In Summary
  • In zero grazing, animals are kept confined in shelters with demarcated areas for feeding, drinking, sleeping/resting cubicles, walking, keeping the young, fodder chopping, milking, storage and manure dump pit.
  • Risk of mastitis should be mitigated with high level of hygiene.
  • Cattle in a zero-grazing unit in Kenya are vaccinated just like any other against foot and mouth disease, twice a year.
  • To minimise confinement stress, the principal should ensure professional guidance in construction of the unit and minimum commotion such as noise, rapid movements of the confined cows and any activity that unsettles the animals.

Since I started my private veterinary practice in the early 90s, I have seen a lot of changes in the way I receive case reports.

With the ubiquitous information and communication technology, case reporting has changed from personal visits to any of the many forms of instant communication, including mobile phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook and e-mail.

My geographical area of practice and the mode of service delivery have also changed as technology threatens to consign my veterinary operations to the computer keyboard and mobile phone.

Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a high school principal from Kilgoris in Narok County. The message read, “Good day Dr Mugachia. I am the principal and teacher of agriculture at a high school in Trans-Mara, Kilgoris. I am a keen reader of your articles, and have passed this readership to my agriculture students as well. Thank you for your incisive and informative pieces. Our school is planning to set up a student-managed zero grazing dairy project, whose aim is twofold. First is to expose our students to better and more improved ways of cattle keeping, bearing in mind that most of my learners come from a community that largely keeps local breeds in a pastoralism method for beef rather than milk production. Second is to create a revenue stream that would be sustainable and reliable for the project and the school at large. We are seeking your advice on a design of a five cow zero grazing unit, preferably a design template we could refer to, vaccination and treatment programme for dairy cattle, challenges we are likely to encounter and possible ways to overcome them, and how best to customise the project to suit high school learners for maximum impact even in the days after schooling,” he concluded.

I was impressed by the teacher’s plan of seeking to change a whole community’s way of livestock production. At this point, I recalled the head teacher who inculcated in me personal hygiene and environmental protection values and practices way back in primary school.

To date, my dressing is incomplete without a clean handkerchief and dropping even a sweet wrapper on the ground is criminal to me.

Zero grazing structures and associated measurements have been published before in Seeds of Gold, May 1, 2015. The article can be retrieved from the link: http://www.nation.co.ke/business/seedsofgold/How-to-construct-an-ideal-zero-grazing-unit/-/2301238/2703492/-/xh6va0z/-/index.html. (Access this article online for the link).

CHALLENGES IN ZERO-GRAZING

My response will, therefore, address the other questions the school principal asked. Any one requiring the design templates for a zero grazing unit can contact me privately on my e-mail.

However, the designs as recommended by the Small-holder Dairy Commercialisation Project (SDCP) of the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries can be obtained from the link: http://www.ruaf.org/sites/default/files/ero%20Grazing%20Housing_1.pdf. The SDCP plans are easy to follow and have useful real life pictures of zero-grazing units.

In zero grazing, animals are kept confined in shelters with demarcated areas for feeding, drinking, sleeping/resting cubicles, walking, keeping the young, fodder chopping, milking, storage and manure dump pit.

A one cow zero-grazing unit should have provisions for the mother cow, its first calf and second calf. It is assumed that the unit will always have three animals taking into consideration the production of one calf per year, removal of bull calves and the annual death rate of the animals.

For the high school principal to establish a zero-grazing unit of five cows, he would need a total of seven cubicles and an equal number of drinking and feeding places.

Cattle in a zero-grazing unit in Kenya are vaccinated just like any other against foot and mouth disease, twice a year.

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