Sustainability Of Smallholder Dairy Production Systems In The Semi-Arid Rongai Division Of Nakuru District

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Animal Production Society of Kenya
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Animal Production Society of Kenya
A survey was conducted in Rongai Division of Nakuru District from July 1997 to November 2000 to identify dairy production systems and to analyse basis for their sustainability. The study involved 61 smallholder farmers. It was found that 67% of the farmers practised semi-zero grazing, 25% extensive grazing and 8% zero-grazing. The dairy production systems were based on Friesian, Ayrshire, Guernsey, Jersey, Sahiwal and Crossbreds. Crossbreds accounted for 65- 70% in the different production systems. The average farm size was 6 acres and average herd size for extensive grazing was 7 head of cattle, 7 for semi-zero grazing and 12 zero-grazing. The size of landholdings varied under the three production systems. Under zero-grazing 58% of the land was allocated for forage production, whereas in extensive and semi-zero grazing systems, farmers had proportionately allocated 40% of the area to forage production. The basal feeds were natural pastures, Rhodes grass pastures and hay, Napier grass, sorghum silage and sweetpotato vines. Feed supplements were dairy meal, maize, wheat bran and mineral lick. Water was obtained from rivers, roof catchment, boreholes and piped water. The feed quantity and quality varied with the production systems and this affected milk production. The average lactation yield of extensively grazed cows was 2,191,768.50 kg, for semi-zero grazed cows 2,512.80, 1,087.52 kg and 2,407.47, 1,121.31 kg for zero-grazed cows. Milk yield was low in extensive grazing due to the variable feed and long distances covered to get forage. However, milk yield of zero-grazed cows which were mainly Friesians and Friesian-Ayrshire crosses was below the production potential of the breeds and this was attributed to the low dry matter intake from Napier grass and inconsistency in dairy meal and mineral lick supplementation. With optimum stocking rates and good quality forage-legume mixtures, semi-zero and zero-grazing systems are sustainable. In addition to cattle, farmers keep sheep, goats and chicken.