It is frustrating for any farmer to invest money and time in his cow and get meagre returns during milking period.
The distressing malaise formed the basis of the Monitor Farm Clinic last Saturday at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute, Kabanyolo (MUARIK) as dairy experts; Dr Constantine Katongole and Precious Taremwa took the participants through various remedies.
Between his lectures, Dr Katongole offered breaks for farmers to visit the calf barn to get the practical version of what he was teaching about.
Below are some of the key factors that contribute to low milk production according to, Katongole, a senior lecturer at the Makerere University department of agricultural production.
Milk production is determined by the number of calves the cow has produced (parity). The more the number of calves, the higher the milk levels. The mammary gland develops every after calf production but experts advise that the number of calves should be limited to five. Age and lactation are the other crucial factors that determine the amount of milk a farmer expects from his cow.
According to experts, the cow’s milk production ability may be affected by change in feeding patterns. If the dairy cows are feed poorly expect low milk yields and vice versa. “It is better for a farmer to read through the cow records before buying it,” Taremwa said.
Comfort and welfare
The environment in which a cow lives also contributes greatly to its milk productivity according to Katongole. “If a cow is in zero grazing, it needs ample space to stretch and exercise,” he says. Cows need to maintain feeding intervals, frequency in milking (the more you milk the more milk you get), avoid physical confrontation like beating it during milking and not mixing cows of different types according to experts.
Managing three stages of lactation
There is always a challenge for most farmers when handling the dry off period (the time when you are not milking the cow up to the time when it gets a calf). Experts recommend 60 days but the hunger for money drives most farmers to abuse it. It is also advisable that a cow gives birth to one calf after 18 months for high milk yields, successful insemination exercise and better animal health. “The cow gives you milk for 300 days. Expect more milk in the first 100 days and a decrease thereafter,” Katongole added.
There is a natural tendency in milking cows that farmers were advised to grasp clearly; a cow reduces milk after 14 days of birth because it has lost appetite and is stressed. Instead of starving it, the experts advised continued good feeding because body weight will return soon between week 10 and 12.