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Understand the Importance of dairy in the Kenyan economy
Enable participants identify business opportunities

Scope of dairy in Kenya
Importance of dairy commercialization
Business enterprises in the dairy value chain
Challenges in dairy commercialization


In the context of effective demand, the country is currently self-sufficient in most of the animal
products except in beef and mutton. However, recent studies on animal products demand and
supply projection indicate that, unless appropriate interventional measures are introduced, the
country may soon register deficit in some livestock products.

Contribution of Livestock Sub-Sector to the Economy

Over 60% of all livestock in Kenya is found in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL), where it
employs about 90 percent of the local population.

The livestock sub-sector accounts for about 10% of the entire GDP and about 42% of the
agricultural GDP. It also supplies the domestic requirements of meat, milk and dairy products,
and other livestock products while accounting for about 30% of the total marketed agricultural
products. The sub-sector earns the country substantial foreign exchange through export of live
animals, hides and skins, dairy products, and some processed pork products. It also employs
about 50 percent of the countrys agricultural sector labour-force. The sub-sector also contributes
substantial earnings to households through sale of livestock and livestock products; and provides
raw material for agro-industries. The true proportion of the contribution by the sub-sector to the
economy is likely to be even higher if unrecorded slaughter and home consumption is taken into

The Dairy Industry in Kenya
The dairy cattle farming in Kenya is a dynamic enterprise with a mean animal milk production
growth rate of 4.1% and accounting for about 3.5% of the GDP. Smallholder dairy production
accounts for over 70% of the total milk production and supports more than 600,000 smallholder
dairy farmers. The total milk production in 2005 was about 3.2 billion litres, but there is potential
for even higher production in subsequent years. The country is broadly self- sufficient in milk
and milk products, with an annual consumption of about 1.92 billion litres. Milk consumption is
partly dependent upon the level of household incomes and, therefore, Kenyas growing economy
will affect the overall effective demand for milk. Of the total dairy cattle milk production, about
55% is marketed through traders, cooperatives, hotels and shops. An estimated 84% of the total
milk production is sold in the raw form, while 16% is processed.

Social-economic importance of cattle

Cattle are reared for several reasons in Kenya, these include;

i) Food in form of meat, milk and blood

ii) Income earner from different enterprises related to the sector
iii) Employment in the production chain
iv) Source of raw materials for industries- hides, hooves, horns, bones
v) Manure provision
vi) Production of fuel in form of bio-gas
vii) Payment of dowry
viii) Settlement of social disputes
ix) Recreation activities such as bull fighting
x) Foreign currency

Dairy related business

Dairy farming needs to be undertaken as a business enterprise venture in order for farmers to
make a meaningful living out of it. There are several business ventures associated with dairy
farming which include;

i) Milk production and sale

ii) Transportation of milk (c) Sale of milk in milk bars
iii) Milk cooling plants
iv) Milk processing plants
v) Distribution of processed milk and milk products
vi) Breeding stock rearing and sale
vii) Biogas production for domestic use and sale (to neighbours)
viii) Growing of pasture and fodder crops for commercial purposes
ix) Agro-vet enterprises
x) Feed milling and sale

Challenges of dairy commercialization

Challenges in feed supply

Challenges in veterinary services delivery

Challenges in breeding services delivery

Challenges in extension services delivery

Challenges in financial services delivery

Challenges in milk collection

Challenges to milk processors

Challenges in milk retailing

Challenges in management of cooperatives and farmers groups

Challenges in capacity building and research


Types of cattle

i) Dairy Mainly reared for milk e.g. Friesian, Aryshire, Guernsey, Jersey
ii) Dual purpose Reared for both meat and milk e.g. Fleckvieh, Sahiwal, Simmental,
Brown swiss and Red Poll

iii) Crosses these are mainly crosses between different breeds e.g between a dairy breed
and a dual purpose breed
iv) Beef Reared mainly for meat e.g. Hereford, Charolais, Boran, Zebu and

Definition of breed

These are groups of animals of the same species having similar characteristics that have been
developed over time. They usually have homogenous identifying factors/traits, behaviour and
common origin.

General Characteristics of Dairy Breeds

A good dairy animal should posses the following characteristics:

i) Docile and easy to handle

ii) Long, thin and wedge shaped
iii) Prominent hip and pin bones
iv) Have a wide body outlined by ribcage
v) Straight top line
vi) Long tail

Dairy Breeds


Origin Holland/Netherlands.
Colour- Black & White, but the amount of black & white may vary
from white with a few black spots to almost black.
Size - Cows approx. 600 kg; Bulls approx 900 kg (800-900).

Conformation - Long, narrow & straight head; Broad muzzle &

open nostrils; strong jaws. (NB: The cows are quiet & docile, but the bulls may be
Milk production - Av. 6,000 kg per lactation.Highest in average milk production per lactation
among the dairy animals.

Can produce over 16,000 kg in a 305-day lactation.

Currently, Israel has the highest national herd average of 10,000 kg in a lactation.
Kenya - yields of up to 12,000 kg in a lactation have been obtained.
Butterfat - Approx. 3.5%.

Problem - Easily succumbs to diseases in tropical conditions, e.g. ECF.

Origin - Southwestern Scotland (UK - County Of Ayr).
Colour- Red with white markings or white with red
markings. The red may be very light to almost black.
Size - Between that of Guernsey & Friesian. Cows approx.
550 kg; Bulls approx. 800 kg (750-1,000 kg).
Conformation - Straight top lines, good udder. Long horns
that tend to curve upward & outward. However, there is also
a polled strain. (NB: Ayrshires' are very active and may be
nervous and temperamental).
Milk production - 5,500 kg per lactation.

Butterfat - approx. 4% on average.

NB: Ayrshires' are better able to deal or cope with Tickborne diseases than Friesian.


Origin - Island of Guernsey, one of the Channel

Islands located off the coast of France.
Colour- Varies from light fawn to almost red with
white markings on the face, legs, tail switch and
flanks. Some white spots may appear on the body.
Size - Cows approx. 500 kg; Bulls approx. 750 kg on
Conformation - Slightly dished face, which is longer
than that of Jersey. Horns incline forwards and
medium in length and taper towards the tips. Cows are alert and active, but are not
nervous. They are easily managed.
Milk production - Approx. 5,000 kg per lactation.

Butterfat - Approx. 5%.

4. Jersey

Origin - Jersey Island, another of the

Channel Islands in the UK.
Colour- Vary in colour from light fawn to
black and from white spotted to solid-
coloured. The muzzle is black.
Size - Is the smallest of the dairy breeds.
Cows approx. 400 kg; Bulls approx. 600 kg.
Conformation - Straight backline/topline for
cows. Dished face; big eyes & excellent

Milk production - 4,000 kg per lactation. ).

Butterfat ->5% (approx. 5.5%).

NB: They have lower maintenance requirements than other dairy breeds. Jersey excels in grazing
on medium to poor quality pastures. Jersey doesn't produce large quantities of milk, but they
produce it economically on little feed.

Dual-purpose breeds
5. Brown Swiss
Origin - originated on the slopes of the Alps in
Colour- light brown in colour with a creamy
white muzzle and dark noze, dark-blue eye
pigmentation which helps the breed to resist
extreme solar radiation..
Size they are big framed.

Milk production - over 9000kg

Butterfat ->4%.

NB. The Brown Swiss is known for a long gestation period, immense size, large furry ears, and
an extremely docile (though some would say lethargic or stubborn) temperament. They are also
hardy and capable of subsisting with little care or feed.

6. Sahiwal

Origin - Punjab region of

Pakistan or the present day
Sahiwal district. They are widely
bred in India, Australia and

Colour- reddish dun colour

although there are many animals
with pale red; a dark brownish
colour is common around the
hump and neck; in males the
colour darkens towards the
extremities, such as head, legs
and tails

Size - Mature weight of the

Sahiwal cows at Navaisha
Zaibu, the Pakistan average at 425 kg and that of
= 39.1 litres /day bulls 500 kg.

Conformation - the males have big hump; udders are large compared to cattle of other
Bosindicus breeds; teats are large and uneven; they have a well developed thoracic
hump; their ears are long and drooping..
Milk production in Kenya is 1574 kg with an average lactation length of 293 days. However,
average results ranging from 972 to 2490 kg have been attained depending on the management

Butterfat - 3.5 - 5.3%

Beef breeds
7. Hereford
Origin - Herefordshire County in south-west England

Colour- varies from rust brown to a deep rich red. Face, crest, dewlap, underline, switch and legs
below the hocks are characteristically white.

Size - Live weight of 1075 kg and 675 kg for males and females respectively.
Information - Ability to do well on a wide range of pastoral conditions and to assimilate
roughage, coupled with its good fertility, foraging ability and docility, account for its
success. Depending on the level of nutrition and management, the breed can be
produced as top-quality carcases ranging from heavy, marbled and fat, through to small,
young and lightly finished

8. Boran

Origin Borana pastoralists of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Colour- white or grey fawn. But light brown and black or dark brown shading on the head, neck
and shoulder and hindquarter also occur. The hooves and muzzle are always black.
Size - mature bulls of the Improved Boran in Kenya; 550-850 kg and those for cows; 400-550 kg.

