Factors influencing the production of milk from pastoral cattle herds in Kenya

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The Maasai of Kenya are typical of many pastoral communities in that they rely on milk as a major part of their diet. Milk production in three herds of Maasai cattle was studied from 1991 to 1996. Weekly measurements of milk extracted for human consumption were used to estimate lactation length, total offtake and mean daily production. Calf live-weight data were used to estimate total milk yield. Least-mean squares regression and analysis of variance tests were adopted to assess the effect of a number of variables on milk production parameters. Data from a total of 650 lactations and 383 calvings were collected. Mean daily offtake was 891 ml. The length of lactation of frequently milked cows was 372 (s.e. 7•96) days. Total lactation offtake was estimated at 3051. Herd, parity level and year of calving differences were observed. Multiple regression analyses indicated that some of the variation in daily offtake could be explained by stage of lactation, season of milking, herd, parity and year of calving. An average total yield of 2-73 l/day was estimated for the first 90 days of lactation. Of this, approximately 0•4 was used for human consumptioll. Overall, seasonality was seen as the major variable influencing production.
Animal Science, 68, p. 201-209