Business Opinion

Dairy farming expert lists 10 golden points for a dairy farm self-audit for maximum production

A leading dairy farming consultant Alex Gathii has listed what he considers to be the 10 golden points to look out for when conducting a self-audit of a dairy farm for maximum production and put your venture on the path to profits.

1. Check out for water stress – Cows: Water points ratio should be 3:1, daily cleaning of water troughs, ensure clean portable water, available and accessible 24 hours a day, a lactating cow take in between 100 – 150 litres of water every day. Remember 87.5% of milk is water. Addressing water stress could easily increase your milk production by between 10-15%.

2. Check out for heat stress – ensure maximum air circulation, free flow of air, a breeze for cows. Less walls, in fact no walls around the cow barn for you to reduce heat stress – could lead to an increase of between 10-15%in milk production.

3. Check out on your dairy herd management practices – de-worming (I will share some latest findings on this), external pests control including ticks, milking time intervals, record keeping and farm documentation, dairy farm bio-security and safety (ensure there are foot-dips at all entrances).

4. Check out your feeding systems. – a well-mixed balanced diet and fresh feed-stuffs including all forage and concentrate (Total Mixed Ration, TMR) would maintain a relatively constant pH in the rumen. This would ensure ruminal bacteria function optimally releasing enough free fatty acids for more milk. That’s desirable, isn’t it? Ensure you feed all the time, but ensure it is freshly served (5-6 servings within 24 hours).

5. Check out on cow comfort – more importantly on the resting/sleeping area. A cow is supposed to rest for between 14-16 hours for maximum milk production. Waiting cows, just standing doing nothing won’t give milk production that is desirable. Provide deep dry soft material; river sand, saw dust, rice husks, hay, maize stovers, dry cow dung, loose soil, cow mattress could provide good cow comfort. This could be easily add your total milk production by 10%.

6. Address all deficiencies at your dairy farm; ensure your cows are getting ENOUGH protein, energy and mineral within their TMR rations. Provide supplemental salt through mineral blocks. Remember, why are you feeding the cows? For maintenance, growth, reproduction and milk production. These are scientific processes that require the following; protein, energy, minerals, dietary fiber and vitamins. For every litre of milk produced by a cow, it requires specific amount of protein, energy, minerals dietary fiber and vitamins. For 20-30 litres, then multiply by…

7. Check out for 3 main cost drivers within your dairy farm – get the numbers. Figures do not lie. This would be the most interesting exercise, but it would turn out to be the most emotional one.

You will realize that you are spending so much money on feeds, health related issues that includes AI costs, labour or waste-water disposal. This realization is the beginning of developing a viable and sustainable business models for your farm. You are now on a profit-making path. You are developing a turn-around strategy for your farm, without the help of a consultant.

Few questions comes up; how do you source your inputs? Are the the right quality, good Quantities and at the right costs? How is my feed and fodder inventory control? Do I enjoy economies of scale? Can I improve on my business modelling? Can I buy bulk?

8. Check out on your cow barn structure. I have shared a standard cow barn structure. Where this is purely technical, it’s so easy to do self-evaluation, self-assessment and come up with few adjustments for maximum cow comfort, maximum water and feed intake.

The feeding trough a should be raised by 6 inches above where the cows are stepping, should not be deeper than 1 foot, width of 2 feet, should not be partitioned, for every 3 cows put up a water point.

Resting cubicles should be between 42-44 inches width, 7 feet length and have deep dry soft material for bedding.

9. Check on the dairy herd segmentation – segment feeding is one of the most powerful tool for increased milk – group your lactating cows into several groups (the few groups the better for you for easier management).

Factors to consider while grouping the lactating herd; daily milk production, live body weight, stage of lactation – first 100 days (early lactation), second 100 days (mid lactation)and last 100 days (late lactation), number of lactations (age of the cow) and the breed of the cow.

This is the single most important exercise within your audit that you ensure increase in milk production. You could easily do challenge feeding.

Now you know 3 systems of feeding; TMR, Segment feeding and Challenge feeding.

I have deliberately make genetic my last points.

Just think about cars – ensure timely servicing, regular and timely changing of tyres, timely repair of broken parts, fuelling and that you have to be an experienced driver to do thrills on the road. Whether it’s 1200 Datsun Pick-up, Range Rover or Toyota or Subaru Forester. Different speeds would be determined by the engine capacity while all other fact

The writer is the Managing Director of Tanolope Consultancy Limited, a dairy farming consulting firm based in Nairobi.

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