Given that milk demand tends to fluctuate in accordance with multiple market factors, starting and managing a profitable diary business can quickly become a rollercoaster. As a manager / a farmer, you have to equalize many elements and components that keep the dairy cattle enterprise profitable, besides the primary task of ensuring that your unit is always properly managed.
If you are just starting out in this industry and have chosen to go the zero-grazing route, here are some of the elements and components you need to assemble though not in order of importance.
Develop a business plan and SWOT analysis
It is important to remember that a dairy cattle farm is a business. Development of a detailed business plan and analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of your plan is critical to the success of your business.
- How many cows will you milk?
- Where will you market your milk?
- Will you hire employees?
- How much money do you need to live on after the diary bills are all paid?
- Your business plan should include cash flow plan that will help you set reasonable expectations for your expenses and costs of production
It applies for both goats and cattle
Find the right location for your dairy farm business
For your dairy farm business to be profitable, you need to produce at Least part (if not all) of the forages. So, you need to at least 1 Ha per 4 cows to grow pastures and fodder trees for your herd. Ideally, you want to pick a location where future expansion is possible to support long-term growth. At the same time, you need a place to sell your milk quickly and with minimum additional costs to your farm.
The shorter the distance between you and your potential customers, the easier it becomes to sell the milk at affordable prices and still have good margins. You will also need a clean water supply that can provide all the necessary amounts of water needed to support your farm’s needs.
Research on available cattle breeds
In order to harvest economically viable milk output, you need to concentrate on fewer, better-fed and better quality animals. Stock the units with dairy cattle that have been bred specifically for high milk yield. Important diary breeds of cattle available in Uganda for high milk yield are jersey, Aryshire, Guernsey, Friesian and others.
Upgrade your stock using artificial insemination (AI) technology where proven diary-bull semen is used. Selecting good cows and culling non- performing ones, coupled with good calf rearing techniques for replacement speaks into stock multiplication which should be an integral mechanism for the farming system.
Always stock from disease free animals, and transport them well in comfortable truck with beddings, keep them separate from one another. Quarantining new arrival (and animals that fall sick) is highly recommended, especially if they do not have trustworthy, recent health records. Your local veterinary officer can give you specific advice about diseases in your area. Remember that there is no farmers who will sell his/her best cow/heifer. Many farmers sell animals that have issues although some can be addressed.
Important traits to consider while stocking dairy cattle
When buying dairy cattle, always buy from an established farm with good and accessible records. Always involve a veterinary or livestock production officer in this process to avoid costly mistakes. The veterinary officer will examine the cow’s health and production statuses based on physical presentation, available records, and advise you accordingly
A black and white, brown or any other color does not qualify that cattle to be a good diary animal. The production and reproduction record of her parent and the findings of the veterinary officer about the cow are key in dairy cattle selection.
FIGURE BELOW SHOWS SOME OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD DIARY COW.
TABLE SHOWING SOME OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD DIARY COW
|Size||Stature(height in cm at rump or withers)||Jersey-120, Guernsey-125, ayrshire-130, Friesian- 135|
|Chest width||Distance between the front legs||Should be large to give room for the heart and lungs|
|Rump width||Distance between the pin bones||Should be big to ease calving and allow wide rear udder attachment|
Angularity body frame dairy type
Reflects the appearance that the cows has the will to milk
|Rib structure: ribs wide apart, rib bones wide, flat, long and free from excess flesh
Neck: long, lean and blending smoothly into shoulders
Barrel: width tending to increase towards rear
Rump angle(pelvic angle)
Angle from hooks to pins
|Pins should be slightly lower than hooks(about 2.5cm).improper angle can hinder reproductive performance and mobility|
|Top line||Level of backbone from shoulders to pelvis||Should be strong and level|
|Fore udder attachment||Attachment to trunk||Attachment of fore udder to trunk should be almost level|
|Udder depth||Distance between bottom of udder and ground in relation to height||Should be shallow and above the hock. Deep udder is prone to injury. Consider age and stage of lactation|
|Rear udder height||Distance between vulva and udder fold||Should be attached high|
Udder cleft-suspensory ligament
|Should be clearly visible and continue upwards. Should be strong to keep udder firm and prevent teats from pointing outwards|
|Teat placement||Direction to teats||Should point straight down or slightly inwards (for ease milking)|
|Teat length||5cm ideal for machine milking; slightly longer for hand milking|
Legs and feet
Rear leg set
|Angle at hock viewed from side should not be straight||Ideally, pin bone, hock and dew claw sold be in one line. Should be straight from the rear|
|Hoof diagonal||Distance between point of toe and top of heel||Intermediate desirable|
Other desired characteristics for a good dairy cow
- Production traits
This refers to milk volume, percentage of butter fat level, protein and other non-fat solids. Milk volume should be considered relative to amount of feeds consumed since more produce from relatively lesser fodder is proof of high feed conversion efficiency. It is of no use at all to breed a fantastic looking cow, which produces little milk; therefore, one must select animals that have visible positive milk traits.
