Zero-grazing is when animals are fed from a small unit without allowing them to go out and graze. In Uganda, it is mainly used on cows.
The main advantage of zero-grazing is that you can effectively have several cows in a small area.
To feed them, you can utilise foliage from areas near the enclosure. Since the main purpose of zero-grazing is to produce milk, an exotic dairy breed cow, such as a Friesian, is suitable. If the area where you grow grass is small and the climate is arid, choose a smaller hardy breed such as a Jersey or Guernsey or crosses of exotics with local breeds.
A cow producing less than 10 litres of milk per day, under zero-grazing is not economical. On average, a well fed dairy cow should yield at least 20 litres every day, although some go up to 30 litres.
However, for most farmers, getting 10 litres of milk a day from a cow is a miracle. One frustrated farmer said his cow produces only five litres!
There are several reasons why cows of the same breed produce differing amounts of milk. Farmers should bear in mind that if feeds are deficient in terms of protein, energy, minerals and vitamins, the animals’ tissue reserves will be used for milk production.
In feeding cattle, it is, therefore, important that farmers mix feed that contains both rumen degradable proteins and rumen ungradable proteins.
This includes sweet potato vines, mulberry leaves, fish meal, cotton seed cake, cassava leaves and calliandra. All these are easily obtainable in Uganda. Overall, balanced feeds should have protein, fibre, minerals, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and water.
- Make sure that the cow is given as much fodder as it wants to eat. It should be a mixture of grass and legumes in a ration of three parts of grass to one part of legume.
- In case of elephant grass, it should be harvested when it is 60 to 90cm or two to three feet and chopped into small pieces of 2 to 5cm.
- Cattle usually consume about 3% of their body weight.
- Complete ration should be designed so that animals will consume the required concentration of a nutrient since the required concentration depends on dry matter intake. For example, if a 167kg steer is to meet its nutrient requirement of 500g of protein per day, then the steer has to consume 5kg of feed that is balanced to be 10%.