TOF has lit my journey to success in dairy farming
Retired Senior Chief Josiah Arende Ngoje and his wife Mary Auma Ngoje incur very small cost in producing feed for their dairy cattle. The couple has been reading The Organic Farmer magazine (TOF) for the last 10 years. Using innovative ways Of collecting and preserving maize and rice stalks, they have succeeded in their dairy farming enterprise.
Josiah Arende, a retired Senior Chief of Central Kamagambo location, in Migori County and former teacher, and his family started reading The Organic Farmer (TOF) after the magazine’s editor Peter Kamau visited him. He was impressed by Arende’s work and put him in his mailing list (his achievements were featured in TOF Issue No. 09, January 2006) when he had just won a soil and water conservation/dairy award. Then he started receiving 30 TOF copies, which he shared with farmers in his area. Now he receives 170 copies for distribution to schools, farmers groups and churches in parts of Migori.
Arende reads the magazine every month, especially articles covering dairy and poultry farming. Calf rearing is a passion of his, which he learnt from TOF. He also learnt more on how to improve his cows’ milk production using locally made feed. Feeding cows on dry matter is something he learnt after visiting dairy farmers in Kiambu county who were making hay and silage. “We did not manage to do this well but we discovered that that the dry matter was very good and the animals liked it. I learnt that green Napier grass has too much water and the cows do not drink much water after eating it. But on eating dry matter, the cow gets very thirsty and drinks a lot of water,” he adds.
He has 3 cows,1 Friesian (Airo) and 2 Ayrshires (brown Millicent and Achieng) – but milks the Friesian, which yields 23 litres and the Ayrshire, 26 litres per day. On a typical day, he feeds the cows with dry fodder comprising maize stalks and rice straw adding some dried calliandra leaves, dried under a shade and crushed using an electric pulveriser. The cows are provided with the feed throughout the night to eat at their convenience.
After milking at around 4am, the cows are fed on green matter 24kg Boma Rhodes grass, which is cut for the three cows and a calf (called mwalimu-a Friesian/Ayrshire cross). The grass does not have a lot of water like Napier and so the cows drink a lot of water, which is always made available. The cows are allowed to rest until about 2pm when they are given more dry matter.
During milking time at 6pm, the cows are given about 2kg of dairy meal per day; however those producing less than 10 litres yield per day are not given dairy meal. But for any amount above 10 litres, about 1kg of dairy meal is given for every 10 litres but when the cows dry up (and are in-calf) they are not given any dairy meal to control the unborn calf’s weight which creates problems when calving down. Arende sells the milk to Rongo Dairy at Ksh 42 per litre.
The secret behind Arende’s success
“There is one secret that our communities do not take seriously – some of our men whose wives take care of their animals take all the money and leave their wives without any. Yet they are the ones who feed, water and milk the cows and later take it to the milk collection point. They get demoralized and will not take care of the animals since there is no compensation for their labour. I would advise our men to let their wives handle the money and make decisions on the proceeds for example, like buying farm inputs and sharing the profits. This is why I have beautiful animals. My wives take care of them.
He says that proper feeding is very important in ensuring high milk production. This also helps the animals withstand diseases, especially tick-borne diseases which are very common in the region. The cows do not walk long distances to graze and therefore produce more milk. “It doesn’t help matters if you have the best breed of cattle, if you do not take care of them well, they will not give optimum production,”he adds. Arende sprays the animals every fortnight to get rid of ticks. They also deworm them every four months and ensures that they are vaccinated by vets against diseases like nagana that is caused by tsetse flies. Attending regular trainings and field days helps him and his family update their knowledge on dairy farming.
Cleanliness is a must
He says that cleanliness in the zero-grazing unit is extremely important. “The zero-grazing unit is the cows’ bedroom should never be left with cow dung as this encourages bacteria that cause mastitis. Dishes and milking cans should be washed well and dried in the sun. The cows are regularly scrubbed with a detergent, brushed and sprayed with acaricides to control parasites like ticks,” he advises.
Arende trains other farmers and advises that when a farmer wants to buy a dairy cow, they should buy directly from a well-known farmer, so that it is easy to follow up in case of any problems. He also advises farmers to go with a vet to confirm whether the animal is healthy or in-calf. “You should be careful especially if a farmer is selling a good looking cow, which has been high yielding. Go for heifers which are 3 to 4 months in calf to give it time to adjust to the new environment,” he adds.
Final words: Do not expect quick results. Dairy farming is exciting but needs a lot of patience.
Rt. Chief Arende can be contacted on 0722-248 533 for training or supply of dairy calves.
You can now download the pdf version of TOF magazine on http://theorganicfarmer.org/downloads/organic-farmer