- General diary character
The classic diary character is indicated by sharpness across shoulders and slight general leanness all over the body ending with a thin fine tail. A good dairy cow is not stocky or beefy as this shows poor feed conversion efficiency to process milk. Generally, pedigree dairy cows portray flatness of bones clearly observed on the inner thigh.
- Fertility traits
The number of inseminations per conception will always determine the success of a breeding programme. The fewer the inseminations per conception, the better the fertility of a particular animal family(daughter, grand-daughter and great grand- daughter). It is important to choose animals with (or from a family renown for) a good conception rate. Problematic or repeat breeders are expensive to maintain and cause immense economic losses. This will enable a farmer to target at one calf per dairy cow annually. For farmers using natural mating, one should choose bulls that exhibit appropriate libido and do not shy away from mounting receptive cows.
- Longevity traits
This determine the total lifetime of milk production of a cow, but it is usually influenced greatly by others traits such as health, feeding and fertility. Choose heifers or bull semen from cow families with a history of living longer while maintaining high milk production and ability across many lactations as well as have as many normal calving as possible in their lifetimes.
- Health traits
As a much as disease- prevention and control measure are important in ensuring sustained productivity, emphasis should be on selecting disease-resistant and hardy animals that remain in production for not less than 7 months after calving. Also select from mothers that are tolerant to common tropical diseases like tick borne diseases, mastitis, foot and mouth disease. In harsh climate areas with a higher prevalence of tropical diseases, it is wiser to consider undertaking crossbred animals between exotic diary and indigenous breeds since in such conditions, cross bred animals normally perform better than pure breeds.
- Calving ease traits
Physically traits that facilitate easy calving include a wide pelvic diameter( observed from behind) and a gentle slope from pin to hip bone(observed from the side). A cow’s body frame should portray strong straight back or loin, which is essential during gestation in enabling the animal to comfortably feed as well as carry its fetus to term.
Milking speed is of essence in maximizing yield since milk let-down is controlled by oxytocin hormone whose concentration levels in blood diminish with time. It is, therefore, important to choose animals with the right teat size, shape and opening(position and orifice size). Bad temperament interferes with oxytocin flow during milking, thus one should likewise consider docility when choosing a diary animal.
- Consult the experts
Other dairy farmers are great resources. Attend field days and open days on dairy farming in your area and other parts of the country. When visiting other farms find out what has worked well on these farms and what has not worked; but also keep in mind that just because something worked well on one farm does not necessary mean it will work on your farm too. In addition to experienced farmers, talk to veterinarians, nutritionists, agronomists, extension officers, and researchers that can provide reliable knowledge on management of your dairy enterprise.
- Maintain adequate forage resource base
Pasture management and flexibility are key to the effectiveness of dairy cattle farming. Feed planning and management are, therefore, critical to ensure adequate forage availability for the animals. Zero-grazing can provide opportunities for herd expansion through improved forage management and conserving energy that cows use on walking distance for grazing.
Plan with commercial lenses to understand the maximum forage production potential of your unit holding, and the potential amount of off-farm forage available to your herd per. This will enable you to determine the maximum number of animals your zero-grazing enterprise can support. The amount of forage, whether obtained from within or outside the farm, should be quantified and is the single most resource that determines the number of animals that can be sustained in the unit, it is important to note this:
- In feeding the dairy cattle, the forage to concentrate ratio should not surpass 60:40. A ratio of 70:30 is recommended
- Forages take time to establish as opposed to concentrates, which can be purchased on demand.
