Assessment of Early Calves’ Weaning Diet as Milk Replacer for Smallholder Dairy Production Systems in Kenya

Kenya’s small-scale dairy farmers are becoming more interested in selling milk to augment their income, especially during the dry season when milk prices soar. In smallholder dairy production systems, this results in low calf growth rates, high calf mortality rates, late maturation, and total economic losses. Early weaning formulae as milk replacers developed in a novel way could give a long-term answer for calves’ nutrition and household income. The goal of this study was to assess the performance and cost-effectiveness of an early calves weaning formula as a milk substitute in small-scale dairy operations. The effectiveness and economic returns of replacing milk with formulated early calf weaning diets (EWDs) on the survival and overall performance of dairy calves in Kenya would then be determined. Treatments included milk (28 days) + EWD, fortified or not fortified with effective microorganisms (EM), diamond-V, or Diatomite (DT) for up to 105 days (Control) and milk (28 days) + EWD, fortified or not fortified with effective microorganisms (EM), diamond-V, or Diatomite (DT) for up to 105 days (DT). The calves’ average daily weight growth was unaffected by the treatments (P>0.05). In contrast, the EM- treatment had considerably higher calve dry matter (DM) consumption (g kg-1) than the other treatment groups (P0.01). The total milk saved for the farmer as a result of EWD feeding was 9 kg-1cow-1day-1, or 945 kg for the 105 period, worth $614. The total milk saved for conventional milk feeding (control) was 5 kg-1 cow-1 day-1, or US$ 341, for the 105 period. Both the control (milk) and Diamond-V enriched treatments had large quantities of diarrhoea. Hair loss and discolouration were seen in DT-fortified EWDs. EWD enriched with this microbial feed additive can be an effective milk-replacer in smallholder dairy production systems, allowing dairy calves to be weaned at 28-35 days with favourable economic and performance results, because EM fortification lowered disease occurrences.

Author(S) Details

M. Syomiti
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), P.O.Box 30148-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.

B. Mugo
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), P.O.Box 30148-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.

C. Gachuiri
University of Nairobi, P.O.Box 29053-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.

D. K. Wamae
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), P.O.Box 30148-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.

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