Information - has the ability to walk long distances even in the hot sun in search of water.
Other beef breeds include: Charolais, Aberdeen Angus, Santa Gertrudis, Simmental, Red Poll

Choice of Breeds for different Agro-ecological zone (AEZ)

Factors to be considered when choosing a breed for milk production

Environmental parameters i.e. rainfall and temperatures

Availability of feed resources
Land size
Intensity of production
Personal preferences
Market requirements

Students to identify dairy breeds and morphological feature of a good dairy breed



Enable farmers understand various production systems based on the agro - ecological zones

Types of Production systems

Production system is determined by the level /intensity of management involved. There are
basically three production systems involved (extensive, semi- intensive and intensive) in cattle


Continuous grazing in open field/communal land

Deferred grazing: the pasture is left in the field and grazing is postponed until time of feed

Meets only maintenance requirement since the nutritional level is low to overgrowth

i) Advantages

There is little capital is involved in terms of farm structure, disease control and supplementary

ii) Disadvantages

i) Build up of endo and ecto parasites

ii) Poor performance in terms of low milk production, low growth rate, low conception
rate among others.

iii) Low quantity and quality pasture

iv) Land degradation

v) Low stocking rate

Semi intensive
Free grazing with concentrate supplementation part of the day.
Improved performance

Involves more capital investment compared to extensive system
Intensive system
Animals reared in total confinement in designated places/areas and high managerial aspects are
taken care of. There are several intensive systems practiced in dairy production. The most
common sub system include the following

1.Rotational grazing

A large piece of high quality pasture is divided into small paddocks and the dairy herd is grazed
Systematically from one paddock to another as follows -calves, milkers, incalfs, heifers, steers

Cattle are systematically grazed in rotational manner from one paddock to another. Structures
required are; paddock, watering troughs/points

The system allows utilization of pasture when young and most nutritious

Each paddock is rested for a period of 3-8 weeks and fertilizer is applied to allow re-growth. The
resting of the paddock also aids in control of parasites as it breaks their life cycle.

2.Strip grazing

Animals are restricted by use of mobile electric fence in a highly nutritious pasture/for for a
specified period of time. Once the pasture is exhausted, the fence is moved to allow access to
more feed. The system is usually used for supplementary feeding when animals are fed on poor

3.Semi- zero grazing

Grazing in the open pasture field during the day and the cattle are then stall fed at night or during
the afternoon hours. High quality pasture and concentrate is used in the feeding regiment.

4. Zero grazing system/soiling system

The dairy animals are confined in a precisely constructed structure and stall fed all year round.
The unit has precise dimensions and the following structures/facilities are provided within the
unit: Calf pen, heifer quarters, sleeping area/cubicles, walking area, store, milking area, feed
&water trough, forage area, mineral box, slurry pit

i) Advantages

a. Controlled breeding
b. Controlled feeding
c. Efficient utilization of forage, land
d. Disease and parasite control
e. Biogas production f. Manure collection g. Bloat control
h. Protection of animals from thieves and predators
ii) Disadvantages

a. Labour intensive: Feeding, cleaning, manure collection, establishment and

maintenance of pasture
b. High initial capital due to purchase of high yielding dairy herd, establishment and
maintenance of pasture and construction of the unit
c. Silent heat
d. Prevalence of some disease/conditions (Foot rot, Laminitis, Ketosis)


This is a precisely constructed structure for rearing animals under total confinement. Other than
restricting the animals, it enables collection of dung and general clean environment and comfort
of the animal.

The precision of the design and dimensions of the various sub units must be adhered to if the unit
has to serve the purpose it is meant for.

The following are the general must have recommendation of a zero grazing unit.

1. Sleeping cubicles
They measure 7 by 4 feet in dimension. They should be raised by 6 inch above the rest of the
floor. Should be roofed, hardened earth floor lined with beddings such as saw dust. They can
also be lined with special mattress for the cattle. Should also have a head york to restrict the
turning of animal hence dunging at the right place.
2. Calf pen
Has a dimension of 4 by 4 feet. Should be roofed and raised 1 foot above the general floor with a
slated floor. Should be fitted with water trough, milk trough and a feed trough.

3. Feed and watering trough
They should be placed on the opposite side of the sleeping cubicles with a top width of 2 feet.
Should have inward slanting floor to the bottom.. The water trough should be sandwiched
between the feed trough with a capacity to hold enough water per day for the animals. The feed
trough should allow feeding area of 2 feet per animal. They area may be roofed.
4. Walking area
Runs the length of the sleeping cubicles and measures 10 feet in width.
Should not be roofed and the floor should be cemented with a slight double slope to the centre
and slurry pit for easy cleaning and drainage.
5. Store
Should be adjacent to the milking palour for storing equipment and concentrates if used during
6. Milking parlour;
Measures 7 by 4 feet and fitted with a head York and a feeding trough. Thenumber varies with
the herd size.
7. Mineral lick box
Should be strategically located for placing salt
8. Forage chopping area
Fitted with a chaff cutter. Space should be adequate to ease the operation

There are basically two categories of calf pens.

i. Individual calf pen that houses a single calf. Should have a spacing of 4 by 4 feet.

ii. Communal calf pen. They house more than one calf to a maximum of four calves. Each calf
should be allowed space of 6 by 6 feet for mobility purpose.

The calf pens should have a raised slated floor and roofed. In case the floor is not raised. It
should be lined with beddings and changed frequently. The sides should be solid but proper
ventilation should be assured.

Trainees to identify various components of a zero grazing unit

Definition of Breeding
Goals of breeding

This is defined as the planned (deliberate) mating of male and female to propagate specific traits
beneficial to man. It is a long term solution for high milk production and good genetic pool for
the farmer. The continued use of a pedigree bull to upgrade the cows is a worthwhile venture that
pays handsomely.

Breeding objectives /goals

1) Production This considers milk volume and solid (% butter fat content and protein) in
milk.More efficient productionmeans high feed conversion efficiency.
2) Dairy conformation These includes the udder structure, teats, coat colour.
3) Fertility This is the ability of a cow to calf down once a year. It is determined by the number
of insemination per conception and the calving interval.
4) Longevity This refers to the productive life of a cow. It is based on the number of normal
calving and the lifetime milk production.
5) Health traits (disease resistance) This is the ability of a cow to resist any form of a disease.
6) Ease of calving Pelvic diameter, body frame, and slope from pin to hip bone are the main
factors that determine the ease of calving.
7) Workability The milking speed (size, shape and teat opening), temperament and likeability
are the characteristics that influence the workability of a cow.
Tools used in animal breeding/What it takes to achieve good quality (desired traits) cows
a) Selection This involves deciding (making a choice) on which animal to keep in the herd
or which animals to be future parents and how many offspring will they have. Types of
selection include natural and artificial selection. : Select a cow that has all the
characteristics of a dairy cow i.e wedge shaped, good udder etc

b) Mating systems; Requires informed decision on which males to be mated to which dams
i.e. making decision on the parents of the next generation.
Mating Systems
There are mainly three mating systems namely:-
Pure breeding
Cross breeding
Line breeding
Pure breeding
This is the mating of individuals that are of the same breed (pedigree).
Cross breeding
This is the mating of individuals that are of different breeds
Line breeding
Special form of inbreeding where a herd can be developed out of closely related animals to take
advantage of the superiority of those animals in a particular trait

The two basic questions answered by the breeding tools

There are two fundamental questions faced by animal breeders. The first asks:
1 What is the best animal?
Is the best dairy cow, the one with show-winning conformation or the one with exceptional
retrieving instinct?
Is the best dairy cow the one that gives the most milk; the one with the best feet, legs and udder
support; or the one that combines performance in these traits in some optimal way?
NB: The best animal is a relative term defined by environment and prevailing situation.
The model for best animal can be simplified by
where P represents an individuals phenotype, G represents its genotype, and E represents the
environmental effects- the effects that external (nongenetic) factors have on an animals
performance. In other words, its genotype and the environment it experiences determine an
animals phenotype.

Knowledge of the function of the animal and the interactions between the genotype and other
components of the system is necessary if we want to develop sensible goals for breeding
programs, in other words, if we want to develop appropriate breeding objectives. Knowing, for
example, that parasite resistance is critically important in tropical climates, breeding objectives
in the Tropics emphasise traits such as tick count (a measure of tick resistance). In temperate
regions, on the other hand, less emphasis is placed on parasite resistance and more emphasis is
placed on other traits

Population structure and breeding objective

In the process of determining the best animal, you might ask, Best for whom?. The answer to
this question depends on the function of the animal, the structure of the population and the role
of the breeder within that structure. Most populations can be thought of as having a pyramidal
structure: a relatively small number of breeders at the top selling breeding stock to a larger
number of multipliers who in turn sell animals to a great number of end users.
The pyramid suggests a flow of germ plasm genetic material in the form of live animals,
semen, or embryos from the top down, the elite breeders producing the most advanced animals,
breeders at the multiplier level replicating those animals, and end users benefiting from the
genetic improvement occurring at the higher levels. Ideally, breeders at each level try to produce
animals that will be in the greatest demand by their customers at the next level down, with the
ultimate result that the best animal is the animal that is the most useful or profitable for the end
user. End users can thus be defined as the individual whose particular needs should form the
basis for determining breeding objectives.

2) How do you breed animals so that their descendants will be, if not best, at least
better than todays animals?.

In other words, how can we genetically improve animal populations? This question involves
genetic principles and animal breeding technology.
Genetic improvement of dairy cattle starts from the establishment of
Selection/breeding goals dictated by farmers through market
Realization of the goals is by

recording of genealogic and performance data
the application of genetic evaluation models
the actual selection of the parents of the next generation


Sire Evaluation
Records needed to evaluate sires:-
Production of daughters (milk, butter fat and protein)
Pedigree records
productions of Dam, Grand Dam, Sire, Grand Sire)
Records of relatives (sisters, brothers, cousins etc)
Linear classification of daughters. (feet& legs, udder structure, frame body capacity etc).

