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Citation of this paper

Characterization of grade dairy cattle owning households in mixed small scale farming systems of Vihiga, Kenya

 P M Ongadi, J W Wakhungu*, R G Wahome* and L O Okitoi

KenyaAgricultural Research Institute - Kakamega, Kenya; P.O Box 169, Kakamega
ongadimp@yahoo.com
*
Animal Production Department, University of Nairobi, Kenya; P.O. Box 29053, Nairobi
 

Abstract

This study characterized grade dairy cattle owning households, specifically understanding the farm system as influenced by grade dairy cattle production systems. Information was collected through a pre-tested structured questionnaire, administered to a purposive sample of 236 grade dairy cattle owning households in Vihiga from April to August 2005.

Results obtained showed 0.76, 0.54, 0.58 and 0.24 acres of land were allocated to maize/beans, napier grass, tea and natural pastures/fallow land respectively. The major objectives in farming and dairying were food supply and milk for home consumption respectively. Cows comprised 45.02% of the grade dairy herd and heifers 23.05%. Cow ownership was significantly influenced by the grade dairy cattle production system and comprised mainly Ayrshire cross (33.1%) and Holstein-Friesian cross (30.5%). Cows produced 5.49 litres of milk/day and were 6.78 years old. Age at 1st calving was 31.11 months with a calving interval of 18.66 months. Calving interval, cow age and age at first calving were significantly influenced (P<0.05) by the production system.

In conclusion, grade dairy cattle production and calving performance parameters were low limiting optimization of productivity from grade dairy cattle in Vihiga District, Kenya.

Key words: Grade dairy cattle; household characterization; Kenya; production and calving performance indicators; production systems; Vihiga District


Introduction

Smallholder systems all over the world show great diversity and complexity in the crops grown, cropping patterns, livestock species kept and the way they are managed. Given the wide diversity in agro-climatic, household and socio-economic conditions, grouping farms exhibiting closely related characteristics, which form unique recommendations domain, is not an easy task. There is a large amount of literature on characterizing farms and farming systems in Eastern Africa. For example Staal et al (1998) characterized 365 dairy farms in the central highlands of Kenya (Kiambu). Patterns among dairy households in terms of level of intensification, household resources and access to services and markets were distinguished by means of a cluster analysis. Shepherd and Soule (1998) used participatory techniques to characterize mixed farming systems in Vihiga, Western Kenya, based on the resource endowments and constraints faced by farmers.

Nicholson et al (1999) characterized farming systems with respect to the adoption of livestock as a farm component. One aspect that was generally not considered in such studies was the fact that small holders have multiple goals and these drive their decision-making, particularly in the choice of technology and enterprise mixes. There was need, therefore, to characterize the dairy farming households, not only in terms of their resource availability, but also in terms of their household characteristics and objectives, production and management systems. The objectives of this study were to describe the farm household characteristics and objectives of grade dairy cattle owning households within the mixed small scale farming systems of Vihiga, Kenya, and to quantify production and reproductive performance of grade dairy cattle under four grade dairy cattle production systems in Vihiga, Kenya.
 

Materials and methods

The study area

The study was undertaken in Vihiga District, Western Kenya, which is a high agricultural potential area predominantly (95%) in the upper midland one (UM1) agro-ecological zone, with an altitude ranging between 1300 to 1800 metres above sea level, average temperatures of 20.30C and well drained soils that comprised dystric acrisols and humic nitrosols (Jaetzold and Schmidt 1983). The area receives bimodal rainfall that ranges from 1,800 - 2,000 mm per year.

Description of grade dairy cattle production systems

Waithaka et al (2002) characterized dairy cattle production systems in Western Kenya as being Grazing only (free grazing or tethered), Mainly grazing with some stall-feeding, Mainly stall-feeding with some grazing and Stall-feeding only (zero-grazing) based on the level of intensification and feeding systems. In intensive grade dairy cattle production systems (Stall feeding only and Mainly stall feeding with some grazing), animals are mainly stall fed ('cut-and-carry') with napier grass as the basal feed resource. While in extensive grade dairy cattle production systems (Grazing only and Mainly grazing with some stall feeding), animals are mainly grazed on natural pastures.

Data collection and analyses

A purposive sample of 236 grade dairy cattle owning households were interviewed using a pre-tested structured questionnaire to elicit information on household characteristics; livestock inventory; herd structure, breed composition and herd dynamics; milk production and utilization; farming and dairying objectives, income sources and expenditures. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were determined using SPSS (Version 10.0). Means were separated using LSD and ANOVA carried out based on the model:

Υjk = µ + Pj + ℮jk

Where:

Yjk = parameter under test (household characteristics; grade dairy cattle herd structure, dynamics and breed composition; milk production and utilization)

µ = the underlying constant in each observation

Pj = effect of the grade dairy cattle production system (Grazing only - free grazing/tethered; Mainly grazing with some stall feeding; Mainly stall feeding with some grazing and Stall feeding only - zero grazing) on test parameters

e jk = error, ND(0,δ2)
 

Results and discussion

Land use and livestock ownership

The average farm size in Vihiga was 2.27 acres and this was similar (P>0.05) in all the four grade dairy cattle production systems (Table 1).


