Tuesday, May 30, 2023
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How To Improve Diary Production

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Herbert Musoke

For a long time, dairy farmers in Uganda have been constrained by the lack of good genetics to improve their herd for better production.

The overwhelming numbers that flocked the URUS stall during the recently completed Harvest Monet Expo at Kololo in Kampala prompted its management to organise training for farmers to answer their queries and share information about their products.

The session took place at Kolping Hotel in Kampala. Dr William Kabanda, the central region manager of URUS, said they want to increase artificial insemination (AI) adoption by small-scale farmers, build a sustainable, reliable and dependable network of AI technicians, increase participation of women in the dairy value chain and build a partnership with local genetic centres, processors and other stakeholders.

URUS also partnered with the National Genetics Resources Research Centre and Data bank to improve AI and other livestock genetics-related activities.

How to increase production

 Dr Hamid Rutaro said increasing production in livestock is not only about genetics, but a combination of other factors, such as feeding quality and quantity, health, comfortability, records and timing.

“Although you have animals with the best genetics, without enough quality feed and water, they will not produce milk because their bodies are the ones that produce it. Without feeds, they eat their bodies to produce milk. Therefore, you will lose the milk and the cow itself,” he said.

He said it is also important to keep the animals healthy since unhealthy ones cannot produce. Unhealthy animals risk experiencing abortions and failure to conceive.

“If you are engaged in dairy farming, you should understand that a cow that does not produce milk costs you between $2 and $5 (about sh7,200 and sh18,000) in labour, water, feed, and shelter daily. Therefore, you lose between sh216,000 and sh540,000 monthly,” he said.

He explains that with better management, a cow should produce a calf every year.

This is because a cow should be given two months of voluntary waiting period to help her regain its body shape, the uterus to get back to its proper position, clean up its body and get ready to conceive again.

“Do not serve your cow before at least 50 days after calving even if it is on heat,” he added.

Marnix Weeda, an expert in dairy farming from the Netherlands, told farmers that animal management is crucial as they need quality feeds with balanced nutrients to keep them in shape to produce milk and fight side effects, like milk fever, that result from inadequate nutrients.

“If you want heavy milkers that can give you 30 litres and above, they should drink over 200 litres of water in intervals of 10-15 times per day. This means you must avail them water all the time,” he said.

“You should also provide such animals with a comfortable shelter. A cow needs 14-15 hours of relaxation every day for the body to make milk.”

Testing pregnancy

An official from Alertys, the producers of the Bioeasy Bovene pregnancy rapid testing kit, said farmers no longer need to wait for animals to go on heat to determine if their cows have conceived.

He also noted that a vet inserting their hand to check for pregnancy in the first trimester can cause miscarriages.

“Using new technology, farmers can test their cows for pregnancies within 28 days on their farms as and when the need arises. This will go a long way to increase production,” he said.

The Bioeasy Bovene rapid testing kit uses blood to detect pregnancy proteins produced by a cow when the embryo is attached to the placenta.

It shows results in 20 minutes. It can also be used when buying in-calf heifers to avoid being cheated by the seller and it determines if the pregnancy is still alive as the proteins will reduce in eight-10 days of pregnancy loss.

He also cautioned farmers on the management of their herd regarding feeding (pasture and water availability) and the animals’ health.

He said even with good breeds, poor management can stunt production.

Record-keeping key

Kabanda said one of the practices failing Ugandan farmers is record-keeping as they do not even know if their cows are pregnant or not.

“We have come up with an App — The Dairy Comp GO — where a farmer can record everything about their cows and it will send reminders on inseminations, vaccination and giving birth, among others, to help you keep track of your farm,” he said.

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