Evaluation of early calves’ weaning diet as milk replacer for smallholder dairy production systems in Kenya
Small-scale dairy farmers in Kenya are interested more in selling milk to earn income, especially during dry seasons when milk prices hike. This results in depressed calves’ growth rates, high calf mortality rates, late
maturity and general economic losses in the smallholder dairy production systems. Innovative development of early calves weaning formulae, as milk replacers, would offer a solution in the calves’ nutrition and household
income in the long run. A study was conducted to determine the effectiveness and economic returns to replacing milk with formulated early calf weaning diets (EWDs) on the survival and general performance of dairy calves in Kenya. Treatments included milk feeding up to 105 days (Control) and with milk (28 days) + EWD, fortified or not fortified with effective microorganisms (EM), diamond-V or Diatomite (DT), up to 105 days. There was no (P>0.05) differences in average daily weight gain of the calves as a result of the treatments. However, the EMtreatment had significantly (P<0.01) higher calve dry matter (DM) intake (g kg-1 day) than in the other treatment groups. Due to feeding with EWD, total milk saved for the farmer was 9 kg-1cow-1-1105 period, valued at US$614. For the conventional milk feeding (control), total milk saved was 5 kg-1control (milk) and the Diamond-V fortified treatments. Signs of hair loss and discolorations were observed in DTfortified EWDs. EM- fortification reduced disease incidences, thus, EWD fortified with this microbial feed
additive can be an effective milk- replacer in smallholder dairy production systems to wean dairy calves at 28-35 days with good economic and performance results.
Key Words: Diarrhea, dairy calves, hair loss, Diatomite