Choose the fodder that suits your locality. Plant about 2.2 acres of an intercrop of Napier grass with forage legumes per mature cow and her offspring. A daily in take of 75-100kg of fresh grass/ cow/day can be achieved with good a management, to give a ‘dry matter intake’ of 14-16kg/day of dry matter. You ought to become skilled at producing and conserving feeds (silage, haylage and/ or hay) for the drought season to ensure that your milk production is maintained at a steady rate throughout the year, boosted utilization of off-farm fodder can allow increased stocking rate on the farm. You can also buy or rent more land for forage production, reservation and storage, or purchase feed from neighbors and commercial producers.
- Achieve proper Feeding and Nutrient Rations
Cows fed to capacity on grasses alone have the potential to produce up to 7 liters of milk per day, concentrates supports the additional milk. But keep in mind that it is pointless to feed concentrates when forage requirements are not met (basal feed requirement). Provide as supplements not as the main source of energy and protein. Most farmers prefer giving concentrates (dairy meal) to the cows at milking time. On top of the 7 liters of milk contributed by forage, dairy meal supplement with more than 16% crude protein , should be used as supplement at a rate of 1 kg for each extra 1.5 -2 liters of milk produced.
Other concentrates like sunflower-seed cake, cottonseed cake and bran are available, but should be optimized. You should realize that supplementing with a concentrate significantly impacts on daily milk yield and body condition; for example ,when you use brewer’s spent grain as a feeding supplement during milking an increase of 3 liters per cow per day is possible (My experience).
Forage legume species, which are commonly used as pasture or fodder in Uganda , constitute an additional source of crude protein. Similarly, leguminous fodder trees and shrubs such as Leucaena, calliandra, Mexican sunflower and Sesbania are used to increase the protein content of the herd’s diet. Most important advice is to formulate good total mixed rations for dairy cattle Ration formulation is a complex process and ordinary farmer cannot just do it.
You will need the skills of qualified livestock production professionals to come up with the right mixture of the feeds available to your cows. Invest in processing equipment like forage-chopper, mixer, weighing equipment; to mill and process the total mixed ration so that nothing goes to waste .Cows must have adequate feeding space, and wastage must be monitored, to ensure feed intake maximized. Wastage should be less than 5%, and refused material be removed from the feeding area daily, as this will decompose rapidly. Mineral salt-lick should be offered to the cattle all the time in the mineral box.
Water should be available all the time throughout the day as it makes the bulk of the milk.
- Establish Stable Manure Production and Management
Manure should be treated carefully to reap maximum benefit from it, Manure contains a high content of organic matter, minerals and several gases, therefore it is used to improve soil fertility for better forage yields, and as a source of raw-material for biogas production. Cover the manure pit to prevent nitrogen losses. One cow can produce up to 10 tons of compost per year depending on quality and quantity of feed available.
Twenty (20) tons of compost contains approximately 80 kg of nitrogen, 40 kg of phosphate and 10 kg of potash. Alternatives to direct land application of manure include; composting, biogas and / briquette production. The manure produced from 3 dairy cattle is sufficient to produce enough gas needed for cooking lighting in the farm. These options provide additional revenue and other benefits to your dairy farm and increase the capital investment required to get your dairy farm started / expand. Every farm will need a manure management plan; but depending on the size of your farm a nutrient management plan may also be required.
- Ensure Safety of the Farm Premises.
A good dairy cow is a costly investment that must be accorded proper security. Many cases of malicious poisoning of high producing dairy cows and vandalism by jealous neighbors or even farm workers are common. Locating a dairy unit close to farm houses add on to security, but this should be properly sited such that the wind blows away the dug smell.
- Have Proper Bio-Security Management to Address Pests and Diseases
Bio-security management practices prevent the spread of disease by minimizing the movement of biological organisms and their vectors (viruses ,bacteria ,rodents, flies ,etc) onto and within the farm through animals; vehicles; human; rodents ;clothing like gum boots; gloves and others create a very high risk to the environment and your stock. People can unintentionally carry pests or diseases-causing organisms on contaminated clothing that include overall and footwear, bring them to your farm without even realizing.
