Dairy farming in Africa has been practiced for a long time and it still is being practiced by many communities. The methods employed though, have come to question due to environmental concerns and the need to produce more to meet the ever increasing demand, not to mention the dwindling land resources which is making pastrolism an untenable and unattractive option for farming in Africa. With this in mind, better methods of dairy production have been developed and breeds that can produce more milk have been identified.
For dryer parts of Africa, it is recommended that a cross breed of a animals that are resistant to heat, ticks and can tolerate little water be chosen. A good example is the Sahiwal Friesian breed crossed from the Sahiwal from Pakistan and Holstein breed from Australia specially designed for tropical climate and have a potential of producing over 2500 Kg of milk during one lactation period. Important factors to consider before keeping livestock include availability of space, availability of food, commitment to make the venture profitable, veterinary support services and availability of water. After selecting a good cow for production of milk and selecting quality semen for insemination, the dairy production process begins.
It is important to consider the diet of the cow during the gestation. The animal needs a lot of iron, calcium and protein rich diets during this time. The animal will require extra nutritious meals as it nears calving and after calving so as to ensure good quality and quantity of milk. It has been proven that if dietary requirements of the cross bred varieties are not met, then production goes down and it may be difficult to recover. Apart from concentrates, which may be used to supplement the fodder, cassava leaves and stems and legume stems and leaves are known to contain high nutrient levels for milk production.
Care should be taken with legumes since they are known to contain some poison and therefore should not be given in very large quantities. For very dry and low quality roughage, the straw could be treated with urea. 4 Kg of urea is mixed with water and sprayed over 100 Kg of feed to improve nitrogen content for protein. Care for disease prevention is important to get good returns on investment from a dairy animal especially the cross bred cow. It is best to discuss the unique disease prevention measures to take with the local veterinary. Prevention of disease is more important than treating conditions already manifest since the effects of a disease may go on for a long time after the manifestation have been healed. Production of the animal may take longer to bounce back after the period of illness.
Apart from vaccinations some measures to foster the well being of a dairy animal include, providing plenty of clean drinking water, providing good shelter to keep animals away from the harsh weather conditions, regular light exercise for the animal, providing nutritious and adequate food even when the animal is not lactating, cleaning of the animals resting and feeding area and disinfecting the area where the animal’s stall.
Where signs of disease has been detected even if they are very minor, the veterinarian should be called immediately to advise and commence treatment. Cross bred cattle are very expensive and they should be given good care to produce optimally.