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Effect of Supplementation on Performance of Calves on Smallholder Dairy Farms in Bahati Division of Nakuru District, Kenya

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Author(s): T.P. Lanyasunya | Wang | H. Rong | S.A. Abdulrazak | E.A. Mukisira

Journal: Pakistan Journal of Nutrition
ISSN 1680-5194

Volume: 5;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 141;
Date: 2006;
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Keywords: Legumes | forages | daily weight gain | off-take | mortality | calf survival

ABSTRACT
Inadequate feeding and high disease prevalence are considered as the major setback to dairy production on smallholder farms in Kenya. Under such circumstances, heavy losses of young calves occur. This is the situation presently on these farms. The current study was conducted in Bahati division of Nakuru district over a period of 3 years. Out of 120 smallholder farmers randomly visited and interviewed, 60 of them were selected to participate in the trial, based on whether they have dairy cattle and willing to collaborate. The selected farmers were trained on data recording and provided with a heart-girth measuring tape, a spring balance (25 kg), a 10-litre plastic bucket (for feed weighing), a 1-litre graduated jug (for measuring milk) and a record book. They were then divided into two groups (Control and test) of 30 each. Control group was asked to continue with their ordinary calf management, where supplementation was not offered. Test farmers were asked to strictly follow the research calf-feeding schedule where Napier grass cv Bana was fed as a basal diet and supplemented with protein rich forages (Lucernne; Sweet potato vines cv Munsinya; Desmodium cv Green leaf and fodder shrubs (Leucaena leucocephala and Sesbania sesban). Parameters of study were growth rate, mortality, morbidity and dynamics. The collected data was stored in MS-excel and later subjected to appropriate statistical models (SAS) to established the calf performance difference between the 2 farm groups and livestock production systems. The results showed that calves in test farms performed better (370 g/d) compared to those in control farms (307 g/d)(P< 0.01). The study further revealed that calves supplemented with an assortment of protein rich forages showed a rapid body weight gain (375 and 417 g/d) compared to those offered SPV as a sole protein supplement (345 g/d) (P< 0.05). It was further observed that the overall female calf mortality in zero grazing test farms was low (6%) compared to semi-zero and free grazing test farms (15 and 20%, respectively)(P< 0.05). In the same farms mortality of male and female calves was different (P< 0.05). Mortality for male calves was observed to be higher (Test-zero: Male – 13%; Female – 6%; Control-zero: Male – 11% and Female 9%). The same trend was observed across the test and control farms in semi-zero and free grazing systems. On calf dynamics, off-take for male (33 – 78%) calves was observed to be much higher that for female calves (6 – 33%)(P< 0.001). It was therefore concluded that protein supplementation, using farm grown forages improves performance of dairy calves on smallholder farms. The authors recommend that resource-poor farmers emphasize on cultivation of forage legumes so as to have sufficient protein rich diets for young dairy calves.
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