How do you maintain a Dairy Farm?

Dairy farm is the primary source of milk and meat. Choosing right breed for your farm, is the major task. There is no ‘ideal breed’ as such. It is best to buy those from the home tracts or local farmers. Local cattle adapt well, more resistant to diseases and easier to manage.

To maintain a good Dairy farm, below are the practices to be followed

1. Rearing Systems

Extensive system: Also known as the grazing system, animals are reared on external grazing alone, in which 90% of dry matter fed to them comes from rangelands, pastures, annual forages and purchased feed and less than 10% of the total value of production comes from non-livestock farming activities.

Semi-intensive system: In this system which is most prevalent in India, animals are housed in covered enclosures. They are taken out to graze during the day and provided feed and fodder when they return. Quite often, the system is similar to mixed farming system.

Intensive system: This highly evolved system involves rearing in closed enclosures, where average stocking rates are greater than 10 livestock units per hectare. Common in developed countries like the USA and UK, it is also found in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh in India.

2. Housing Management

Among good farming practices, attention to the housing of dairy cattle is important. This is essential to ensure safe and quality milk from healthy animals kept under acceptable conditions, buffering the animals from adverse weather conditions. Care should be taken to provide comfortable spacing, hygiene, durable housing, and arrangements for hygienic milking.

Types of Housing

Dairy cattle may be housed under a wide variety of conditions, ranging from close confinement to little restrictions except at milking time. However, two types of dairy barns are in general use: the loose housing barn in combination with some type of milking barn or parlor and the conventional dairy shed.

1. Loose Housing

In this economical system of housing, animals are unfettered except during milking and when being treated. It involves low cost of construction with scope for expansion, facilitates detection of animals in heat, and animals get optimum exercise.

Advantages in arid and semi-arid regions

Advantages of Loose housing
Loose Housing Advantages

2. Conventional Shed

Animals in this system are confined together on a platform and secured at the neck by stanchions or neck chains. They are fed as well as milked in the barn, which has a fully covered roof, windows and ventilators.

The construction of the shed depends on the class of livestock it is meant for and to what use it is to be put. You could have a cow house, calving box, bull shed, isolation box, etc. Conventional sheds are costly and therefore, becoming less popular.

Floor space (sq. m) for various categories of dairy animals (BIS standards)

Floor space in dairy animals
Floor space in Dairy animals

The sheds can be either of a single row when animals are fewer or in two rows if more animals are being reared. In double row housing, the arrangement should be such that the cows either face out (tail to tail system) or face in (head to head system). The breadth of the shed should not exceed 10 metres and the distance between animals should be 1.0 to 1.2 metres, with each animal having an individual space of 1.5 to 2.0 metres. The central height of the shed must be 3.5 to 4.0 metres, sloping at the edges. Good ventilation and flooring are essential.

Loose Housing Cattle

Loose Housing Cattle

3. Feeding Practices

A scientific feeding pattern will ensure adequate nutrition and consequently proper growth of the dairy animal. Its diet must comprise approximately 60-70% of green fodder, 20-30% of dry fodder and 5-10% of concentrate/supplementary feed. The diet should provide about 16-20% of Crude Protein (CP) and 65% of Crude Fibre (CF). Additional concentrate/supplementary feeding must be provided to pregnant and lactating animals.

Feeding allowances

Feeding allowances in dairy animals
Feeding allowances in Dairy animals

Sources of raw material for supplementary feed (concentrate mixture)

  • Cereals and millets: Pearl millet, maize, sorghum, finger millet, rice, oat, wheat
  • Oilseed cake: Pearl millet, maize, sorghum, finger millet, rice, oat, wheat
  • Agro-industrial by-products: Rice and wheat bran, rice polish, de-oiled rice bran, chunnies
  • Mineral and vitamin mixture: Calcite grit, calcium carbonate, ground limestone, oyster shell, steamed bone meal, monosodium phosphate, dicalcium phosphate, defluorinated rock phosphate, soft rock phosphate

Nutrient composition (%) for every 100 kg of supplementary feed (concentrate mixture) for dairy animals.

IngredientsPer 100 kg
Maize/ soybean/green gram/cereals (broken/ ground/mashed)30-40
Any oil cakes20-30
Mineral mixture & salt1-2

Low grade roughage/residues can be used, but have to be treated through physical and mechanical methods (soaking, chopping, grinding, pelleting, steaming and irradiation); chemical methods (sodium hydroxide, urea/ammonia, etc.) and biological methods (fungi).

1. Classification of Green Fodder Crops

Green fodder crops can be classified based on whether they are annuals that complete their life cycle in one season (fodder maize, cowpea) or perennials that provide fodder more than once per season or year (Guinea grass, lucerne).

They can also be leguminous (guar, berseem, cowpea, Lucerne) or non-leguminous (maize, pearl millet, sorghum, oat). Fodder crops can also be rainfed (fodder pearl millet, Stylosanthes) or irrigated (Hybrid Napier, guinea grass, lucerne). Range species/ grasses (Dharaf grass, marvel grass, setaria grass, anjan grass) are another category of fodder crops.

2. Fodder Chaffing

This is the process of cutting fodder into 1-2 inch pieces so that wastage can be minimized by about 40-50%, ensuring maximum utilization. Not only does it increase feed palatability; it also substantially reduces rumination time and storage space.

