Top 5 mistakes to avoid in dairy farming
Although dairy farming is one of the oldest professions known to mankind, it is also one of the most complex businesses to operate.
It not only involves animal rearing, but also comprises diverse business areas such as feed and fodder management, animal health, breeding & reproduction, housing management, storage and transportation.
Each of these areas is an area of specialization and calls for a deep learning. The complexity increases as you increase the number of animals in your farm. Many farmers suffer losses while many others close down their farms, often due to the lack of knowledge about the skills required to become a successful dairy farmer.
Let's look at the top five mistakes that a dairy farmer should avoid so that the farm should be profitable
Heat or estrus detection
A dairy cow or buffalo should come into estrus every 21 days if it is not pregnant. Many dairy farmers overlook the importance of timely identifying heat symptoms in a dairy animal. Timely detection of estrus will enable you to conduct artificial insemination (AI) and impregnate the animal on time.
Consider the example of a delay in timely AI by 3 months and its economic implications. It effectively means that the animal will get pregnant after 3 months or 90 days and at the same time increase the dry period (time during which no milk is produced by the animal) by 90 days.
If an animal has an average production of 10 litres a day, it works out as a loss of 10 x 90 = 900 litres. At an average price of Rs 24 per litre, it works out to be a massive loss of Rs 21,600 per animal. Add the cost of feed and fodder and this figure increases.
Right mix of feed and fodder
Many farmers have the wrong notion that a dairy animal produces milk as some kind of bi-product or as a normal process of its reproductive life. It is improper to assume that a dairy animal is like a milk producing machine. Hence feeding farm residues or readily available organic matter is not the right choice of feed.
A dairy animal produces milk largely based on what it is fed everyday. Although other factors such as animal genetics and health do play a significant role in the quantity of milk produced, feed and fodder are the single most important inputs that determine the quantity and constitution of milk in terms of fat % and SNF % (solids not fat).
A healthy mix proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals from green leafy fodder, roughages, & concentrates, along with a constant and abundant supply of fresh potable water leads to a healthy production of milk by dairy animals.
After having fed and nurtured dairy animals by spending a lot of money, dairy farmers commit this serious mistake of not following a timely vaccination schedule. As a result their animals get infected by deadly diseases such a foot & mouth disease (FMD), brucellosis, theileriosis, LSD, etc.
Often there is a high risk of such diseases spreading to other animals. Once such diseases have infected your farm animals it is very difficult to get them back to the same levels of milk productivity. This leads to significant economic losses. Dairy farmers must follow specified vaccination schedules recommended for their respective zones.
Before transporting animals to your dairy farm it is necessary that you vaccinate them against FMD and any other disease that may be endemic on the route of your transport. A little precaution can save both calves and adult dairy animals.
Housing structures in dairy farms
While it is important to keep the costs low during construction of dairy sheds, it is extremely important that you use housing designs that reduce accumulation and stagnation of dairy waste and help in increasing cleanliness.
Accumulation of water, cow dung and urine in areas where dairy animals rest lead to the spread of various types of diseases such as mastitis which severely reduce the milk production of these animals. As a result, such animals need antibiotic injections leading to increase in the level of antibiotics in milk.
Such milk is unfit for human consumption and recently been declared by the government as a serious form of adulteration. Hence choose and design dairy housing using scientific principles that improve hygiene and reduce labour costs. Remember, for different climatic zones different kinds of designs are needed.
Dairy management practices
Dairy farming is more of a science than an art. If you want to manage a dairy farm profitably then you must adhere to scientific farm management practices. Often some farmers mention that they have been managing dairy animals since decades and continue to use the age old management techniques.
As a result, milk productivity is reduced and profits earned by the farmer are substantially less than the potential. Consider an example of a farmer who has an average milk production of 8 litres per day and another farmer who has 12 litres per day. Over a 300 days lactation period which is the period for which the dairy animal produces milk for the farmer, the difference in total milk output would be over 1200 litres amounting to over Rs 28000 (1200 litres x Rs 24).
Imagine the difference in income for a farm of 10 dairy animals!!! Using scientific techniques in milking, housing, breeding and animal health management is the key to creating a profitable and growth oriented dairy farm.