Dam Evaluation
Records Needed (History):-
Production records.
Type Traits assessment
Fertility records
Number of calving


These include:-
Udder structure - 40%
Feet and legs - 15%
Dairy Characteristics - 20%
Frame - 15%
Body capacity - 10%
A total score will given under the following ranks
Excellent - 90 97points
Very good - 85 90 points
Good Plus - 80 84 points
Good - 75 79 points
Fair - 65 74 points
Poor - 50 64 points

Chronological age and physiological age
Heat detection in the cow
-oestrus cycle
-heat signs

-Optimal time for serving
Steaming up
Theories of parturition
Signs of parturition
Presentation of calf
Normal presentation, mal presentation and intervention
Post parturition management
Farmers to induce one cow and monitor heat signs

Dairy cattle grading and registration

Dairy cattle grading is based on the registration status of the animal andfarmers are encouraged
to register their animal with the Kenya stud book as a foundation animal of the breed it
resembles. Registration certificates are issued upon completion of processing, and include the
animals name, registration number, tattoo number, date of birth, sex and date registered. It also
includes a pedigree, the farmers name and number, current owner name and number and
production information. Certificates issued for new animals clearly state the class of registration.
Use AI semen to serve the cow and the daughters of this cow should be registered as soon as
they are born as intermediate stock. Continue breeding the daughter with another proven bull
semen and ensure that inbreeding is avoided (Do not use the semen of the daughter sire Father)
on her. Continue breeding the grand daughters and registering them with Kenya Stud book until
they reach the pedigree level through the appendix. Once you reach the pedigree level maintain it
there through continued use of
proven semen.
Regardless of the level at which an animal is registered it is possible to upgrade the animal to the
next level until a farmer has a pedigree. Farmers who already have pedigree animal are
encouraged to maintain the same.

Evaluation: Evaluate the progress every year to see whether you are achieving your target or
not. Always get advice from experts in livestock industry to assist you

General functions of the reproductive system
A. Production of offspring to continue the species.
B. Sexual reproduction is the process by which genetic material is combined and passed from
generation to generation.
C. Produces and secretes hormones involved in the development and maintenance of the male
and female reproductive organs as well as many other metabolic and physiological processes.
1. Gonads
The organs (testes and ovaries) in the body which produce the sex cells and hormones.
2. Gametes
Sex cells
a. Male
Testes produce sperm cells and the hormone testosterone.
b. Female
Ovaries produce ova or egg cells and the hormones estrogens and progesterone.
The male produces gametes and deposits
The female produces gametes, shows heat, receives sperms, union(fertilization), implantation,
carry it full term, birth of newborn and nurse the young.
Good general health and bodily function are essential for successful reproduction. Reproduction
willsuffers if illness, poor nutrition, environmental stress exists.
Nature follows the principle that reproduction can wait until better times.
For example, reproduction is delayed until puberty, inhibited during lactation and delayed
until spring in seasonal breeding species. Parturition can even be delayed in stormy
Onset on reproductive capacity or sexual maturity
Occurs following complex interaction of various factors like hormones, environmental factors eg

Puberty comes later in male than females
More distinct in females than females
Amale is at puberty if its able to mount and copulate
Mounting for the first time and copulation at puberty is immature spermatogonia hence no
OESTRUS it is a greak word that means much or mad desire (Greek word)
Cycle the heat on female or pattern of physiological events that is morphologically or behavioral
from puberty to maturity until pregnancy or interference to this process (system). These cycles
are always complete.
Takes 21 days for entire cycle to occur
Takes 23 days in mare
Have four phases i.e
a) Two follicular phases
b) Two Leutial phases (2) this is after ovulation when follicular cells are replaced
by leutal cells.
TWO FOLLICULATE PHASE (morphology internally)
(A) Pro oesterus in cow takes 2-3 days based on physiology i.e morphologically, internally,
externally * hormones & their activities.
This phase, follows immediate regression of CL from previous phase.
Progesterone hormone reduces hence triggers FSH increase &follicules growth (folliniogenesis),
follicular fluids are produced hence oestrogen hormones increases.
changes are due to oestrogen& FSH eg
a) Follicular growth
b) Increase in blood supply in genital system (oestrogen) red then pink.
c) Swollen vulva.
d) Mucous secretion occurs, filters into next phase.
(B) oestrus phase
Very high output of oestrogen because of FSH.
Full maturation of follicules.

More blood vascularization, uterus turgid.
mucous dominant.
Higher blood supply (congestion high).
Cervix very relaxed.
In cows, physical manifestation of oestrus occur.
Low level of progestrones,
FSH &oestrogen intensifies & LH comes in most species except the cow causing
In cow, it takes 1-2 days but varies e.g bitch 7-10 days.
NB: phase of sexual desire & ovulation occurs except the cow.
Met oestrus phase; - leutial cells dominate full development of CL
LH is predominant.
In cow ovulation occurs during met oestrus phase but not at oestrus. Longer in cow
shorter in other species.
There is sudden ceassion of oestrus signs.
Cervix & mucous subsides
Other organs shrink & changes.
Due to CL formation, increased progestrone& LH is dorminant.
FSH &oestrogen reduces hence morphological changes.
Di oestrus phase
Longest phase in cow it takes 13-15 days.
Fully formed CL hence very high levels of progesterone hence the changes e.g
Uterine endometrian become thick ie hypotrophy.
Uterine glands grow large.
Mucous produced.
Uterine milk produced.
Uterus prepares for implantation.
Fate of this stage depends on:
If copulation & subsequent fertilization this goes on to entire stage of pregnancy.

If no fertilization, the CL function for specific period of 13-15 days & then CL
regress hence sudden drop of progesterone and back to pro-oestrus.

Chronological or physiological
At what age should heifers be served?
Age /physiological maturity and right body weight are a prerequisite for determining when to
breed animals. The optimal time for the first insemination of a heifer depends more on body
weight than on age. Healthy well fed heifers can achieve desired weight at an age of 14 16

Below are some of the body weight requirements for breeding heifers of different breeds;
Aryshire- 280kg
Guernsey- 240kg
Jersey- 230kg
Therefore the proper age for insemination and consequently calving is determined by the
development of the heifer. The heifer should be well developed, able to calve at an early age,
without calving difficulties. The advantages of calving at an early age includes
i. Lower rearing costs
ii. Early productivity
iii. Higher lifetime milk production, thus making the cow more profitable.

Heat detection in the cow

Oestrus cycle is the normal reproductive cycle of a cow and in a heifer it begins at puberty and
occurs every 21 days (mature cows 18-24 days, heifers 19 20 days).
The heat signs confirm a cycling cow and these signs are indicators of a cow ready for service. A
cow is on heat between 24 -30 hrs. The following signs of heat are manifested during period of
heat or a few hours prior to onset of heat.
a) Frequent bellowing
b) Alert and easily excitable
c) Off feed and reduced milk production
d) Swollen reddish vulva lips
e) Clear sticky mucous discharge from the vulva lips
f) Mounting other cows and standing to be mounted
The surest sign of heat is a cow stands to be mounted, this is referred to as standing heat. It is
best to inseminate a cow in mid heat or towards end of heat (soon after) i.e. dont inseminate too
early or too late. Record keeping helps a farmer determine when a cow is due to come on heat
and hence the cow is keenly observed for heat signs.

It is recommended that a herd of cattle be checked for heat signs 3 times in a day- in morning, at
lunch hour and late afternoon for at least 15 min each time. Bloody discharge from the vulva lips
indicates that the cow was on heat 2-3 days ago.
The general rule for best time to inseminate is cow comes on heat in morning inseminate late
afternoon. A cow comes on heat in afternoon, inseminate early the following morning (day).
Non Return Rate (NRR) -cow does not come back on heat 60 days after insemination. She is
considered pregnant but confirmation has to be done by rectal palpation 3 months after service.
Other possibilities
Uterus infection
Anoestrous failure to show signs of heat which is caused by either nutritional
deficiency or hormonal imbalance.
Failure to detect heat which is a management problem.


it is the period from fertilization to parturition or from conception to expulsion of a mature
Duration is different but varies from one species to other or within species / breed.
Period is usually a range eg
Cattle 278 290 days Av. 280 days
Mare 301 371 days Av. 340 days.
Ewe 140 159 days Av. 148 days
Sow 102 -128 days Av. 114 days
Bitch 60 63 days Av. 60 days
1.Maternal factors
Age of mother generally younger mothers the shorter the duration the longer in older.
2.Feotal factorse.g litter size. Inverse relationship between litter size & duration.Large Litter
shorter gestation period.
Monotocous twinkling & multiple feotuses shorter gestation period.
Sex of feotus. No clear cut issue but longer period in males than female calves.

Size of feotus bigger feotus longer period than smaller feotus.
3.Hormonal factors/ endocrine -hypofunctions of Adrenal or pituitary gland in cows & ewes
prolong gestation period.
4.Environmental factors climate, temperature, nutrition have same effect. In cold season
(winter) temperate have longer period. Affects implantation. High temperatures in rodents
prolong period & nutrition likewise.
5. Genetic factors Different species have varying length of gestation, there is variation within
species as well
Hormones during pregnancy
Progesterone predominates in preparation of implantation and remains high throughout
gestation period until just before parturition.
Major source in Corpus Luteum formed immediately after ovulation small amounts produced
by placenta.
There also small amounts of oestrogen throughout gestation. Complementary to action of
Presence of oestrogen, most of godanatropins are inhibited except the mare (PMSG) ot
human being (HCG). These bring gonadotropin effect in early pregnancy and then disappear.
As parturition approaches relaxing is produced from CL & some amount from placenta. It
starts relaxing pelvic region in readiness for parturition & Oxytocin is also produced during
paturation following a nervous impulse from genital stimulation & effects expulsion of feotus
from violent contraction of uterus.
NB: Gestation success depends on oestrus copulation implantation carried full term &
parturition of mature foetus.

