Pros and Cons on Dairy Production Systems Practised in EA
Dairy cattle can be reared in ways that vary depending on the resources available to the farmer. farmers in East africa practise three main systems: intensive, extensive and semi-intensive.
In the intensive system, dairy cattle are enclosed in zero-grazing units, where they are provided with all their requirements for feed and water. this method is mainly practised where grazing land is scarce. in Kenya it is mainly practised in high-potential areas of central Kenya and also by urban and periurban farmers; in Tanzania it is practised on the slopes of mt Kilimanjaro and in Uganda around
Kagada. the forage can be grown on farm or purchased.
This system has its advantages and disadvantages.
- The cow does not waste energy walking in search of pasture.
- It avoids diseases associated with communal grazing.
- It allows dairy farmers with no grazing land to produce milk and make money.
- The manure can be accumulated for improving soil fertility or used to generate biogas for domestic energy use.
- The method is labour intensive as feeding and cleaning the unit must be done daily.
- The initial cost of putting up a zero-grazing unit is high.
- It may be difficult to detect when a cow is on heat, especially a singly housed
cow. this is because when cows are housed in a group they mount each other and when in the open they show signs of restlessness by moving around.
In the extensive system, the cattle are reared on pasture. it is practised where grazing land is available. in East africa the grazing land mainly comprises natural unimproved grass. in Kenya it is practised in most parts of the rift valley, where farmers own large tracts of land.
- It is cheaper than the intensive system.
- It is not labour intensive.
- It requires dedicating much more land to grazing.
- Cows waste a lot of energy by walking while grazing in the field.
- It is difficult to accumulate manure for improving soil fertility in crop fields. natural grasses can be improved by oversowing with herbaceous legumes (e.g. Trifolium) or planting grasses (e.g. rhodes grass). Oversowing is the method of choice.
In the semi-intensive system, the cattle graze for some time during the day and in the afternoon or evening they are supplemented with other forages like napier grass. this method is a compromise between intensive and extensive systems, whereby land is not limiting as in the intensive system but on the other hand is not enough to allow free grazing throughout the day.
Due to population pressure leading to subdivision of land, this system tends towards the intensive system.
Other methods include ‘roadside grazing’ and ‘tethering’. roadside grazing involves herding cattle on the roadside where they graze on natural unimproved pastures. it is popular in areas with land shortage. tethering restricts the cow to a grazing area by tying it with a rope to a peg. this can also be done on the roadside or any other public land. However, in either of these systems the animals may not get enough to satisfy their requirements.