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Peter Ndung’u: Why I prefer Jersey cows over other dairy cow breeds

In dairy farming, the choice of breed significantly impacts both milk production and revenue generation for farmers. Kenya offers a variety of dairy breeds, including Ayrshire, Jersey, Guernsey, and Friesian. Among these, the Friesian breed stands out as the most favored due to its high milk yield and adaptability. However, some farmers opt for Jersey cows due to their exceptional qualities.

Jersey cows, characterized by their small size and short horns, are renowned for their manageability, making them a preferred choice for many farmers. Peter Ndung’u, the farm manager at Acacia Veld Breeders, highlights their suitability for arid regions due to their resilience to harsh climates. Additionally, Jersey cows have a lower feed intake, making them ideal for small-scale livestock farming. At Acacia Veld Breeders, the highest-consuming cow, weighing 460kgs, consumes a maximum of 14kgs of feed per day. Their diet primarily consists of silage (75%), protein from sources like lucerne and sweet potato vines (20%), and fiber from high-quality hay (5%), supplemented with minerals and dairy meal.

Ndung’u emphasizes that Jerseys are highly efficient in converting solid feeds into milk. His farm, housing 13 Jersey cows, yields 140 liters of milk daily, with the top-performing cow producing 22 liters per day. Jersey milk boasts higher fat and protein content compared to other breeds, making it particularly suitable for dairy by-products such as cheese, yogurt, and butter.

In terms of husbandry practices, Ndung’u opts for cow mattresses over sawdust in the cows’ resting areas, citing ease of cleaning and disinfection. While sawdust may offer warmth, it also poses a risk of diseases like mastitis, especially when moist.

Ndung’u offers a word of encouragement to prospective dairy farmers, urging them not to be discouraged by challenges such as fluctuating weather patterns and feed costs. He emphasizes the importance of perseverance, asserting that agriculture remains a viable and promising venture amidst evolving circumstances.