Expulsion of mature feotus together with feotal membrane. It is a complex physiological
process involving a series of combined series effort of feotus& mother.
Parturition is not clearly understood but there are theories behind this process.
Also called - calving (cow)
- Lambing (ewe)
- Kidding (goats)

- Foaling (mare)
- Farrowing (sow)
- Kindling (rabbits)
Signs of parturition
Differ from one female to the other
1. Relaxing of pelvic region (tissues & brim). Under influence of relaxing hormones in very late
stage of pregnancy CL &placentome.
Causes an effect of rise in oestrogen levels.
Pelvic bones become prominent.
Ligament muscles of pelvic tissue relax.
Symphysis pubis which is cartelleginous will lead to dissolution of tissues hence
separation of bones around there.
External genitalia will relax ie enlarged & flappy vaginal region relaxed. Cervix starts
relaxing hence cervical plug relaxes.
Entire pelvic region becomes relaxed due to relaxin&oestrogen.
2. Change in maternal behavior will also vary from one to another.
Most females seek solitude. The mare & cow leave rest of animals & stay for long
periods. The sow & bitch will prepare a bed / nest.
3. Temporal behavior varies from Spp to species.
Show anorexia.
Show distress.
Show anxiety.
Withdraw from normal environment.
4. Mammary gland enlargement & distention prominent in cow, mare & most others. In some
species it is accompanied by milk dripping e.g mare. After dripping, it dries up on the tip of
the teat i.e waxy seal ( prominent sign of parturition)
5. Uterine contractions. This brings visible distress in animals move in circles, face up & down.
Kick at abdominal area. feotal movement also seen in abdominal area (monotocous species).
6. Temperature reaction either rise or drop in temperature.
Cow has slight rise in temperature for 0.5 10c
Bitch, Ewe, Rats have drop of 0.5 10c.

The increase or decrease is due to sudden changes in drop in progesterone (thermogenic) &
increase in oestrogen. This depends on balance between them.

Theories Of Parturition Triggers

(a) (i) Feotal initiation theory; states that the feotus initiates its own birth. Feotalat term
(hypothalamus hypophysis) hormone ACTH are produced, which acts on adrenal glands &
corticoids are produced.
These get into circulation & when it gets into feotal placenta barrier, acts on it. They will cause
rise in oestrogen that triggers production of prostaglandins, get to CL which regress & hence no
source of progesterone (hence its sudden drop). Then uterus starts contraction with this
stimulation an impulse is sent to hypothalamus where oxytocin is produced & expulses the
NB: Just by parturition there will be a lot of ACTH in blood.
(ii) Injection of glucocorticoids into e.g mother at whatever gestation stage induces parturition &
expulsion of feotus. Affection of adrenal glands also expulses the feotus.
(b) Maternal partulation theory;
Upon maturation of the feotus, the mother starts recognizing the foetus as foreign material.
This leads to immunological reaction to the foreign body, rejects it & expels it out. It occurs
(immunological reaction) at feotal placental barriers & the same process in feotal initiation
theory occurs
(c) Combines the two (feotal& maternal mechanism & the two will occur)
This is believed to be the most likely cause of parturition.
Other factors are:
d) Physical & mechanical factors ki.e increase size & weight of feotus will cause irritation of
uterine walls &csause uterine constraction. Borrowed fromwhat affects gestation period.
e) CNS an intact reaction usually enhance process of parturition although experimentally not
In all species, it occurs in lateral position for the mother.
1. Preparatory stage;
Signs of approaching parturition under influence of relaxin, oestrogen etc.

2.Dilation stage (DS)
Divided into two:
(a) 1st Dilation Stage
Marked by sudden drop of progesterone levels hence start of myometrial contractions.
(uterine contraction (uterine constraction making dam restless. This push the feotus& fluid
filled membrane against cervix.
Membrane act as a wedge to feotus pushing out cervix. With each contraction, there is
further push of cervix. Initially the contractions are mild & gradual.
Contraction get to point where cervix is opened up until 4 feets are accomodatedin the
cervix. This breaks the cervical seal/plug as feet of feotus goes through cervix. A lot of
mucous is observed marks end 1st Ds
(b) 2nd Dilation Stage
Myometrialconstractions are going on &feotal movements are on & push membrane even
further & get engaged into the cervix. The membranes just rapture. A lot of fluid comes
out & distinguished from mucous in 1st DS.
Hence uterine conractions becomes stronger and more frequent, very little progesterone is
on & distress makes the animal to face up & down.
The cow could have taken about 8 hr (1st DS 2nd DS) dont interfere at all with
parturition. In Mare it is 4 -6 hours. Varies with other species but never go beyond 24
3. Expulsion stage
There is full dilation of cervix.
Uterine contraction are stronger, more intense & more frequent.
There is abdominal press (muscles of abdomen start contracting)
Feotal parts are noticed at the vulva. There is an iflux of the hormone oxytoxin which
gives violent contraction of the uterus & this pushes out the feotus. Feotal movement is
also part of this.
Does not last,long in cow 2hrs , mare 10 -15 minutes, other species it varies.
4. Expulsion of feotal membrane / post feotal expulsion stage under effect of very low
progesterone, some levels oxytoxin, some amount of oestrogen, strong contraction subside &
mild contractions continues for some day.

Level of oxytocin is maintained by milk let down.
These contraction expel the placenta, any fluids or fragment are also expelled.
Take 12 24 0r 36 hrs in cows, mare it is 1- 30 minutes. Likewise to human beings 15 -
30 munutes.
May not be there in polytocus species (many feotuses)


Usually, calving moves smoothly and quickly, with no problem, but problems at calving are
notuncommon. The individual caring for cows at calving time needs to be aware that
problems may occur and should know what to do. The most common problem at parturition
is dystocia.
Dystocia is the technical term that describes any difficulty during parturition. In cattle, the
most common cause of dystocia is a calf that is too large to fit through the birth canal and the
opening in the cows pelvis. This is termed a fetal-dam disparity, and can be from a large
calf, a small cow or heifer, or both. If a cow appears to be straining for long periods of time,
she may be tryingto deliver her calf, but it may be stuck in the openingin her pelvis. The
calf may simply be too large for anormal birth. Sometimes the calfs head, shoulders,and
body may be in or through the pelvic opening, butits hips may be stuck, a condition known as

An example of hip lock in cattle.

Dystocia can also occur when the calf is inthe wrong position for parturition, this is called
malpresentation. The proper position for a calf (as wellas sheep and goats) exiting the birth
canal is facingforward with its back up and its head resting between its front legs

The normal birth position of a calf.

Any other presentation is considered malpresentation, and more than likely will lead to
Assistance is required when a cow appears to behaving problems giving birth. If the calf is in
thewrong position, it is possible for a person to examinethe cow and gently rearrange the calf so
that is inthe correct position and can be delivered. If the calfappears to actually be stuck, it may
take some moreeffort on the part of the person, but it is possible toassist and deliver a healthy,
live calf.
Before assisting a cow, the cows vulva and thesurrounding area should be cleaned, as well as
thehand and arm of the person who will be assisting thecow. Any other equipment that may be
going insidethe animal should be disinfected and properly storedbetween uses. If bacteria gets
inside the reproductivetract, infections may be deleterious to futurereproductive performance.
When everything necessaryhas been disinfected, it is critical that large amountsof lubricant are
used before anything enters the birthcanal. Products such as petroleum-based jellies or even
solid cooking compounds can be used as lubrication. Alack of lubrication can cause serious
tissue damage tothe cow, which may endanger her reproductive abilityin the future. There is
some indication that assistingwith parturition too early can interfere with the thirdstage of
When all of the necessary precautions have beentaken, a long sleeve plastic glove should be
worn tofurther protect the cow from bacteria. The hand andarm of the person can enter the birth

canal throughthe vulva and slowly find the calf. It is very importantthat the person assisting with
the calving be able tovisualize what it is that they are feeling inside the cow.
In a normal position, one would be able to feel thehead and both of the front legs and hoofs.
Make surethat both of them extend back toward the rear of thecow. This would indicate that the
calf is in the properposition. However, if this is not what the person feels,then further assistance
is needed. Some of the morecommon malpresentations include a calf that has oneor both forelegs
back, its head back (see Figure 4), orthe animal coming backward in breech position (seeFigure

Malpresented calf with head back.Abreech calf in the uterus

A breech calf is completely backwards in theuterus, with the back legs tucked under the
When calving assistance is necessary, there are afew methods that may aid in the eventual birth
of thecattle. It may be possible in some cases, to push thecalf back, very gently, into the uterus
where it canbe repositioned into normal position. In some cases,however, this may not be
possible. The calf may stillnot come out easily. In the event that this happens, anexperienced
herdsman or a veterinarian will need topull the calf.
Pulling a calf needs to be done very carefullyand gently. It is done best and most safely either
with obstetrical (pulling) chains, or a calf puller.When chains are to
be used, they should be first
disinfected and then looped around each leg of thecalf at least twice.
The chains should be slid up thefront legs so that they are around the
cannon bonesand are two to three inches above the ankles and
dewclaws to protect the delicate tendonsin the pasterns. The best

way to pull the calf is toalternatively pull on each leg and gradually and gentlywalk the calf
out until the shoulders have gottenthrough the pelvis. Pulling should always be done in
adownward arcing motion, toward the hocks of the cow.
An alternative method to deliver a calf is through theuse of a calf puller or calf jack. This is an
instrumentthat can effectively have the pulling force of sevenfull-grown men. These should be
used only whennecessary, and should be used only by experiencedherdsmen or veterinarians. If
calving is still notmoving smoothly, or other problems are encountered,a veterinarian should be
contacted, as a Caesareansection may be necessary to get the calf out alive.
Whatever the situation, ultimate care must be taken toavoid doing any harm to the cow. Pulling
the calf cancause its hooves to scratch against the uterine tissue,causing dangerous rips and tears
in the lining of theuterus or the vagina. Pulling too hard can also tear thecervix or the birth canal,
further endangering the cow,not to mention harm the calf.
Farmers to induce one cow and monitor heat signs
Post parturition management

