Major problems in the feeding of Dairy cows and possible solutions
Dr. George Mathen
Chief Nutritionist, Kerala Solvent Extractions Pvt Ltd,
1. Almost all cows are energy deficient and either fail to reach peak or fail to retain peak for reasonable time. They loose body weight and show difficulty in getting conceived.
2.Vit A deficiency is a possibility with most of the animals as many do not receive green grass. None of the concentrate feed materials contain vitamin A except yellow maize and unless compounded feeds are supplemented with Vit A deficiency is possible
3. Among minerals there is a possibility of excess of calcium as most of the compounded feed contain more than 1.2% calcium. More over farmers are in the habit of supplementing diets with mineral mixtures, high Calcium can interfere with absorption of Zinc & Manganese. Some of the skin and hoof problems can be due to Zinc deficiency. Zn and Manganese also play a major role in fertility. Iodine deficiency is possible in high ranges as constant rain washes away the top soil.
4. Protein deficiency is seen in only calves.
5. There is at present no system for monitoring aflatoxin in cattle feed. Chronic aflatoxcosis affects functioning of lever, lowers immunity leading to higher incidents of diseases especially mastitis.
Extremely low roughage availability except in the Kuttanad area exist all over Kerala. This is much aggravated during summer season.
Paddy straw is very costly costing around Rs.6 to 8 per Kg. And most of the farmers give only 1.5 Kg. a day. On the other hand many farmers are liberal in feeding concentrate mixture. Concentrate mixture is soaked in water and fed. This practice reduces saliva secretion and rumen pH drops to dangerously low levels leading to chronic bloat, diarrhea ,low milk fat, liver problems, abomasal shift, and in chronic cases parakerotasis of rumen epithelia and finally off feed.
Marginal farmers will have to continue cow rearing as their main source of income for many more years .There fore means to improve fodder situation needs attention. Paddy land kept fallow during summer can be cultivated with fodder maize if Kudumbasree units are given encouragement in providing irrigation facility. Paddy land can be taken on lease and the duration of the crop is only 60 days.
A market for fodder has to be established so that those possessing land but do not like to keep animals can cultivate fodder and sell through milk societies or straight to the farmer.
Maize and jower fodder can be brought from Tamil nadu and Karnataka once it is densified into blocks. Entrepreneurs may be given encouragements on this aspect
Total mixed ration appears to be a possible solution to overcome rumen acidosis and better production. Attempts on this aspect to be undertaken in association with non governmental organizations and possible help given.
We need a feed containing less protein than what is prescribed by BIS standards but with higher energy levels, Feed standards may need revision for Kerala. Possibility of incorporating bypass fat and protein in feeds to be thought of. Grain level has to be increased along with addition of buffers to control rumen acidity. Calcium and common salt content in compounded feed needs restriction. A well equipped laboratory is also needed for monitoring these aspects under the control of an independent agency like Kerala Agricultural university.
Dr. D. Sanjay