In Summary
  • Integrated management practices work best to control pests and diseases.
  • Development of the rumen is key in producing a good dairy cow, hence feeds that hasten the development of this organ are crucial.
  • Hay is particularly good for this purpose and the calf should start feeding on it, alongside pallets and green grass after about three months.
  • Dr John Bore, the director at Kalro-TRI said the clinic was a good education platform for farmers, and the institution would not hesitate to host it next time.

The lush tea bushes of Kericho are alluring as they form a resplendent green bed that spreads yonder.

It is in this magnificent environment that Seeds of Gold held its sixth Farm Clinic last weekend at the Kalro Tea Research Institute (Kalro-TRI) grounds.

Farmers trooped in with various gadgets, including their smart phones and cameras, and note books to capture the moment and record the lessons.

Some had sickly plants and soil samples wrapped neatly in manila bags.

They all congregated at two tents and sat patiently to interact with various agricultural experts.

Julius Kiprono, a dairy farmer from Kipchimchim, wanted to know how to take good care of calves.

“To be successful in dairy farming, never buy cattle from the marketplace as the livestock could be sick or have other problems which will burden you later,” Dr James Aura, a livestock expert from Elgon Kenya, started.

According to him, the first 10 days after birth are key in the calf’s development.

“Immediately after birth, the calf should be fed on colostrum as frequently as possible for the next three days.”

Development of the rumen is key in producing a good dairy cow, hence feeds that hasten the development of this organ are crucial. Hay is particularly good for this purpose and the calf should start feeding on it, alongside pallets and green grass after about three months," said Dr Aura, adding that before then, the calf should be fed on milk and weaned at three months.

Accurate feeding of the dairy cow ensures it reaches mating and calving age early enough, at an average of 18 months.

Richard Kirui, another dairy farmer, asked about why brachiaria was being touted as ‘magic’ fodder and further wanted to know the best feeding habits for dairy cattle.

“Brachiaria has more protein compared to other grasses. You can get the seeds from Kalro because it is currently multiplying the grass for mass production,” said Ronald Kimitei, a dairy specialist from Egerton University.

He added the grass can also be found in farms in Molo, Naivasha and Nakuru. The seeds are, however, still costly.

He cautioned against buying the two grasses when they are overgrown and are brown in colour since they are not nutritious at that point.

COW'S DIET SHOULD BE BALANCED

Many dairy farmers use maize stover as a feed but Kimetei warned against the practice, noting stovers only make a good bedding for the animals.

He stressed that hay should be made when the sun shines, literally, since when it is made during the rainy season, the farmer will gets manure out of it instead.

Water is key in milk production and for every litre of milk the farmer expects from a cow, he should give the animal five litres of water.

“Water should be placed at most 14 metres from where the cow is feeding and not under a shade to ensure it remains warm. Also milk the cow at intervals of eight hours as the more you milk it, the more its udder gets replenished,” he said, noting the cow’s diet should be balanced and contain enough dry matter.

Sunflower plants, which are high in protein, can be mixed with Boma Rhodes, yellow maize or other grasses for silage making.

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