The objectives of good calf rearing practise is to
-Reduce calf mortality
-Rear fast growing calves
-Rear calves at reasonable costs
-Raise healthy replacement stock
Young stock
The importance of young stock is to form foundation for replacement stock, used to expand
dairy herd and also sold to generate revenue
Calves birth to weaning (2 4 months)
Weaners weaning to 1 year old
Heifers 1 year to end of 1st lactation
Steaming up

This is offering high quality feed in the last trimester of pregnancy to a dairy cow so as to
increase calfs birth weight. This is because birth weight has a positive correlation with
the calfs survival ability.
Calf/dam handling at birth
Dam should be put in a clean paddock/pen
Allow unaided calving unless in difficulty
Ensure nasal openings are unblocked
Tie and disinfect naval chord
Allow calf to suckle colostrum immediately (1st 6 hours)
Ensure that the cow expels the placenta
Aseptically dispose the placenta (burn or bury)
Have means of temporarily identifying the calf
Provide ad libitum access to cool clean water
Calf feeding
1st week
Colostrum feeding
Ensure adequate colostrum intake within the 1st 36 hour
Colostrum benefits
It is a well balanced ration high in vitamin A, highly digestible and readily utilized. It has
a laxative effect that helps remove meconium and it also contains antibodies that give
immunity to the calf
NB; Avoid re-warming colostrum since important immunoglobulins (immunity antibodies) will
be destroyed
Bucket feeding
Calf should be trained the earliest possible and the Dams milk is fit for domestic use by
4th day. A calf should be fed twice a day and the milk must be fed fresh at body
temperatureand at quantities corresponding to 10 -12 % body weight. A calf should drink
milk fast & look alert.
2nd to 4th week

Mainly liquid phase feeding but roughage may be introduced in week 2. Feeding on calf
pellets reduces milk dependency & allows early weaning. Observe general hygiene and
N/B: Milk replacers may be used. These are commercial products resembling milk

Orphaned Calf Feeding

Provide colostrum from another dam or artificial colostrum with the following
ingredients: 1litre water, 1egg, 1 teaspoonful cod liver oil and 1 of castor oil
Mix thoroughly and raise temperature to 37oC
Feed 10-12% body weight
It should be fed for the 1st 3-5 days of calfs life
Calf housing
Protection against weather elements, protection from predators, prevention of worm & parasite
infestation and ease of feeding management
Calf housing should allow for natural light, easy feeding,cleaning and free drainage
NB;Allow 1.5m2 - 2m2 per calf for 1st 3 months. Standard calf pen should measure 1.5m x 1.5m
and raised by 1 ft
Common diseases
a) Calf Scour
Raising calf under unhygienic conditions and poor feeding
Listlessness, diarrhoea, increased temperatures and respiration rates
Starve calf for 24 hours. Treatment with antibiotic is necessary if scour has offensive
b) Pneumonia
Draughts, sudden temperature changes and humidity changes

Temperature rise, increase in respiratory rate and laboured breathing

c) Worm Infestation
Poor body condition, dry cough.dry rough coat, pot belly and swelling under the jaw
Observe hygiene (housing) and grazing areas, perform regular pen disinfection, change of
beddings and drenching with dewomers
Routine calf practices
Identification; temporary or permanent as per convenience/rearing system
Disbudding; by use of hot iron rod or caustic soda (KOH or NaOH)
Castration; closed or open
Control of ecto - parasite by use of acaricide, rotational grazing, disinfection of pens &


Many farmers lose a lot of milk each year through production of low- grade milk, which ends up
getting rejected or downgraded. Clean milk production refers to the withdrawal of clean milk
from the animals udder and maintenance of the quality of that milk till consumption or
Clean milk should NOT-
Have visible matter such as hairs, dust and organic matter
Have odd flavours, smell or colour
Have pathogenic organisms that may cause disease to both humans and animals
Have certain chemical residues, which are used at the farm such as antibiotics and pesticides.
Exceed the legal minimum requirements for water, butterfat and solid non-fat.
The main sources of contamination in milk at the farm level are;

The animals (cows) Much of the dirt and dust that goes into milk comes from the cows
flanks, udder and belly during milking and therefore the animals should be fairly clean. In
addition the dairy herd should be free from diseases that might spread to human beings through
the milk e.g. mastitis. Drug withdrawal periods must also be observed.
Milk handling and storage equipment All the milking equipment should be kept free from
odours and dust. When cleaning they should first be briefly rinsed then thoroughly washed
before a final rinsing so as to avoid formation of milk stones on the equipment.
Environment (especially around the milking parlour) - The milking facility should be located in
a well-drained area. The area must also be regularly kept clean.
Milkers and milk handlers all the personnel handling milk must be clean and free from
communicable diseases. They should also follow the proper milking procedures.

Factors That Affect Clean Milk Production

Milking techniques the milking routine that each farmer adopts will greatly influence the
quality of milk produced at that farm. The milker must seriously follow the laid down milking
techniques, habits and use of sanitary procedures.
Cooling and storage of milk in many farms proper cooling and storage facilities do not exist
and as a result milk with a high bacterial count is sent to the market.
Feeding routines feed flavours are among the common taste defects in milk. Feeds that impart
an off-flavour to milk, such as silage, should be fed after milking. It is also recommended that
cows for milking be brought from the pastures one hour before milking begins
Control of flies the presence of large numbers of flies in dairy buildings apart from irritating
the animal and milker, also add to the bacterial count in milk. Breeding places for flies such as
manure piles and mud pools near the milking area should be eradicated
Water supply water is a more acute problem to small-scale dairy farmers who cannot afford a
permanent supply. Adequate water supply is very crucial in the maintenance of cleanliness at the
Lack of good facilities and equipment some facilities and equipment require capital investment,
which may not be readily available to the farmer. Because of this the farmer ends up using low
grade equipment which may be unfit to handle human food

Consumers consumers pressure on the farmers to produce clean milk may be lacking and as
such the farmer may not make much effort in producing clean milk.
Lack of knowledge some farmers are not aware of the importance of clean milk and may not
have sufficient knowledge on clean milk production.

The milking programme

Milking refers to the withdrawal of milk from the udder of an animal through manual means
(hand milking), by the use of an intermittent/ onoff vacuum (machine milking) or through calf
suckling. Efforts should be geared towards producing milk of the largest quantity and of the best
quality possible since milk is undoubtedly the immediate major source of income for any dairy
farmer. The milking methods should also promote a long productive herd life. The milkers must
understand and like the cows in order to apply the proper milking routine procedures.
A skilled milker should be able to identify the following;
Udder troubles
Cows that refuse to eat their feed
Cows that are on heat
The failure of the milking machine to function properly (in the case of machine milking)
The Milking Routine
The aim is to get organised so that the milking proceeds fast, effectively and efficiently.
The cows should be assembled 15-30 minutes before milking starts
Milking equipment, utensils and feeds should be assembled into conveniently accessible spots to
reduce movements during the actual milking process.

Pre-milking activities
Drive individual animals into the milking crush/stalls
Restrain the animal using a rope, neck yoke and/or hook hobbles
Prepare the udder by:-
Washing it using warm water containing a bactergent. Washing helps remove physical dirt,
bacteria and also in stimulating milk letdown
Use a strip cup to for mastitis. Observe the consistency, colour and smell of the milk. Any
quarter showing milk abnormality has mastitis and should be milked last into a separate

container. The fore milk from the strip cup testing should be discarded far away from the milking
area so as not to spread the disease to other cows. Strip cup use helps; discard high bacterial
count fore milk, minimise spread of mastitis to uninfected udder quarters and/or to other animals.
Wipe both the teats and udder dry using a clean udder towel for each animal
Place the feed into the trough if the cows have been conditioned to feed during milking.
The milking proper is then performed using either the hand or machine milking methods
Hand milking
Using the squeezing technique, empty the udder. (If stripping is applied, it increases the somatic
cell count in the milk besides weakening the teats sphincter muscles and irritating the teat canal
thus increasing chances of pathogenic infections). It is preferred that the milking starts with the
rear quarters since these give about 2/3 of the total milk at a milking. The udder should always be
emptied completely as otherwise subsequent milk production may decline.
Weigh and record the yield
Sieve the milk into a holding churn ready for transportation or cooling
Apply milking salve on the teats and/or dip them into a teat dip e.g. a mastrite
Release the animal
Machine milking
Turn on the vacuum supply
Hold the claw on either hand such that the claw is level and the teat cups hang freely downwards
then place the teat cups onto the teats starting with the teat on the rear quarter farthest from you.
Machine strip by slightly exerting pressure on the claw downward only for few seconds when
milk flow has slowed (as observed from the transparent part of the claw). The milk obtained after
machine stripping is called residual milk and is very high in percentage fat.
When milk flow stops, turn vacuum supply off promptly then break the residual vacuum by
removing one teat cup to allow air to replace the vacuum. At this point the teat cups will slide off
the teats easily.
Clean the teat cups by dipping in water to remove milk inside the liner before using them on
another cow.
Advantages of machine milking
Time efficiency milks many cows per man-hour.
Cost effective leads to the reduction of labour costs

Reduces incidences of human transmitted diseases
Maintains the shape of the teats and udder
High initial costs more appropriate in large farms
Can be a source of infection if poorly maintained
Requires knowledge of mechanics to operate effectively
Requires medium sized teats and udder
Does not consider the amount of milk produced by each teat/quarter (rear quarters produce more
milk than the fore quarters)

Milk Let Down Reflex (Milk Ejection Reflex)

