooded with unscrupulous traders who adulterate dairy meal with sand and other things. Feeding your cattle on such can easily lead to illness or even death. Get your concentrates (dairy meal) analysed in a lab as often as you can to ensure that the nutritional values match what is written on the labels.

What you should know about dairy meal

Always read the label to find out the nutrient content. Confirm the amount of energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre in the feed. No two concentrates are the same. Some may be high in protein but very low in energy, which is not good for high milk producing cows.

Vitamins

Vitamins are important for your dairy cow. Your animals will require vitamins A, D and E. Lack of adequate vitamins will have some undesirable effects on your animals.

Vitamin A: Lack of or insufficient vitamin A will affect the growth of young calves and reduce their immunity. It also causes night blindness and your cows may also suffer from reduced fertility and retained placentas in acute cases.

Vitamin E: This is present in large amounts in fresh forages, so free range cows are not likely to be deficient in it. However, stored forages have lower Vitamin E and zero-grazed cows may need it to be supplemented. It provides valuable health benefits to animals.

Increased supplementation may also be required when environmental mastitis (where bacteria causing mastitis is primarily in the cows’ environment) is a particular problem in your herd.

Vitamin D: Is necessary for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, which helps in bone formation. Vitamin D is available from the sun rays. Minerals: Cows need minerals to remain healthy and for the body to function properly. Lack of adequate minerals means reduced milk production, fertility problems and weakness of bones.

There are macro and micro (trace) nutrients that are key to the health of your animal. They include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfur. Sodium generally needs to be supplemented, typically as sodium chloride or common salt.

The trace minerals required include cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, selenium, iodine, and zinc. Dairy animals should always be given salts, even when it is included in their mixed rations. Give the right salt to the right animal, at the right time.

Water: Provide your dairy cows with clean drinking water. Insufficient water intake leads to reduced feed intake and milk production as 70 per cent of milk is water. Ensure your cow gets a minimum of two buckets of water a day. Well-fed cows grow faster and produce more, as well as give better quality of calves, and this is what every farmer wants.

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