A zero- grazing unit has various components: cubicles, walking area, feed and water troughs, milking place, calf pens, fodder chopping area, store, manure pit, roof water catchment, water tank and a holding crush.
Cubicles in zero grazing unit form the resting area for the cow, thus it should not restrain the animal from moving around. The recommended measurements are: 6 ft by 3ft to 7ft by 4 ft depending on the animal size. Cubicles are normally covered with soft materials like such as sawdust and sand to avoid wounds from bruises as the animal sleeps.It is recommended that the floor should be made of concrete for ease of cleaning and should have a gradual slope towards the dung pit and be about 3ft wide. Feed and water troughs should be raised above the ground to avoid contamination from the walking area and to ensure easy feeding by the cow. The resting area should be roofed to provide shelter against rain and sunshine. A neck-pole is fixed across the cubicle. This prevents the cow from entering too far into the cubicle and ensures that the urine and dung will drop on the walking area. This will ensure that the cubicle and the cow remain clean.A mineral box can be fixed at the head of each cubicle for individual mineral supply to each cow. This can limit fighting among cows and between cows and young stock for access to mineral blocks.
2. The milking parlour
Particular consideration must be given to the milking area to ensure clean milk production. The milking parlour should be constructed next to the cubicles. The floor should be flat and made of firm concrete and slope towards the walking area. The direction of slope of the floor should ensure that dirt collected from the floor can flow through the walking area into the manure pit. There should be a feed trough in the milking place for feeding concentrates to the cows during milking. The milking place should be kept clean. Noise during milking may disturb the cow making it to hold back some of her milk. However, slow music can mitigate stress in cows and increase the amount of milk they produce by 3 percent
3. The fodder chopping area
Chopping fodder (forage grass and legumes and crop residues) reduces the sizes of forage parts which enables farmers to uniformly mix forage resources of varying nutritive quality and palatability, which improves forage acceptability by animals, feed intake and lowers feed wastage during the chopping operations. In addition, use of rudimentary chopping equipment such as pangas is associated with drudgery and is not appropriate for a herd size of more than three dairy cows. Forage chopping may be achieved by use of a hand held panga, manual and motorized forage choppers
4. The store
A store where inputs are kept should be attached to the zero-grazing unit next to the milking place and opposite the fodder chopping area. In this way, concentrates, minerals, milk utensils and other small equipment can be stored near to it. The grazing unit should have facilities for harvesting water.
5. Manure disposal storage
Manure can be stored in a pit dug out of soil. The pit may or may not be cemented but it must be covered. Manure can also be stored as compost made from urine, cow dung and plants. In this case, the compost must be heaped next to the grazing unit. Compost may be covered with plastic or soil.
6. Holding crush
A crush is a more convenient and practical place to carry out activities such as: Artificial Insemination, pregnancy diagnosis and several treatment activities e.g. drenching.
7. The calf pen
Successful dairy production is based on proper rearing and management of dairy calves for herd expansion and as replacement stock. Calves are often housed in makeshift structures close to the main cattle shade, which predisposed them to a lot of bacterial infections and diseases like pneumonia. Such infections result into reduced growth rates and calf mortalities. Majority of the calves on dairy farms are housed in groups making it difficult to meet individual feed requirements.Recommended calf beddings can be untreated wood chips, shavings, sawdust, straw, or shredded paper.
8. Roof rain water catchment
Water is vital to the animal’s health, growth and milk production and to all key body functions such as digestion, transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Lack of sufficient quality water reduces the quantity of feed consumed and digested by the animals which in turn reduce the amount of milk produced and overall animal performance. A dairy cow requires about 5 litres of water for every litre of milk it produces. Therefore, a cow producing 10 litres of milk a day must drink about 50 litres/day. The amount required also depends on breed, body size, and season.
9. Feed and water troughs
The feed troughs should run along the length of the walking area with a water trough in the middle. The total length of the feed trough should be such that each cow or heifer has 75-90 cm to itself. The water trough should be placed such that both the young stock and the mature cows have access to it instead of constructing separate trough for each side.
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