The stimuli that lead to milk letdown in cows include:-
Approach of the milking time
Approach of the milker
Washing of the udder or suckling/muzzling by the calf
Rattling of the milk buckets
Placing of feed before the cows
Sight and sound of the calf
Milk synthesis takes place in the alveoli region of the udder whence water, mineral salts,
vitamins and sugar (lactose) are secreted by the alveoli secretory cells into the alveoli sac with
the excess flowing into the milk ducts. The milk letdown reflex involves activation of the nerves
in the skin of the teat that are sensitive to touch and temperature. Neural impulses ascend the
spinal chord to the posterior pituitary gland via the hypothalamus in the brain where they cause
discharge of oxytocin into the blood stream. The hormone diffuses out of the capillaries in the
udder and cause contraction of myo-epithelial cells that surround the alveoli and smaller ducts.
This squeezing action forces milk through the ducts to the gland and teat cisterns. Contraction of
the myo-epithelial cells occurs within 20-60 seconds after stimulation of the teats. Milking
should commence 1 minute after the initial stimulation. After release into the bloodstream, the
effective level of oxytocin lasts for only 7-10 minutes. Thus it is important to withdraw the milk
rapidly within this period when the oxytocin level in the bloodstream is still effective i.e. on
average 8 minutes. The secretion and action of oxytocin is inhibited by adrenaline hormone,

which is secreted when the animal is frightened or excited. Adrenaline inhibition is as a result of
its three antagonistic effects, these are; causing relaxation of myo-epithelial cells, interference of
the flow of the neural (nerve) impulse that causes oxytocin release and causing constriction of
blood vessels which deliver oxytocin to the udder region. Therefore ill treatment, rough handling
and/ or a strange environment should be avoided prior and during the milking process.
Understand how to feed milking cows
Why feed
Lactation curve;
Feed requirements at various lactation stages/ phases
Factors affecting feed intake
Nutrients requirement
Sources of nutrients
Effects of feed source on milk composition
Feeding systems and strategies
Metabolic diseases and their control; retained placenta, laminitis, milk fever, ketosis,
grass tetany
Measuring weight
Calculating/compounding TMR
General Farm Records
Milk production records
Breeding records
Feed records
Nutrients required by a dairy animal
Dairy cows demand a large supply of energy for:-Maintenance, milk production , reproduction,
growth and weight gain

High producing cows usually cannot consume adequate feed during early lactation to meet their
requirements. The energy deficiency is made-up by converting body fat to energy. However, this
leads to loss of body weight which should be kept to a minimum to avoid metabolic
The main sources of energy are provided by carbohydrates and fats. Protein can be metabolized
for energy, but it is an expensive source of energy. The carbohydrates are available from such
feed sources as silage, hay, and Napier grass.
Due to the fact that a large amount of the forages are used in farm based ration the farmer is
usually encourage to grow them so as to achieve the lowest cost. Maize silage is the most
popular energy source in Kenya particularly with the medium to large scale dairy producers.
Where land is limiting Napier grass is popular.

Protein is required for:- Maintenance, milk production, reproduction and growth
Unlike energy, protein cannot be mobilized in significant amounts when the requirement is
greater than the demand. Therefore adequate amounts of protein must be supplied daily in order
to avoid depression in milk production. Dairy rations have traditionally been balanced for the
Crude Protein (CP) requirements.
The best sources of protein are:-
Legume forages such as Lucerne &desmodium and oil seed meals such as cotton seed cake,
sunflower cake and fish meal.
Grains and non-legume forages are somewhat deficient in protein and usually require
supplementation for dairy rations.
In the farm situation where land is not limiting the growing of legume which should also form
large part of ration is encouraged. Legumes may be planted alone or may be intercropped with
Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for:- Maintenance, Milk production, Reproduction and
Most rations will require supplementation with calcium and phosphorus. Salt is required for
metabolic purposes and to maintain osmotic pressure in the body tissues.

Major minerals not adequately supplied by most feedstuffs are:- Calcium, Phosphorus and Salt
Lack of certain minerals can result in:-
Poor fertility (delayed or depressed heat signs, poor conception, increased abortion: lack of
phosphorous, copper, Manganese.
A low milk production: lack of phosphorous, salt calcium
Deformed skeleton in young animals: phosphorous and calcium
Metabolic diseases : Calcium and magnesium
In certain localities, magnesium may need to be supplemented. Rations containing extremely
large amounts of grain and small amounts of forage may need supplemental potassium. It is
recommended that trace mineralized salt be supplemented to insure adequate supplies of trace
Mineral for feed formulation are usually bought in. It is critical to source the minerals from
reputable firms / company.
With the exception of vitamins A and D, the other vitamins needed by dairy cows are generally
believed to be present in adequate amounts in normal feedstuffs or are manufactured in adequate
quantities by micro-organisms in the rumen. Where possible a vitamin premix can be sourced for
incorporation in the feed formulation.
This is a very important component of feeding. It is required to maintain many body functions
like blood circulation and to produce milk. Water must be supplied in ad libitum as the cow
producing milk may drink more than 60 litres of water per day.

Other Ingredients
In addition to the above, addition ingredient are usually added to enhance feed utilization. These
include among others:-
Yeasac (which is yeast to improve the growth of the rumen micro-organism)
Mycosorb (which reduces the effects of mycotoxin in the meals)
Molasses (added to improve palatability)
Buffers (to reduce possible acidosis)

Factors that affect feed intake
Feed intake by the animal is affected by;
Feed itself
Feed factors that affect voluntary feed intake in livestock
-Chemical composition of feedstuff: Feedstuffs rich in carbohydrates and protein would
be consume in less quantities compared to a less nutritive feedstuff.
-Form of presentation: Finely ground feed would be in less amounts by ruminants
compared to chopped feed
-Roughage :Concentrate ratio: Well balanced feed would be consumed in a more exact
amounts than feed which is not well balanced, which will be consumed in large quantities
-Palatability of feedstuff: Animals tend to consume more of a palatable feed and less of
non-palatable feed
-Moisture content of feed: Animals will consume more of a feed that has high moisture
content and less of a dry feed
-Frequency of feeding: An animal that is feed once a day will consume less than an
animal that is fed 2 or 3 times a day
-Provision of water: Animals that provided water adlibitum will consume more feed than
animals that are provided with water twice a day
Animal factors that affect feed Intake;
-Live weight : large breeds consume more feed than small breeds
-Physiological status: lactating consume more than dry cows or heifers
-Production levels: high yielders consume more than low yielders
-Health status: health animals consume more feed than sick animals
-Feeding /grazing system: animals in zero-Grazing unit are provided with more exact
ration while grazing cows could consume grass depending on the amount and quality of
grass available
Environmental factors that affect feed intake;

-Heat stress: Stressed animals consume less feed than relax animals because in a relaxed
animal all body systems are functioning efficiently. Heat stress makes the animal
uncomfortable and would spend much energy in trying to remove heat to the environment
-Cold stress: Animals exposed to cold stress consume more feed so as t produce energy
(heat) in attempt to maintain body temperature
-Parasitic load: Animals infested with worms consume more feed than healthy ones
because worms compete for feed with the specific animal
-Soil condition: Soils rich in nutrients produce plants rich in nutrients which animals
require lower amounts to meet their nutrient requirements and vice versa

Feeding systems
Feeds can be divided into two groups namely roughages and concentrates. Roughages includes
feeds like napier grass, maize stover, Leucaena, banana stems, sweet potato vines, hay, silage.
These feeds are usually grown on the farm and are the cheapest to feed to the cow. Good quality
roughage is the basis of a high milk production. Concentrates are products like dairy meal, maize
bran, maize germ meal, brewers waste etc. 1 kg of dairy meal should increase milk production
by 1.5 kg if it is of good quality and the cow is fed high quality roughage.
The dominant feeding systems for dairy herds are:
Separate Concentrate Feeding (SCF);
Total Mixed Ration (TMR); and
Partly Mixed Ration (PMR).

Separate Concentrate Feeding (SCF)

In a SCF system, the roughage and concentrates are fed separately. The system makes individual
feeding of both roughage and concentrates possible, but roughage is usually fed ad - libitum and
concentrates are fed restrictively.
Total Mixed Ration (TMR)
In the TMR feeding system, concentrates and roughage are mixed in a mixer wagon. The mix is
often dispensed to the cow directly from the mixer wagon, but can also be distributed with
conveyors or with feed wagons.

The TMR system is most common in large loose-housing zero grazing units and it is often fed ad
- libitum
Partly Mixed Ration (PMR)
Partly Mixed Ration (PMR) is a feeding regime that combines TMR and SCF. It involves a
mixer wagon mixing roughage and some of the concentrates. The concentrates level is suited to
low yielders. High yielders get extra concentrates in feeding stations, in-parlour feeders or from a
feed wagon.
When feeding more than one roughage and by-products, PMR is a very smooth way of feeding if
the farmer wants to feed concentrates individually. When some of the concentrates are mixed
with the roughage, feed intake increases and the risk of rumen acidosis is reduced.
The following are some feeding strategies:

Feeding strategies
a)Flat rate
Flat rate feeding is a feeding strategy where all cows are fed the same level of concentrates
during the whole, or part, of the lactation period. The concentrates are restricted to a certain level
while roughage is fed ad-libitum.
b)Challenge feeding, also known as Feeding to yield
This is situation where the cow is fed in accordance to the yield with more feed being added
whenever a notable increase is observed, until a climax is reached. This is usually used in early
lactation for fresh calvers to determine their peak production levels.
c)Ad libitum feeding
Ad libitum feeding simply means that the animals are allowed to eat as much feed as they want.
Roughage is often fed ad libitum.
Nutritional requirements for dairy animals
Feeding dairy cows for efficient production involves supplying the five classes of nutrients in
proper amounts. The nutrients are discussed here below:

Feeding a dairy cow

Proper feeding is very important for the success of dairy farming and represents the highest
single variable cost in livestock production. It should be done skilfully to maximize production

and minimize costs. Feed costs accounts for over half of the total costs of milk production.
Profitable dairy enterprise requires cows with high genetic potential for milk production which
are fed to achieve the greatest output of the milk at the most economical cost. A healthy mature
cow is a result of good nutritional management of the animal.
A dairy cow requires a number of different chemical substances to enable it carry out the various
processes which are necessary for maintaining life, for growth and reproduction. Conception of
the dairy animal is closely related to the nutritional status of the animal. Knowing how to provide
adequate nutrition to the animal is therefore important if the farmer has to succeed in getting as
many animals as possible to conceive. In addition, the full potential of the dairy animal in terms
of milk production cannot be fully achieved if good nutrition is neglected.
The type of feed offered to dairy cattle will vary from region to region depending on the feed
resource base, the technology available and the market for the dairy products. In feeding dairy
cattle, one should ensure adequate intake of dry matter and the request nutrients. Dry matter
intake expressed as percent of body weight, varies with size of the animal and level of milk
production. Thus a cow producing 10kg of milk with 4% fat and weighing 400kg will consume
10kg of dry matter per day while a cow weighing 600kg and at the same level of production will
consume13.2 kg of dry matter per day. The intake varies from 6.3 kg to 18.2 kg depending on
whether the animal is receiving concentrates or not. Insufficient feed supply is a limiting factor
to milk production in Kenya. Common feed stuff used by the resource poor farmers are banana
stems, maize stovers, napier grass, weeds, green maize, poultry waste and grass.

