Decrease in milk production is usually the trend during the cold season.
Usually, when environmental temperatures move out of the thermo-neutral zone or comfort zone, dairy cattle begin to experience either heat stress or cold stress.
Thermo-neutral zone is the range of environmental temperatures where normal body temperature is maintained and heat production is at the basal level.
Either stress requires the cow to increase the amount of energy used to maintain the body temperature and there is less energy available to produce milk.
According to Kenya Veterinary Association chairman Samuel Kahariri, the zone depends on the age, breed, feed intake, diet composition, previous state of temperature familiarisation, production, housing and stall conditions, tissue that is fat and skin, insulation and external (coat) insulation, and the behaviour of the animal.
Given that dairy cattle are housed in the cowsheds, he said it minimises the impact of environmental temperature instabilities on the animals.
Dr Kahariri said during the cold weather, the animal increases dry matter intake, rumination, gastrointestinal tract motility, rate of passage of feed and liquid in the rumen and digestive tract, basal metabolic rate and maintenance energy requirements and body oxygen consumption.
At the same, there are a number of factors that alter the effects of cold temperatures on animals such as wind, hair depth and hair coat conditions.
WHAT TO DO TO AVOID MILK REDUCTION
“It is important to emphasize the value of a clean, dry hair coat and clean, dry environment with minimal wind for animals exposed to low temperatures,” said Dr Kahariri.
The following are measures farmers can adopt to ensure their animals do not reduce the milk volumes during the cold season.
- Make sure the water or water tanks are not frozen.
- Cold weather increases feed needs of cows. Hay provides more heat during digestion than concentrate feeds therefore, consider feeding more of hay.
- Do not close all openings. This will restrict the ventilation rate and create wet, damp conditions.
- Prevent wind. Cows need dry, wind-free resting area.
- Use ample amount of good, dry bedding cows shed should always be cleaned on daily basis and kept as dry as possible.
- Having dry teats when the cow leaves the parlour is important. One way to lessen the risk is to dip the teats, allow the dip of about 30 seconds and then blot dry using a paper.
However, for constant flow of milk production farmers should ensure they do the following:
“Farmers should ensure you supply fresh water daily without allowing water to stand overnight in the troughs as it prevents the water from getting excessively cold,” he said.
He further said even a small limitation in water intake will decrease daily dry matter intake which could significantly limit peak milk production.
Ensure you sufficiently supply animals with feeds, a dairy cow need feeds for nutrients goes up as the temperature drops.
“Cows in poor body condition will find it much harder to stay warm and their energy requirements will be higher,” said Dr Kahariri.
He also advised farmers to ensure that large openings facing the direction from which the wind is blowing should be sealed during severe cold weather conditions to enable animals to maintain moderate body temperatures.
“The energy produced by body of the animals is mostly wasted to keep the body warm and thus the reduced milk production, he said.