News and knowhow for farmers

Feeds to boost cow’s fertility

Research done by the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Organization reveals that poorly fed cows take more up to two years to conceive. Well-nourished heifers on the other hand can become pregnant at 14 months of age.

In Kenya, the research says that more than 60 per cent of farmers served their heifers when then were much older because of reduced growth rates and delayed puberty attributed to inadequate feeds common in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country.

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To curb this, KALRO recommends that cows should be fed on bulk food such as Napier grass, maize stovers and wheat straws.

Cows also need proteins such as sweet potato vines and lucerne which are important ingredients in building the body muscles and increasing milk production in lactating cows.

Minerals such as dairy lick, maclick super and phosphorus rich flour are responsible for bone formation while calcium in the minerals is a component of body fluids and regulates the heart.

It is also recommended to provide heifers with concentrates like maize germ meal, cotton seed cake and dairy meal in addition to access to two buckets of water per cow per day.

A well–fed cow served between 45 and 90 days after calving will give a calf every year. Cows often lose weight after calving. Good feeding of the cow can reduce this weight loss, which you can check by regularly measuring the width of the chest.

Farmers are advised to serve their cows when they are on heat. There are signs of a cow on heat which include; a cow looking for the company of other cows or bulls, she attempts to mount them, sniffs at other cows or is restless and noisy.

The clearest sign of heat is when the cow stands when being mounted. This means that the cow can be inseminated or served by the bull. If after two days you notice bloody, mucus discharge from vulva, this is a confirmation that the cow was on heat. The next heat period will occur after about three weeks (18-25 days). Look out for signs of heat during these days. If you see them, put the cow back to the bull to ensure conception.

To see the heat signs, watch the cow carefully three times a day: In the morning before and after milking, in the afternoon before and after milking and in the evening around 10 o’clock. Spend at least 20 minutes each time. The more times you observe the better.

A farmer can arrange for artificial insemination or service by a bull. For artificial Insemination best results are obtained when insemination is done at the end of the heat period or at the start of the late heat period. Cows that are in standing heat early in the morning should be inseminated in the afternoon of the same day. Those that are on heat in the afternoon or evening should be inseminated the next day in the morning.

In case a bull has to be used for service, then the cow should be brought to the bull when the heat is observed.

“It should however be noted that not all inseminations are successful.  At times, a cow does not conceive at all even after repeated inseminations.  It can also happen that cows conceive, but the embryo of the foetus dies. This is most frustrating. In case this happens, call a veterinarian to investigate and advise accordingly” said Vincent Ochieng, a research officer at KALRO.

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