Feeding the dairy cow

The feeding of the dairy animal varies with the intensity of management. These may vary from:-
Extensive system animals predominantly graze
Zero grazing units animals fed in the stalls
Most of the large scale farms have a system which is a combination of both systems but where
feeding of total Mixed Ration (TMR) is central to the feeding programmes.
In all variations the nutritional requirements of the dairy animal varies according to the stage of
lactation. The lactation cycle of the dairy cow is approximately 12 months and the aim of the
breeding programme, supported by the nutritional programme, is to achieve this. The lactation of
the breeding cow would last 305 days whereas the remaining 60 days is the dry period. In the dry

period, transition takes place in the cow for the next lactation. In all these periods the nutritional
requirement of the dairy animal differs.

Heifer nutrition
Heifers encompass the category from weaned female calves upwards and are easily neglected by
the farmer. In order to get them to reach puberty fast, there is need to ensure that the growth of
no less than 700g/day is achieved. They be well fed to ensure maximum growth is achieved
without making them too fat. The two options available to the farmer when feeding the heifers
i) Use of very good pastures followed by supplementation with concentrates.
ii) Use of Total Mixed Ration.
Pastures used should be reasonably mature in the piping stage. If this is not feasible, hay can be
used as a replacement fodder. In zero grazing situations, the heifers can be fed on reasonably
mature Napier as the adult. Supplementation is done with Young stock meal, which has a higher
crude protein than the dairy meal. Where it is not available, the dairy meal can be improved by
the addition of a crude protein source such as cotton seed cake.
In the TMR formulation the heifers have a formulation made specifically for them with the target
growth in mind. Forages and concentrates are mixed adequately so that no selection of the feed
is done by the feeding animals. The ration is fed three times a day. Water is availed ad-lib and so
are minerals.
In all the regimes it is important that the growth of the heifers is monitored. This is done by
weighing with a weighing scale or where not available a weight band. Animals not growing as
expected are selected and treated for possible underlying conditions. Regular deworming is
important for the heifers and the programme should be followed diligently.

Feeding during Lactation

Main stages in the lactation cycle of the dairy cow:
i) Early lactation (14-100 days)
ii) Mid lactation (100 to 200 days)
iii) Late lactation (200-305 days)

Early lactation
Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cows in Early-lactation
Early lactation usually refers to the first 100 days of lactation. At the beginning of this phase:-
Cows will achieve peak milk production (6th week), Feed intake is lagging and Cows are
usually losing weight
At the end this phase
Peak dry matter intake should be achieved and Weight loss may still occur
Rations for lactating dairy cows are usually formulated based on protein (e.g. CP) and energy
(e.g. net energy for lactation) requirements. Dairy rations are usually formulated to maximize
microbial yield and for requirements of ruminal un-degraded amino acids. Provide adequate
protein in grain ration or protein supplement especially during the first 1/3 of lactation. The
practical approach is to provide adequate protein for 1st 120 days of lactation of 18% in total
ration dry matter.
Body Weight Loss During Early Lactation
During early stages of lactation, demand for nutrients by the mammary gland increases for milk
production. The most important period in the life of the dairy cow is from the time of calving
until peak milk production which usually occurs 4 to 10 weeks postpartum. During this period
milk yield increases more rapidly than dry matter intake (peak production) and the nutrients
intake may not be adequate to meet the needs of the mammary gland for milk production. The
cow may suffer from a shortage of energy and protein because maximum DM intake does not
occur until after the cow has peaked in milk production. When the cow requirement for energy
and protein is greater than the intake from feed, she draws from the body stores of fat and protein
to supply energy and protein for milk production. It is normal for a high producing cow to loss
weight during the early lactation. During this period, the cow could lose as much as 0.7 kg/day.
The energy and especially the protein available from the body store can only supply a limited
amount of her needs. If the cow has to rely heavily on her body stores of energy and protein,
either milk production will be held to the level of nutrients availability or she will succumb to
metabolic disorders such as ketosis. During early lactation, cows mobilize proportionally more
energy than protein. Therefore, the percent crude protein in the ration should be higher during
this period to maximize the efficiency of energy utilization and to meet the requirement of
protein for maximum milk production.

However, the cow at this stage has a limited capacity to ingest the required amount of feed. For a
cow to survive this critical period without severe metabolic problems and to attain their peak
production, it is essential to feed in ad libitum a diet properly balanced in all the nutrients.
Major determinants of total milk yield for entire lactation are:- Peak milk yield and
Persistency of production
Both are influenced by nutrients intake and body nutrients reserve. Peak milk yield is more
critical in determining total milk yield for lactation than persistency of milk production if
persistency is near normal.

Monitoring Dry Matter Intake during Early Lactation

Feed intake is the key factor in maintaining high milk production. Cows should be encouraged to
maximize their intake during early lactation. Each additional kg of dry mater consumed can
support 2-2.4 kg more milk. Feed intake by the dairy cow is influenced by many factors
including level of production, forage quantity and quality, feed digestibility, feed processing,
feeding frequency, consistency of ration ingredients, etc.
Mid - lactation
Mid-lactation period is the period from day 100 to day 200 after calving. By the beginning of this
phase, cows will have achieved peak production (8-10 weeks after calving). Peak dry matter
intake has also occurred with no more weight losses .Cows should reach maximum dry matter
intake not later than 10 weeks after calving. At this point, cows should be eating at least 4% of
their body weight. The cow should be fed a ration that will maintain peak production as long as
possible. For every 2 kg of expected milk production, large-breed cows should eat at least one kg
of dry matter.
The main target during this period is to maintain peak milk productions as long as possible. For
each extra kg of milk at peak production, the average cow will produce 200-225 kg more milk
for the entire lactation. Thus the key strategy during mid lactation is to maximize dry matter
intake. During this period the cow should be fed high quality forage (minimum 40 to 45% of the
ration dry matter) and the level of effective fibre should be maintained at a level similar to that of
early lactation. Concentrates should not exceed 2.3% of body weight.

Protein requirements during mid lactation are lower than in early lactation. Therefore rations for
dairy cows in mid-lactation should contain 15-17% crude protein. During this period the cow
should be bred to initiate a new pregnancy (60-70 days after calving).

Late lactation
This phase may begin 200 days after calving and end when the cow dries off. During this period,
milk yield continues to decline and so should feed intake. However, the intake easily matches
milk yield. The cow also gains weight during this period to replenish the adipose tissue lost
during early lactation. However, as lactation approaches an end, more of the increase in body
weight is due to the increased size of the growing foetus. Sources of protein and energy are not
very critical during this period. Cheap rations can be formulated with non-protein nitrogen and a
source of readily fermentable carbohydrates such as molasses.

Dry cow nutrition (resting and transition phases)

To attain greatest milk yield, a cow should be given a 50 to 60 day dry (rest and repair) period.
This allows the mammary gland to undergo re-growth prepare for the next lactation. The body
also builds up body energy reserves to avoid excess weight loss during early lactation. Also
important during the dry period is the maintenance of proper energy balance if nutritional
diseases such as milk fever are to be avoided after calving.
- Proper feeding of the dairy cow is essential during the dry period for best
performance. Maximum dry matter (DM) intake and milk production can be obtained
if cows are fed during the dry period so that they are in good body condition without
becoming excessively fat.

The resting phase will last between 3 to five weeks whereas the transition phase will last
between 2-3 weeks.
Resting Phase:
During this phase the demands for energy will be low. However the feed intake should cover for
both maintenance and pregnancy at this period. This phase will see the increase growth of the
calf and feeding is critical. At this phase the rumen papillae which are responsible for absorption
will be reduced in size as less concentrate are fed. Over-fattening should be avoided because:-

- The cow become susceptible to calving difficulties, metabolic disorders and infectious
- Reduce feed intake after calving, possibly by restricting the gut capacity and depressing
appetite. This may result in a serious shortage of nutrients, thus reducing milk production
or leading to metabolic disorders.
If available, coarse textured and long chopped forage is recommended for feeding during the dry
period. Limit the amount of corn silage and concentrates in the ration. The amount of
concentrates in the ration should be determined by the quality and quantity of the forage eaten
and the body condition of the cow.
Transition phase:
The transitional phase is associated with increase feed intake for the animal. The fastest growth
of the calf is observed during this phase. Because of this, concentrates are introduced once again
and feed is made mixed as with the lactation animal. There is re-growth of the rumen papillae by
elongation to the peak size once again. However calcium intake of the dry cow should be limited
to 100g to enable the animal system to starting mobilizing its own calcium in preparation for
Beginning approximately 14 days before expected parturition, concentrates should be fed at 1%
of body weight to adopt the cow to concentrate feeding prior to lactation.
In summary the concentrate feed for a dry cow will be zero for the first week but rises to 2kg for
the weeks 2 to 4, 3kg for weeks 5 to 6 and 5kg for weeks 7 to 8.

