Dairy farming has become an attractive venture to most Kenyans today. There are basic principles to consider before a good start: Suitability in terms of know-how, space, structures, climate, labor, Input availability, Choosing the right breed, Market consideration (demand, price and competition
Common Dairy Breeds in Kenya
- The Friesian cow originated in the Netherlands
- Recognized by their distinctive black and white color markings
- This breed is commonly known for its high milk production
- This is a heavy feeding animal, 90-110Kgs/day (3 gunny bags).
- Ensure feeding is at about 3% body weight and clean drinking water is provided.
- A healthy Friesian calf weighs 35-40 Kg or more at birth.
- A mature Friesian cow averagely weighs about 700 Kg and stand 150 cm tall at the withers.
- Heifers reach puberty after about a year. They should be allowed some more 3-4months to reach sexual maturity before breeding, when they weigh about 360 Kg on average.
- It is desirable to have Friesian females calve for the first time between 24 and 27 months of age.
- The normal productive life of a Friesian cow is about six years.
- The average milk production for a Friesian cow is 40-50l/day, 7800 Kg of milk per lactation under good management
- The milk quality is relatively low in butter fat, 3-3.5 depending on the feed type
- Due to high milk productivity, they are susceptible to milk fever and mastitis
- Calving problems are common
- The Ayrshire breed originated from Scotland.
- Ayrshire is an efficient grazer noted for her vigor and efficiency in milk production.
- The udder quality is good and has superior body shape.
- Milk production is averagely 30l/day
- Gives milk of high butter fat content of 4%.Purebred Ayrshires only produce red and white
- They are medium in size and weigh over 600 Kg at maturity.
- They are adapted to all management systems and are not subject to foot-rot.
- Ayrshire cattle do better under pasture conditions compared to Friesian breeds.
- When pastures are poor, they need fewer supplements to keep them in good condition.
- Under good management and feeding, the average milk production ranges from 5400-7800 Kg of milk per lactation with a 4% butter fat.
- The Guernsey is medium weight cattle that originated from Guernsey Island.
- The cow is known for producing high quality milk while consuming 20 to 30 percent less feed per kilogram of milk produced compared to larger dairy breeds.
- They are also known for having a lower calving interval and have a younger average age of first calf heifers than the larger breeds.
- Their lack of any known undesirable genetic recessives and their adaptability to warmer climates makes them an attractive venture.
- The Guernsey is an excellent grazer and do well on pasture management
- Has a gentle disposition, easy calving and ability to efficiently produce milk with less feed than other breeds. So, she is an ideal candidate for intensive grazing
- Average milk production for the breed is 25l/day, 6650 Kg of milk per lactation with a relatively high butter fat content of 3.5-4%
- The Jersey breed originated from the Island of Jersey of England.
- The Jersey cows weigh about 450 Kg on average making them the smallest dairy breed.
- Because of the small body size they are light feeders
- Milk productivity per lactation is low but the butter fat content is the best of all the other breeds
- Very light gray or mouse color to a very dark fawn or a shade that is almost black.
- Adaptable to a wide range of climatic and geographical conditions.
- They are excellent grazers and perform well in intensive grazing programs.
- They are more tolerant to heat than the larger breeds.
- With its diminutive size the Jersey produces more milk per body weight than any other breed.
- Usually, cows have long, straight top lines.
- Usually docile and rather easy to manage.
- Under optimum conditions the average milk production is about 6800 Kg of milk in a 305 days period, 20l/day.
It is important to mention here that there are also a number of local breeds of dairy cattle in the country. These include the boran, somali, the rendile cattle, zebu among many others. They are undergoing a genetic improvement program where they are crossbred with pure breeds like Friesians. The program targets to exploit the good adaptability of these local breeds to the local climatic conditions and their high disease resistance. The pure breed are exploited for their high milk productivity and the resulting offspring is an intermediate.