Footbaths are useful and inexpensive method of cleaning footwear before entering and exiting farm premises. A footbath should be designed properly and set on a flat surface. Scrubbing brushes and scraping tools should be provided to guests to clean their attires and equipment. After the footbaths have been used, safely dispose of the water and decontaminated by depositing it away from production areas and water sources.
- Achieve ‘cow comfort’
Cow comfort is a term used to describe the overall comfort level of a diary cow in its environment on the farm. It is fundamental to maintaining a healthy herd. The first aspect of cow comfort is the facilities in which they live. When cows are comfortable, they are more productive. Low levels of cow’s comfort cause increased infection rates of conditions like foot rot, uneven growth of hooves leading to lameness leading to poor production, reproduction and increased expenses on treatment, as well as death.
KIMD CONSTRUCTION AND FARM CONSULTANTS LTD, we have all these services for you at very friendly and affordable prices. We can do the SWOT analysis for your farm, we have the best quality cattle breeds, we do artificial insemination, we do all sorts of housing designs to support animal comfort, we do farm fencing for the safety of your animals, we have veterinary services for your animals health. We are the best expert company you could ever use regarding your farm and its animals. Just call us on +256789058152.
- Consider playing music for your animals to improve on comfort and milk production
Research has shown that loud noise causes cows stress and makes them hold back some milk during milking. Enrichment of the milking environment through organized noise like music helps animals to cope with divergent stressors. Studies conducted in Japan found that 23% more of the milking cows enjoyed entering an automatic milking stall when organized soft music was played prior to and during milking.
A report from a study at the university of Leicester, united kingdom on importance of soft music to the milking cow found that it mitigate stress in cows and increase the amount of milk they produce by 3%. A farmer in turkey reported that playing classical music for his cows increased milk production by 5%. His study was small, but he claims that regardless of feed or other intervening conditions, the cows produced more milk when listening to classical music.
Music can have a positive effect on milk let-down (release), but it must be consistent and calming. Stress can inhibit the release of oxytocin, a hormone key to the milk-releasing process. Classical and country music have been reported to have more positive effects on animal behavior during the milking process than louder, more frenetic types such as rock music (which has even been reckoned to increase stress).
Thus, an optimization of musical enrichment in the milking environment of diary animals is critically needed to maintain an optimal balance of the animal comfort, behavioral needs, and reducing on residual milk.
- Create a breeding plan
Diary bulls have a reputation for dangerous behavior, and in any case raising one all-year round gets expensive. The safer and cheapest option is using artificial insemination (AI) or “embryo transfer”. Artificial insemination is the process of collecting sperm cells from the proven bull and manually depositing them into a reproductive tract of a female animal. Artificial insemination is commonly used by small holder dairy farmers in Uganda compare to natural mating because of the many benefits that include;
- Genetic improvement
- Quick approach to access good genetics from across the world.
- Access to genetics from bulls that they would not otherwise be able to afford to purchase.
- Reduced number of bulls required
- Access to breeds that are not available locally.
Artificial insemination has equal or higher success rates when heat is detected in time and performed correctly by professional AI technician. You can manipulate the breeding cycle of your herd by using scientific means which helps you to regularly keep them lactating as often as possible. Nutritional requirement of the animal has great impact on the breeding cycle, calving, health and of course milk production.
Unlike farms that raise cattle for beef, for cows that are raised to produce milk, calving ought to be all-year-round to keep milk production steady. Keeping track of your animal’s cycle is vital when focusing on plan that keeps your income as regular as possible. Please note that for a successful diary enterprise a farmer must ensure “one cow, one calf, and one year”.
- Plan to transform your herd
Whether to sell, slaughter, or keep an animal is on e of the toughest questions for a small holder dairy farmer. You must appreciate the fact that culling allows you to enhance the genetic quality of your herd by replacing a low- yield animal with a higher milk yielding replacement. Both of those factors are important, but perfecting them without a plan led to massive costs on every single decision you make in the herd, especially costs on replacement animals. Take this into account in your business plan, and include the cost/ profit of producing each male and female calf as well as raising them.
- Control the spread of disease.
Your local veterinary officer can give you specific advice about disease prevalence in your locality. Inspect animals for tricks regularly and keep the shed area clean and clear of brush and bush. Vaccinate your animals against all disease such as foot and mouth disease (FMD), anthrax, brucellosis and others.
