The main purpose of dairy breed of cattle is to produce milk, reproduce to provide replacement cows for the future and most of all to provide a means of living for farmers in the dairy business by providing the most milk at the least possible cost. All cows can produce milk but the most suitable for commercial milk production are few. The most important dairy breeds of cattle in Kenya are Friesian, Aryshire, Guernsey and Jersey breeds. The rest are either good for beef or as dual purpose animals.
The Friesian cow originated in the Netherlands and are most quickly recognized by their distinctive black and white color markings and outstanding milk production.
Friesians are large animals with color patterns of black and white or red and white. A healthy Friesian calf weighs 40 Kg or more at birth. A mature Friesian cow weighs about 700 Kg and stand 150 cm tall at the shoulder.
Friesian heifers can be bred at 15 months of age, when they weigh about 360 Kg. It is desirable to have Friesian females calve for the first time between 24 and 27 months of age. While some cows may live considerably longer, the normal productive life of a Friesian cow is six years.
The average milk production for a Friesian cow is 7800 Kg of milk per lactation.
The Ayrshire breed originated from Scotland. Aryshire is an efficient grazer noted for her vigor and efficiency in milk production. The cow is especially noted for the superior shape and quality of her udder. The composition of her milk makes her suitable for the production of butter and cheese.
Purebred Ayrshires only produce red and white offspring.
They are medium in size and weigh over 540 Kg at maturity. They are adapted to all management systems and are not subject to excessive foot and leg problems. Ayrshire cattle do better under pasture conditions compared to the other major dairy breeds. When pastures are poor, they need fewer supplements to keep them in good condition. These traits make Ayrshires outstanding commercial dairy cattle.
Under good management and feeding practices the average milk production ranges from 5400 Kg of milk with a 3.9% test to as high as 7800 Kg of milk per lactation. Top producing Ayrshires elsewhere in the world regularly exceed 9000 Kg of milk in their lactations. The current world record for Ayrshire is 16,860 Kg of milk.
The Guernsey is medium weight cattle that originated from England. The cow is known for producing high quality milk while consuming 20 to 30 percent less feed per kilogram of milk produced compared to larger dairy breeds. They are also known for having a lower projected calving interval and have a younger average age of first calf heifers than the larger breeds. Their lack of any known undesirable genetic recessives and their adaptability to warmer climates makes them very attractive to commercial dairy farmers.
The Guernsey is also an excellent grazer. She is a cow that is made for pasture-based milk production. Because of her grazing abilities, gentle disposition, calving ease and ability to efficiently produce milk with less feed than other breeds, she is the ideal candidate for intensive grazing. Dairy producers can realize her profit potential while reducing management costs.
Average milk production for the breed is 6650 Kg of milk per lactation.
The Jersey breed originated from the Island of Jersey of England. The Jersey cows weigh about 450 Kg on average making them the smallest dairy breed in size. The breed was regarded very favorably because of its milk and butterfat production.
Jerseys have a wide range of color. The color in Jerseys may vary from a very light gray or mouse color to a very dark fawn or a shade that is almost black.
The breed is adaptable to a wide range of climatic and geographical conditions. They are excellent grazers and perform well in intensive grazing programs. They are more tolerant to heat than the larger breeds. With its diminutive size the Jersey produces more milk per body weight than any other breed.
Usually deep in the body cows have long, straight top lines. Jersey cows are usually docile and rather easy to manage.
Under optimum conditions the average milk production is about 6800 Kg of milk in a 305 day period.
Read more about a new breed of dairy cattle that was introduced into the country just recently and which is appearing to become very popular.