Jacktone Agona: Are mineral and vitamin supplements the answer to Dairy Farming in Kenya?

For many years, dairy farming has provided food, income, alternative energy sources such as biogas, social prestige, and status in local communities. It is estimated that dairy farming composes of at least a third of the total value of agricultural outputs and this share has been increasing over time.

In Kenya, dairy farming produces over 3.5 billion litres of milk a year. Kenyans are amongst the highest milk consumers in the developing world, consuming an estimated 145 litres per person per year, more than five times milk consumption in other East African countries. According to the National Dairy Development Policy, by 2030 Kenya is projected to become a net dairy exporter.

The dairy sector in Kenya is important to the economy as it contributes to 12% of the agricultural gross domestic product. Kenya has about 700,000 smallholder farmers, owning on average 0.4-1.6 hectares of land, and 1-3 cows, and producing about 80% of the national output.

However, despite the favourable potential, there are several issues that constrain the development of the dairy sector in the country.

To optimise efficiency of available farm resources, caution needs to be considered when investing in dairy farming. Taking pre-caution will help dairy farming investors achieve sound health, good animal welfare, social responsiveness, high milk production and improved cost control – all that defines a profitable dairy farm.

Dairy farming methods have remained unchanged, and this has contributed to low productivity of animals mainly attributed to diseases such as milk fever, mastitis, and lameness. According to Science Direct, the shortage of crossbreed dairy cows, inadequate animal feed resources both in terms of quality and quantity, poor management, financial illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of veterinary service provision has had a negative outcome to dairy farmers as their inputs cannot be equated with their outputs, and in-turn this affects their income and productivity levels.

To achieve desired results, dairy farmers are quickly realizing the importance of changing farming practices for their livestock general wellbeing. A spotlight on animal mineral and vitamin supplements has become increasingly essential, particularly regarding increasing milk production, animal health, supporting bone development, immune system function, muscle functions, and nervous system function.

For a dairy animal, research by the Mississippi State University has proven that the livestock require trace mineral supplementation daily which will lead to good claw health reducing common hoof diseases.

Furthermore, according to the research, sufficient consumption of minerals including calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium are critical for muscle contraction, nerve signal transmission and enzymatic reactions. Deficiencies in these minerals can result to still births and more diseases that will affect the productivity of the livestock.

With the cost of animal health services provided being a challenge across the country, the costs of drugs on the high, while veterinary and diagnostic services not being readily available or accessible to the dairy farmer, there is a need to find a multifaceted solution that the dairy farmer requires to meet their operational needs.

Global Nutrition Solutions (GNS) has formulated GNS Bovita and Maziwa Block range of products in Kenya; a mineral and vitamin supplement prepared to meet the needs of dairy cattle with a focus on improving milk production, fertility, and the general health of livestock.

Through a range of products and solutions like GNS Bovita and Maziwa Block dairy farmers can now meet the most important aspects in the commercial viability of the dairy farm. From quality, affordability, and formulation. These products facilitate and drive a healthy dairy sector that will enable farmers to be more productive and competitive in industry meeting not only local, but international standards.

Delivering vitamins and minerals to dairy animals involves commitment, coordination, planning and cooperation – all held together by strong, healthy, and durable practices. The benefit:cost ratio of animal supplementation is unmatched by most health or economic intervention and is critical for improved milk production.

As the sector is evolving, there is need for the right nutritional supplements that have a formulation that is up to date, with components that are well balanced so that the key elements can work together to achieve best results for dairy farmers.

The GNS range of supplements is distributed by iProcure, GNS’s sole distributor in the East  Africa region.

Jacktone Agona is an animal health expert and project manager iProcure.

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