Key Animal and Environmental Factors Affecting Milk Production in Kenya
Milk production is not constant but varies from farm to farm and animal to animal. This variation allows for the manipulation to improve milk yield.
Breed – Capacity for milk production decreases as follows – Friesian, Ayrshire, Guernsey, Jersey, Sahiwal, Boran and Zebu. This is attributable to the genetic makeup of the animal.
Parity (age) – Mature cows (>6 yrs) produce 25% more milk than young cows. First lactation yields 25% less than 4th lactation. After peak yield there is a decline, as cow grows old. As milk yield increases with age, the herd should have both young animals (for genetic improvement) and old cows for higher milk production.
Stage of lactation – Milk production increases during the first two months following calving (peak production), then declines gradually thereafter.
Oestrus – Milk production drops the day the cow is on heat or day following heat. Pregnancy– By the 4th to 5th month of pregnancy, total milk production of gestating cows declines faster than that of non- pregnant cows.
Size – Bigger cows will produce more milk than smaller cows of similar breed.
Feed – Nutrition is the most important determinant and a deficiency of nutrients, especially protein or energy will lower milk yield.
Length of dry period – A short dry period (<60d) usually results in lower milk production.
Condition of cow at calving – Excessively thin or fat cows produce less milk.
Frequency of milking – Cows milked 3 times produce 10-25% more milk than those milked twice. Cows milked 4 times produced 5-15% more milk than those milked thrice. Though there is increased milk yield with more than twice a day milking, there is extra labour and materials which has to be considered. More than twice a day milking is only recommended if economical (the extra milk pays for the extra cost of milking), for high yielding cows and for mastitis cases.
Farm layout – The relationship of watering points, pasture paddocks and the milking parlour is important. Animals walking long distances will utilize a lot of energy, which should go to milk synthesis.
Disease – Diseases like mastitis, ketosis, milk fever and others affect milk production.
Change of milker and milking routine will lower milk yield.
Climate – high temperatures reduce milk yield more drastically than low temperatures (affect animal comfort and feed intake). Exotic breeds are affected more affected by temperature than local breeds.