by Mulele Nakweti
To get the best results on a dairy farm, a farmer must pay extra attention to the nutritional needs of a dairy herd. It is, therefore, important to provide the animals with a balanced feed in order to achieve higher milk production.
Dairy cattle are ruminants and have the ability to utilise roughage such as grass and crop residues as a source of food. This means that the cattle are able to chew the cuds regurgitated from their rumens, which helps keeping their big stomachs in a healthy condition.
In most cases, grass is used as a source of roughage. However, due to different weather patterns, the quality of the grass will vary during the course of the year. During the rainy season, the grass is fresh and green and will provide a higher nutritional value. During the dry season, the grass is brown and harder, and will generally provide a lower nutritional value. As a result of these variations, farmers who rely on grass as the only source of food will experience very low milk yields in the dry season.
To meet the nutritional requirements, a farmer must adjust the total feed ration and, for example add a feed concentrate At Novatek, we produce the NovaMilk 35 concentrate in order to help farmers meet the animal’s nutritional requirements. This concentrate can be mixed with raw materials such as No 3 meal, maize bran, cotton cake, sunflower cake, soya, and wheat bran.
Due to variations in the quality of grass during the year, a farmer can use the NovaMilk 35 concentrate to make a Dairy 16 feed when the grass is green, and a Dairy 19 feed when the grass is dry. The Dairy 19 will have a higher protein content (19% crude protein) than the Dairy 16 (16% crude protein) and it will provide the necessary nutrients, enabling the animal to break down the dry grass.
Lactating animals need to be fed according to milk yield and the stage of lactation. High yielding animals will consume more feed than low yielding animals. Feeding of dairy cattle starts before calving. This helps maintain the body condition of the pregnant cow and build calcium reserves. At calving, dairy cattle go into a negative nutrient balance, meaning they are not able to obtain all the nutrients required from the feed. As a result, the animals begin to utilise nutrients from their body reserves. A dairy animal with insufficient calcium reserves is likely to develop milk fever. To avoid this condition, a farmer needs to flush feed at least two weeks before calving to help the animals build up body reserves.
Nutrition will also influence the quantity of milk. With the right information and guidance, any Zambian farmer will be able to optimise milk production on his or her farm.
You may contact Wiehan Visagie at email@example.com, or Marné Visagie at firstname.lastname@example.org for any information on feeding and feeds.