3. Silage Making

  • Silage comes in handly during times of fodder scarcity.
  • Silage can be made with thick stem crops like sorghum, maize, pearl millet, Napier and various legumes. The crop should be harvested at 50% flowering to milk or dough stage for quality silage.
  • Ensiling can be done under anaerobic conditions for 45 days in pits, trenches, bunkers and tower silos of different types and sizes. Lately, silo bags of various sizes (100 kg, 200 kg, 500 kg and 1000 kg) are also available.
  • Inoculums can be used to enhance ensiling rate.
  • A total of 500 kg of green fodder can be ensiled in a 1 cubic metre pit. On an average, 20-25 kg of silage can be fed to an adult cattle/buffalo per day.
  • Good silage is golden brown or greenish yellow with a pleasant fruity odor, has no mould growth, is palatable and has a pH of around 4.0-4.5.
  • Silage making ensures the regular supply of quality fodder during lean periods and enhances green fodder productivity by improving harvesting intensity.

4. Hay Making

Hay is stored forage that has low moisture content (less than 15%). Legume hay, non-legume hay and mixed hay are the three major types of hay. Hay making is the most common
and easy way of preserving the seasonal excess of green fodder. The herbage’s low moisture enables its storage without fermentation or mold formation. For hay making, harvesting must be done after the dew has dried up. The harvested fodder has to be allowed to cure in the field, and turned every 4-5 hours for 1-2 days, to reduce moisture content to around 20% or less, following which it can be stored. Nutrient loss may occur due to late cutting of hay, shattering of leaves and finer parts especially in legumes, oxidation loss by sun bleaching and leaching leading to loss of protein, resulting in major losses.

5. Enriching Dry Fodder

Urea enrichment methods (ammoniation and treatment) improve the nutritional composition of crop residues, especially during periods of fodder scarcity. It is suitable for crops with thick stems, like the straw of sorghum, maize, pearl millet, Napier, sugarcane trash, etc.

6. Urea ammoniation: 3-4% urea with 30-40% moisture level is stored for 21 days under anaerobic conditions. In short, 4 kg urea is mixed in 40-45 liters of water for 100 kg of straw or crop residues. This improves palatability and fiber digestibility, as well as supplies valuable protein in the form of nitrogen.

Urea treatment: 2-3% urea with 20-25% moisture level is fed to animals without any storage or delay.

7. Azolla Feed

Azolla is a small, aquatic floating fern that lives in symbiosis with nitrogen fixing blue-green algae that grow naturally in stagnant drains, canals, ponds, rivers, etc. Its nutrient composition makes it a highly efficient and easily digestible feed for livestock.

  • Azolla doubles its weight in 3-5 days. Its fresh weight can go from 1 t/ha to 15-20 t/ha in about 20 days.
  • On dry weight basis, it contains 25-35% protein, 10-15% minerals, 7-10% amino acids, bio-active substances and bio- polymers. It has very low carbohydrate and fat.
  • It is one of the most economical feed substitutes, since it can be easily digested by livestock due to its high protein and low lignin content.

8. Area Specific Mineral Mixture (ASMM)

  • Feed and fodder fed to dairy animals do not provide all the minerals required. Hence, their diet should be supplemented with adequate amount of good quality mineral mixture.
  • The major minerals required are calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chlorine and sulphur. The trace minerals required are iron, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, cobalt and selenium. Mineral mixtures contain these minerals.
  • 50-200 g of area specific mineral mixture has to be fed daily depending on the age and condition of the animal.
  • Its benefits include swifter growth of calves, reproduction efficiency, efficiency of feed utilization, early puberty, reduced inter-calving period, improved milk production and Solids Not Fat (SNF) content of the milk, and better resistance to diseases.

4. Health Management

Devastating livestock diseases are endemic in many parts of the world including India, and threats from old and new pathogens continue to emerge due to climate change, agricultural practices and demographic conditions that favour the spread of arthropod-borne diseases to new geographical areas. This has led to national and international trade embargoes.

Farmers should be able to identify sick animals and isolate them. Some of the common signs of illness include weakness, loneliness, lagging behind in the flock, reduced feed and water consumption, etc. Vaccination and deworming are the best options to ensure healthy dairy animals. Hygienic living conditions around the farm are also necessary to keep animals free from infestation by external parasites.

Care During Vaccination

  • Vaccinate only when the animal is healthy
  • Deworm 10-15 days prior to vaccination
  • Vaccinate during cool hours of the day(preferably early morning)
  • Make note of the batch number of the vaccine
  • Vaccinate all the animals in a farm/village at once.

Vaccination and deworming schedule in cattle and buffaloes

Vaccination in dairy animals

Read also Care and Management of Pregnant Cattle

5. Artificial insemination

Artificial insemination (AI) is the deposition of semen into the female genital tract by means of instruments. The germplasm of bulls of superior quality can be utilized.

AI reduces both genital and non-genital diseases in the farm stock. Non-descript cattle in the semi-arid tropics can be upgraded using exotic/crossbred bulls’ semen, which would help in increasing milk production and farmers’ income. Sorted sexed semen has become an innovative technology that can produce mostly female calves for breeds of choice.

Read more on Advantages & Disadvantages of Artificial Insemination in cattle

credit: ICRISAT Prashant kumar rathod

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