How Feed Requirements Change During Lactation

Feeding the herd well in early lactation to maximise the peak. The foremost of these is voluntary
food intake.
At calving, appetite is about 75 per cent of maximum. This is because during the dry period the
growing calf takes up space and the volume of the rumen is reduced. After calving, it takes time
for the rumen to stretch. It is not until weeks 1012 that appetite reaches its full potential.
In addition, spring pasture is very moist. It has a low dry matter content and so the rumen cannot
hold enough pasture to meet the dry matter needs of the cow at this time. Peak milk production
occurs around weeks 68 of lactation. So, when a cow should be gorging herself with energy,
she is physically restricted in the amount she can eat.

Milk yield peak at weeks 6 to 8

Dry matter intake peak at weeks 10 to 12

Level of intake is primarily determined by stage of lactation, but it can be manipulated.

A 30-litre cow would be struggling to eat 22 kg DM of feed at 10 MJ/kg DM at any time during
lactation, let alone early in lactation when intake is restricted.

Cows in early lactation have a reduced capacity to eat. They will therefore produce a greater
amount of milk
from more energy dense feed because they have to eat less dry matter to receive an equivalent
intake of energy.

If cows are underfed in early lactation, they partition less energy to milk and more to body
condition over the whole lactation. The underfeeding affects milk production for the whole
lactation and also affects fertility. This is set out in Table 6.2.

Peak lactation to peak intake

After peak lactation, the cows appetite gradually increases until she can consume all the
nutrients required forproduction from high quality feed (ie. there is no physical restriction on
intake). During this time the cow tends to maintain weight.
Mid-lactation to late lactation
Although energy required for milk production is less demanding during this period because milk
production is declining, energy is still important because of pregnancy and the need to build up
body condition as an energy reserve for the next lactation.

Nutritional requirements generally exceed voluntary food intake until week 12, so body fat
reserves are drawn upon to make up the nutrient deficit.

It is generally more profitable to improve the condition of the herd in late lactation rather than in
the dry period. While lactating, cows use energy more efficiently for
weight gain (75 per cent efficient compared to 59 per cent if dry). As well, the extra milk
produced in response to the extra feed, gains higher autumn prices.

Dry period
Maintaining (or increasing) body condition during the dry period is the key to ensuring the cow
has adequate body reserves for early lactation.

Ideally, cows should calve in a condition score of at least 5, and preferably 5 to 6. If cows calve
with adequate body reserves on their back, one condition score can be lost inthe first two months
of lactation.

Each condition score lost (between score 36) in early lactation is equivalent to 220 litres of
milk, 10 kg of fat and6.5 kg of protein over the lactation.

Each additional condition score at calving reduces the time between calving and first heat by 56
days. The sooner the cow begins to cycle, the sooner she is likely to get into calf and the more
compact the calving period next season.If cows calve in poor condition, milk production suffers
in early lactation because body reserves are not available to contribute energy.

As a result, more dietary energy is channelled towards weight gain. For this reason, high feeding
levels in early lactation cannot make up for poor body condition at calving.
Metabolic disorders and unbalanced diets
Metabolic disorders can be clinical, when there are obvious symptoms, or sub-clinical, when
there are not. Even at the sub-clinical level, they can depress feed intake and cause production
Metabolic disorders such as ketosis and acidosis are usually linked to low intakes around calving
or to abrupt changes in diet.
Managing nutrition well during the dry period and in early lactation is the key to preventing or
minimizing the occurrence of metabolic disorders.
The aim is to:
Maximize nutrient intake around calving and in early lactation by providing enough
high quality feed
Avoid decreases in intake caused by sudden changes in diet when cows calve and join
the milking herd.
Nutritional management at this time also plays a major role in minimising milk fever and grass

Milk fever
Milk fever is caused by a sudden and severe decrease in blood calcium levels at the onset of
lactation, due to large increases in demand for calcium for milk production.
The incidence of milk fever increases with age and the number of previous calves.
The cow has mechanisms for adapting to these increased demands for calcium.
The mechanisms are:
increasing the absorption of calcium from the intestine

mobilising calcium reserves held in bones.

These mechanisms are activated in response to low concentrations of blood calcium. But they
take some time to start working after the cow calves.
When this process does not happen quickly enough, calcium replenishment into the bloodstream
cannot keep pace with the output of calcium in milk.
Once calcium levels fall, muscular tremors and paralysis occur, followed by cow collapse and
eventually death.

The key to reducing the incidence of milk fever is to stimulate the cows mechanisms for
mobilising calcium from the skeleton and increasing absorption from the intestine prior to
calving, so that she is primed to meet the increased calcium demands after she calves.

Management strategies which can be implemented are:

Feeding diets low in calcium during the dry period.
In practice, this means restricting fresh pasture andproviding grass-based hay instead.

Altering the cows dietary cation-anion balance (DCAB).Cations are positively charged ions
such as potassium and sodium. Anions are negatively charged ions such as chloride and sulfate.

DCAB dietary cation-anion balance

DCAB refers to the balance between positive ions (sodium and potassium) and negative ions
(chloride and sulphate). Ideally, negatives should outweigh positives, but this is difficult to
achieve in a pasture-based system.
Feeding higher levels of negatively charged ions produces a condition called metabolic acidosis.
It appears that cows can remove calcium from bone more rapidly when they are affected by
metabolic acidosis. The calcium- mobilisation process is encouraged, thus preparing the cow for
the increased requirements around calving.

To do this, the diet must be higher in anions than cations. This means feeding lower levels of
potassium and sodium.

How can dietary cation-anion balance be managed?
Choose forages carefully. They can affect the acid-base balance. Some forages are high in
potassium (often due to potassium fertilisers).
Hays grown on soils with poor fertiliser histories generally contain less potassium.
Feed anionic salts (also called acid salts). These salts include magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts),
ammonium sulphateand ammonium chloride. Some of these salts are unpalatable. There are
various methods of feeding them, including commercially prepared pelleted supplements. Note
that mixing these salts into molasses to improve palatability is not a good idea, as molasses
contains potassium, which, being positively charged, tends to cancel out the effect of feeding the
extra negatively charged ions.
Anionic salt mixtures should be discontinued after calving.

Grass tetany
Grass tetany or grass staggers often occurs in lactating cows within the first few months after
calving. It appears as muscular spasms and convulsions and can eventually cause death.Grass
tetany is associated with low magnesium levels in the blood. Since magnesium is not stored in
the body, the cow relies on a daily intake of magnesium to meet her needs.

Conditions which reduce magnesium intake or blood magnesium levels include:

Grass-dominant pastures which may not supply the magnesium necessary to meet the
needs of a cow in early lactation
Topdressing with potash (potassium) or nitrogenous fertilisers. These reduce the
availability of magnesium to the animal (potassium and ammonia restrict the absorption
of magnesium)
Short periods of fasting which can occur during yarding, transport or exposure to cold,
wet, windy weather.

Grass tetany can be prevented by including a magnesium supplement in the diet to provide each
cow with 1015 g of magnesium per day. Supplementation should begin one week prior to
calving and end when clover content in pastures begins to improve.

Common sources of magnesium are:

Insoluble magnesium oxide (e.g. Causmag) dusted on to hay or added to bail feed at a
rate of 50 g/cow/day or dusted on to pasture at a rate of 5075 g/cow/day
Magnesium incorporated into licks
Soluble magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) at a rate of
5 g/L/cow/day in drinking water or at a rate of
60 g/cow/day in a drench
Soluble magnesium chloride at a rate of 5 g/litre/cow/day in drinking water or at a rate
of 100 g/cow/day in adrench.

NOTE: High levels (over 30 g per cow per day) of granulated causmag (magnesium oxide) have
been identified as a common factor in herds which are affected by severe outbreaks of
Salmonella. This needs to be weighed up against the risk of grass tetany. Some veterinarians
suggest lowering granulated causmag levels if a Salmonella case occurs.

Ketosis, or acetonaemia
Ketosis, or acetonaemia, occurs when the cow relies heavily on fat reserves for energy during
early lactation. It is most common in cows fed low energy diets during early lactation.When
there is insufficient energy in the diet, the cow draws on body condition to make up the
deficit.Fat reserves contain ketones, a source of energy. Ketones are often used by the cow to
supplement dietary energy, particularly during early lactation hence the expressionmilking off
her back. To prevent ketosis, feed a well balanced diet with enough energy to minimise the
reliance on body fat reserves in early lactation. Supplying starchy feeds rich in rapidly
fermentable carbohydrates (cereal grains) or feeding molasses can reduce the incidence of
Ketosis highlights the need to avoid abrupt changes in the diet which may decrease intake in
early lactation, and also underlines the importance of maximising nutrient intake with high
quality feed during this period.

Lactic acidosis
Under extreme conditions, such as grain overload, large amounts of lactic acid are formed in the
rumen. Acid may be produced faster than it can be absorbed or buffered. When lactic acid
continues to build up, the rumen pH decreases (becomes more acidic) and microbial activity
slows down. When the microbes stop working, fibredigestion is reduced and voluntary food
intake is depressed.

To avoid acidosis, grain should be introduced gradually (ie. 0.5 kg grain or pellets/cow/day) so
that the population of rumen microbes can adjust according to the type of fermentation that is
required (more starch fermenting microbes may be needed). Remember, though, that different
cows respond differently to grain feeding. Some cows can handle 6 kg of grain per day while
others will get sick on 3 kg per day and there is always a cow that will eat more than her share.
The key to success is to make it a gradual daily increase and to WATCH your cows and check
for symptoms of acidosis or grain poisoning.

Buffers can be in the diet to stabilise rumen pH so that the rumen environment allows a healthy
population of rumen microbes.