Due to shortage of land, many dairy farmers in Uganda practise zero or semi-intensive grazing systems.
Keeping dairy cattle in this way can provide a range of benefits, including nutritious milk for home consumption, extra milk for sale and manure to help maintain soil fertility.
The challenge smallholder dairy farmers face is in providing their cattle with a balanced diet that the right quantity, quality and require of nutrients and achieving this at the least cost using feedstuffs that are available, year-round.
When faced with a shortage of feeds, a dairy farmer can still maintain high levels of milk production.
High quality hay ensures year-round feed supply, increases milk yields and improves household income. Cows fed on high quality hay, supplemented with minerals and concentrates produce milk with a high butterfat content.
The cows conceive at the right time and produce healthy calves.
How to feed cows on hay
- Chop the hay into small pieces of about five centimetres using a forage chopper or a panga
- Mix the hay with fodder tree leaf hay such as gliricidia or any other forage legumes such as Lablab hay to improve the protein content of the diet
- Soak the mixture in a drum containing a mixture of molasses and water (ratio of 1:2) for about five minutes. This will improve palatability and increase energy content of the hay. Yeast from a brewery may also be added to the solution to improve the utilisation of hay in the rumen.
- Supplement the animals with mineral blocks or nutrient feed blocks.
- The animals must be offered clean water
- A cow consumes about three percent of its live weight, for example, a 400kg cow will require 12-14kg of hay per day
- An average bale of hay weighs about 25kg. A kilo of hay costs about sh300.