A well-designed farm structure should be able to:
- Reduce the cost of the materials or utilise locally available materials.
- Provide safety and comfort to the animals.
- Provide a safe and pleasant environment to the attendant.
- Lead to higher productivity and profitability
Selecting a site for construction of a dairy unit:
- The unit should be as near as possible to the source of feed/fodder to reduce labour costs of carrying the cut fodder to the cows and carrying manure back to the farm.
- Proximity to the homestead in relation to the biogas plant is also an important consideration.
- Easy access to the farm.
- Use of local materials for construction of the unit would reduce cost.
- Carry out regular maintenance of the zero-grazing unit while in use.
- Safety from thieves and malicious neighbours or even farm workers.
- Good manure handling design to ensure that it is properly disposed of without being an odour nuisance to the farm and neighbourhood.
- Good ventilation is good for a healthy respiratory system and adds to the comfort, which is crucial for maximal milk production.
- Protection from rain, strong wind and hot sunshine. Where winds are strong consider utilising wind breakers like trees and buildings.
- Different animals need to be isolated from each other to avoid injuries resulting from fights and mounting to control breeding and avoid spread of diseases.
- Cow comfort is an important part of maintaining a healthy herd. Cows should be housed in well ventilated and clean cubicles. Cow comfort is very important to milk quality, and a priority for dairy farmers and veterinarians.
- Provide music during milking time to reduce stress
Components of a zero-grazing unit
A zero-grazing unit has various components:
- Cubicles: The recommended measurements are: 7ft x 4ft depending on the animal size. Cubicles should be covered with soft materials like saw dust to avoid wounds from bruises as the animal sleeps.
- Walking area: the floor should be made of concrete for ease of cleaning and should have a gradual slope towards the dung pit.
.Resting area: should be roofed to provide shelter against rain and sunshine.
- Feed and water troughs: The total length of the feed trough should be such that each cow or heifer has 75-90 cm to itself. A mineral box can be fixed at the head of each cubicle for individual mineral supply to each cow.
- The milking parlour.
- A calf pen: Poor calf housing facilities is a major problem affecting calf performance and survival.
- The fodder chopping area.
- The store: One cow can produce up to 20 tons of compost per year depending on feeds and management. Accumulated manure can cause health, odour, pest, and water quality problems if not properly managed.
- Roof water catchment and water tank.
Answered by Dr Jolly Kabirizi