- Keep records
Individual and accurate record on birth dates, birth weights, sire and dam, milk records (per cow per milking), treatment records, feeding records and services dates. Proper records help you plan ahead, calculate the worth of your business and profit. You should always keep good records of finances, feeding, milk yield, breeding, disease control, calving, vaccinations, purchases, sales, assets, liabilities and everything else in your operation. Financial records are the most important records, because these records determine whether your operations and enterprise are economically viable and environmentally stable.
- Motivate and train farm workers
Although farm workers clearly provide invaluable and necessary goods and services, they often earn low wages and endure many job-related hazards, substandard working and living conditions, instability and isolation. Many farm-workers face extreme occupational risk s and exposures, suffer poorer-than-average health and have a life expectancy significantly shorter than average. Despite these challenges, some farm-workers are incredibly resilient. They work hard and strive to make a better life for themselves and their communities.
Treat your workers well and incentive them whenever you can. Learn to forgive them when minor mistakes are committed, they are humans. Train and develop friendship with them but don’t shout at them. If you harass your farm workers who do the hustle it will be to your own inconvenience and may even steer to expensive and terminal animal health issues and death. Some farm workers have been reported to mistreat animals as a sign of revenge for being mistreated by their bosses. One farm worker said “the only thing I wish I could change on this farm is when our superiors start treating us like human beings but not like animals’’.
The human side of farming: How to incentive farm employees
- Explain the valuable role they play in society.
- Set goals, both personal and professional, with your employees. Show them what to do.
- Align their goals with doing high-quality work for you.
- Create training and certification programmes for all the processes you want your employees to partake.
- Clear job description, with roles should be developed and deep understanding of it is key to successful implementation
- “make sure you do not have only the right people on the bus, but that everyone is in the right seat’’
- Match personal strengths with relevant jobs.
- Don’t be a bossy, supervision of farm work demands team work, where all of you play your given roles and tasks.
- Mind your expression
- Be open when making a decision
- Always respect all the people in your team
- Adopt good milking routines
Animals are creatures of routine practices. When good routines are established and maintained the animal feels comfortable and relaxed. When milking ensure that the animal is comfortable to provide optimum milk production. You should therefore make an effort to ensure that your cows are milked at the same time daily and in the same and familiar environment.
- Realize that you are a manager first
In order to succeed you will need to combine each aspect of business/ institutional management into a complete personalized ’farm plan’. However, you don’t need to do it all by yourself. Work with trusted consultants to help you build a plan, and stick with your strengths. Consider creating a ‘farm management team’ or profit team’ that engages your consultants to be active participants in the farm’s progress. Remember, “The footsteps of the farmer are his/her best fertilizer”. In other words, the closer you are to your plants and animals each day, the easier it is to observe and respond to their needs.
- Boost your diary farm’s brand awareness and create your corporate identity
Your diary farm’s identity has a lot to do when it comes to building a profitable and sustainable business. Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create a corporate identity for your dairy farm:
Place adverts or articles in newspapers and magazines
Leverage on internet and social media platforms such as face book, whatsApp, twitter and u-tube to promote your diary business
Distribute your fliers in target areas such as during agricultural shows, farmer workshops, etc.
Contact corporate organizations and residents in your target areas by calling them up/ visiting their premises and informing them of your dairy farm and the produce you sell.
Advertise your dairy farm on your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.
Make your farm an “Agritourism center’’. The concept of ‘’agritourism’’ is a combination of tourism and agriculture. It is a direct expansion of eco tourism, and it encourages visitors to experience agricultural life at first hand. Schools and colleges are among the people who can visit agritourism sites on educational trips to get real-time knowledge of different farming activities, while other farmers and those who intend to join farming also tend to visit farms to see what is going on.
In Uganda, agri-tourism is increasingly gaining ground as an alternative source of income for rural, urban and per-urban communities. It has great capacity to generate employment and offer alternative sources of income to dairy farmers.
- Invest in capital
A sound zero grazing dairy farm enterprise requires a large, one-time expenditure to get started. Whether you plan to buy an existing farm or start one yourself from zero, make sure you have the best facilities (described in chapter three).
Other KIMD services include;
- Veterinary services
- On farm training
- Farm plans and proposals
- Farm constructions
- Livestock animal sales
- Livestock feeds with seeds and pasture.etc