Backgrounder on dairy production

| May 12, 2019

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Like this week’s Farmer story from Kenya, our Script of the week focuses on dairy farming.

Dairy production is a major economic activity for many farmers in some parts of Africa, and using best practices can make a big difference in productivity, animal health, and farmer income.

Why is this subject important to listeners?

Because farmers involved in dairy production should know:
• How to design and construct a proper cow barn.
• The breeds best suited for dairy production in their environment.
• How to feed dairy cows to ensure maximum milk production.
• How to milk cows properly.
• How to handle milk to prevent contamination.
• The quantity, type, and sources of feed needed for dairy cows and how to prepare them.

What are some key facts?
• Dairy cows should have access to quality feed and water for at least 22 hours per day.
• Dairy cows require 12-14 hours daily rest where they lie down.
• A dairy cow that produces at least 30 litres of milk daily (a “high milk production cow”) should consume 4% of its body weight in dry matter every day.
• High milk production cows can drink over 150 litres of water daily in hot seasons.
• An increase in temperature of four degrees Celsius increases water needs by 6-7 litres daily.
• Pregnant and milking cows require more minerals, and in particular large amounts of calcium and phosphorous.
• In tropical East Africa, lactating cows require 60-70 litres of water daily for maintenance, and an extra 4-5 litres of water for every litre of milk they produce.

What are the big challenges in dairy production?
• Dairy farmers lack knowledge of proper feeding routines, including how to prepare nutritionally balanced feed for their cows.
• The high cost of dairy feed inputs such as commercial feed concentrates, vaccines, and mineral salt licks.
• The high cost of good quality dairy animals.
• Dairy farmers lack knowledge of proper breeding methods.
• The high costs of dairy production and low market prices for milk.
• Lack of availability of land for dairy production.
• Lack of cooling facilities to preserve fresh milk.
• Lack of knowledge of diseases that affect dairy cows.