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Dairy Cattle; Feeding; Milk yield; Reproductive Performance, Kenya
Dairy cattle production contributes approximately 4.5% of the Kenyan National Gross Domestic Product, creates jobs along the value chain and plays a key role in food security. However, average milk yield per cow is still low under smallholder dairy production system despite concerted efforts to improve productivity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the productivity of smallholder dairy farms in 2 sub-counties of Nyeri County. A semi structured questionnaire was administered to collect data on feed resources and feeding systems, breeds and breeding systems, calf management, age at first service (AFS), age at first calving (AFC), calving interval (CI), milk yield (MY) and lactation length (LL) in smallholder dairy farms. Data was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The dominant feed resources and feeding system were roughages (mostly Napier grass), concentrates and mineral supplements (87.2%) and stall feeding (74.2%). Majority of the farmers kept Friesians (82.2%) with (94.5%) using artificial insemination. Most of the farmers (83.5%) fed 2-4 litres of colostrum to the calves and the method of feeding was majorly bucket feeding (93.0%). High proportion of farmers (97.7%) fed the colostrum from 0-6 hours after calving and (59.6%) weaned calves at 3 months. The AFS was mainly 18-20 months and above, while the mean AFC, CI, and LL were 28.7±2.84, 15.2±5.11 and 10.0±4.90 months, respectively. The mean milk yield was 10.7±5.85 litres/cow/day. The main challenges to dairy cattle production were feed shortages (30.6%), low farmgate milk prices (28.3%) and high cost of concentrate feeds (17.8%). It was concluded that performance of dairy cattle in the study area was poor attributed mostly to feed shortages and low milk prices. To improve productivity, feed availability and cost together with farmgate price of milk should be addressed.