1.0 INTRODUCTION: DO I WANT TO BE A DAIRY PRODUCER?
If you already have cattle, and you wish to begin to begin to raise some of them for producing milk, you should consider the following points before you begin to make the changes which will turn them into dairy animals.
1. Why do you have cattle at present? Is it to make money for your living expenses, or do you have cattle only to slaughter for ceremonial purposes. If you have cattle only for ceremonies and you have to do only a little work to get a few calves from them and you like it that way, perhaps dairying is not for you. Dairying certainly requires that you spend additional money on your cattle, and if you are to produce milk successfully, you will be required to spend considerably more time with them than you do now.
2. Why do you want to have dairy Cows? Do you just want milk for your family to drink, or do you want to produce and sell milk for cash. Or is it simply that you like the idea of something different. If you only want a little milk for home consumption, you can probably get this by getting a dairy type of cow and getting her used to being milked, and feeding her a little better and not doing much else. If you want to produce a surplus of milk for sale however, you must be committed to the idea of more work every day and more planning. And you will have to make some financial investment. If you simply like the idea of doing something different, or because you think it will be easy to make money by producing milk, dairying may not be for you.
3. Are you prepared and can you afford to spend additional money on your animals? for example buying better heifers or a breeding bull, improving pastures and putting in extra fences. Are you prepared to milk the cows every day and take care in managing the calves. These are some of the things you must do to produce milk successfully. If you can not or are reluctant to do these things, you should consider very carefully whether you still want to be a dairy farmer.
4. Are you prepared to improve your herd by getting rid of animals which are too old for breeding or are otherwise unproductive? Having dairy cows means that you must have some young, vigorous and relatively highly producing cows. If you have a small area of land and too many animals, you will probably have to reduce the number you have so that the ones you keep are the most productive ones. Or you must get some more land. Surplus males and old females should be disposed of to leave grass and water for the more productive animals you wish to convert to milking cattle. Your ordinary beef and the new dairy animals can not successfully run together. If you have a large amount of land and can put up fences to separate the beef and dairy animals, you should do so. If you cannot, you should probably decide whether you will have beef or dairy cattle. With only a small area of land you probably can not raise both.
5. Are you prepared to build a milking and calf shed for the cows you wish to milk? You
will not be able to produce milk effectively unless you have a shed where the milking can be done, which is weather proof for every-day milking and where new calves can be kept safely.
6. How much land do you have? what condition are your pastures in at the end of the dry season Is it enough for your present cattle all year round, or do the cattle get thin for part of the year and gain weight for the other part of the year. If they get thin for some of the time, there's not enough feed. Dairy cattle will not produce on this much feed. Are the pastures bare or weedy and the cattle thin? If the answer is yes, then you may have too many animals and you must get rid of some, at least until you have established some improved pastures which will support more animals. But if you change your cattle into dairy cows which can produce more milk, you may still not be able to carry the same number of cattle as you do at present, because dairy cattle require more feed than the ordinary beef cattle you presently have.
7. How old are your present animals? How many males and females do you have? Do you have a large number of old cows and bulls, or a large number of castrated males. If you have old cows, they will not be much use for dairying and should be disposed of The same goes for old or surplus bulls which are also unproductive but also prevent you getting control of the breeding and upgrading your herd will need. If you wish to pursue dairying with all of your animals, you must be prepared to sell the old and unproductive animals, and if you are short of grass, you must keep the number of fattening, castrated males to a minimum.
8. Do you have a continuous supply of water for the cows all year round? Milk is nearly all water and dairy cows need more water than cows which don't produce much milk. So if you have a problem with water now, you must solve that problem so that you have enough for milking cows before getting involved in dairying.
9. Does each of your mature cows produce more or less about one cow each year? If your in vestment of money and time in dairying is to be rewarded, all of your cows should be as highly productive as possible. This means that a cow should be having a calf and a lactation about once every year. If you are having a problem with the time between calves for each of your cows now, then you must solve that problem before getting into dairying.
10. Are your cattle local types or have they been upgraded in the past by breeding to a dairy type of bull? If they are improved animals, they can be the immediate basis for a dairy herd. However if they are ordinary beef cattle, they must be upgraded either by selling them and replacing them with dairy animals bought locally, or you must use a dairy bull to produce crossbred dairy heifers. Breeding your own heifers will take at least three years before they will produce milk.
11. Are dairy bulls available to you. Can you afford to buy one? Does anybody in your village or nearby have a dairy bull or some high quality dairy cows if you do not. If there are no dairy bulls available locally or you cannot afford to buy one, improving your animals to dairy producers may be too difficult for you.
12. Do you look after the cattle yourself, or does someone else look after them? Are your helpers reliable and are they prepared to work hard. Successful dairying requires a great deal of time and attention if you are to succeed. It is even more difficult to get hired persons to take the care necessary. If either you or your employees are not willing to work hard and pay attention to the requirements of dairying, you are unlikely to succeed.
13 .Are you and your helpers prepared to keep breeding and production records? Good record keeping, in terms of milk production and reproductive activity, is essential for successful dairying. This means daily record keeping of milk production and regular recording of breeding activity. If you can not do this, your dairying can not be successful.