By Chris Lati,
Founder Makasa Farm
This is the continuing story of Makasa Dairy Farm situated in Lower South Eastern of Kenya’s Makueni County; a semi-arid and arid area ravaged by constant drought. To keep pure and even cross-breed animals in such an environment is a challenge. As a farmer, I am faced with the following challenges:-
The temperature in Makueni soars to 32°C making a pure Friesian cow start panting heavily. The comfortable temperature for a Friesian is 24°C. The energy it uses to dissipate the heat causes the animal to produce less milk.
Makasa is surrounded by other farms where cattle are neither vaccinated nor sprayed. As a result tick-borne diseases such as East Coast Fever (ECF) and anaplasmosis is quite prevalent in this area.
In semi-arid and arid areas, it rains in December and April. The rest the year is dry and grass turns brown and loses it nutrients, particularly protein and energy. This makes the cows under produce resulting to unprofitability of the farm.
Due to climate change, drought now is common feature in lower Ukambani consequently the growing of fodder during this period is not feasible. If we had adequate rains we would be able to grow maize, napier grass for silage and also harvest grass for hay.
By the way, Friesian/jersey, Friesian/brown Swiss and Friesian/Sahiwal crosses have proved to be more heat tolerant and hardy than pure Friesian in this region.
Makasa Dairy farm has adapted simple innovate strategies to overcome the above mentioned challenges. If implemented would make your cows high producers even in semi-arid or arid region, like mine your cows will produce between 30 to 40 litres a day;
During Early lactation (0 to 84 days after calving)
This is the most important production stage of cow. Usually the cow will produce 30 litres or more if fed as follows;
Dairy meal – 9 Kg
Magic Protein from Agriner – 1.2kg (during dry season)
Maize (coarsely ground) – 2kg
Foliage – pasture as much as it can eat
Unga High Phosphorus mineral – 200gm
The cost of such diet would be about Sh500 per day but the price of 1 litre of milk is Sh60. Milk prices are exceptionally high enabling the dairy farmers to make reasonable profits
Production = 30 litres X 60 = Sh1,800
Gross profit ………………………….Sh1,300
% Profit = 1300 X 100/1,800 = 72%
Late lactation stage (71 to 243 days lactating period)
During this stage, we feed the cow to acquired body condition three to four. Feed will include pasture grass which is fed ‘as much as it can eat’, dairy meal 5kg of 12MJ per kg, crude protein of 20 percent and 2kg of coarsely ground maize. If the cow calves in conditions 3 to 4 she has enough fat reserve to mobilise and produce between 20 to 40 litres per day.
Dry period stage
To rejuvenate the alveoli – milk secreting cell in the udder, we dry off the cow 60 days before calving. During this period known as steaming up, the cow is fed 4kg of dairy meal and 1kg of coarsely ground maize to maintain the necessary condition to three to four in order to produce lots of milk during early lactation.
Taming heat stress
Heat stress causes dairy cows to produce less milk in this region. To overcome this natural phenomemon, we shower the high yielding cows in early lactation daily at noon and again in the evening as they go to graze in the fields. As the water evaporates the cow is cooled and increases its feed intake.
Preventing tick-borne diseases
The prevalent diseases at Makasa or in this region is ECF and Anaplasmosis caused by ticks. Therefore, every five days we spray the cows with Dur-dip as we found that based dips are very effective in killing ECF ticks. At early lactation, we also use “pour-on” dip to ensure that during this high production period is not interrupted. At this stage, the cow is stressed and susceptible to tick-borne diseases and mastitis.
Metabolic nutritional disorders – Milk Fever
Milk fever is common nutritional disorder in the region. It is the draining of calcium from the blood due to the demand of milk production at calving or during the first days after calving. It may lead to the death of the animal or less milk production. At Makasa, we prevent this disease by injecting older cows with 200ml of Calsject immediately after calving.
Chris Lati, a retired intelligence officer, is the founder of Makasa Dairy Farm – Emali, Makueni County