Table 1.  Household characteristics by grade dairy cattle production systems in Vihiga

Parameter

Grazing only

Mainly grazing + stall feeding

Mainly stall feeding + grazing

Stall feeding only

Number of households

10

37

81

108

Farm size, acres

2.14 0.39

2.39 0.22

2.31 0.16

2.20 0.12

Family size

6.70 0.84

5.35 0.42

6.44 0.27

6.42 0.25

Dairy experience, years

19.80 3.65

15.59 1.81

16.77 1.36

16.08 0.90

Age of HH, years

57.40 4.60

59.70 1.73

56.21 1.36

54.87 1.00

Area under maize/beans

0.74 0.17

0.78 0.07

0.73 0.07

0.77 0.06

Area under napier grass*

0.41 0.04

0.45 0.03

0.48 0.03

0.64 0.04

Area under pastures*

0.63 0.13

0.17 0.03

0.27 0.03

0.23 0.02

Area under tea

0.22 0.06

0.75 0.13

0.65 0.07

0.52 0.06

Grade dairy herd size

3.60 0.56

3.68 0.37

3.22 0.18

3.74 0.18

Zebu cattle herd size*

3.50 0.50

2.43 0.27

1.63 0.19

1.86 0.14

Number of local chicken

16.11 3.81

18.18 2.12

15.62 1.27

18.52 1.70

Extension visits per year*

3.88 0.77

4.07 0.53

4.43 0.46

5.08 0.36

* Means significantly different (P<0.05)


Intensive production systems (Stall feeding only and Mainly stall feeding with some grazing) were the main grade dairy cattle production systems comprising 45.8% and 34.3% respectively. These results concur with Staal et al (2001) that due to continued sub division of land in successive generations mean that in future, intensive grazing may be the predominant system for keeping dairy cattle. Grade dairy cattle households on average allocated 0.76 acres of the land to maize/beans (the main food crops), 0.54 acres to napier grass (main basal feed for dairy), 0.58 acres to tea (the main cash crop) and 0.24 acres to natural pastures/fallow land. Land allocated to napier grass and natural pastures/fallow highly depended on the production system (P<0.05). These findings agree with Mwangi and Wambugu (2003) that, as the size of land holdings continue to decline due to sub divisions, the contribution of pasture to livestock production has declined. Therefore, most livestock feed comes from planted forages and cropped land.

Allocation of land to napier grass growing in Vihiga was similar to dairy production areas in Central Kenya as indicated by Staal et al (2001), though not optimal with the National Dairy Development Project recommendation of 0.40 ha per cow and heifer per year (NDDP 1989). Herd size for grade dairy cattle and zebu cattle was 3.55 and 1.89 respectively. Grade dairy cattle ownership was similar in all the four grade dairy cattle production systems (Table 1). However, ownership of zebu cattle was significantly influenced (P<0.05) by the grade dairy cattle production system, similar to findings by Bebe et al (2003) that as farmers intensify their farming (production) systems, they adopt more of improved breed types and fewer of exotic cattle.

Each household had on average 17.34 local chickens, a major poultry in the area and these were also similar across the four production systems (Table 1). Grade dairy cattle owning households in Vihiga were on average visited 4.66 times/year by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development Extension staff. These visits were, however, significantly influenced (P<0.05) by the grade dairy cattle production system, and were higher on farms where grade dairy cattle were kept under Stall feeding only and Mainly stall feeding with some grazing production systems. Intensive production systems are more productive than intensive ones and are likely to stimulate more extension visits per year (Wambugu 2001).

Calving performance, milk production and utilization

Lactating grade dairy cows in Vihiga generally were milked by hand twice a day. The average milk production/household/day was 9.08 litres, while milk production/cow/day was 5.49 litres (Table 2).


Table 2.   Grade dairy cattle reproductive and production parameters by grade dairy cattle production systems in Vihiga

Parameter

Grazing only

Mainly grazing + stall feeding

Mainly stall feeding + grazing

Stall feeding only

Number of households

10

37

81

108

Calving interval, m*

22.56 1.43

19.22 0.92

19.57 0.72

17.11 0.65

Cow age, years*

8.60 0.56

6.63 0.36

6.89 0.30

6.54 0.26

Age at 1st calving, m*

32.72 0.60

31.80 0.84

30.97 0.38

30.60 0.29

No. of calving/cow

3.40 0.45

2.56 0.25

3.14 0.20

3.46 0.20

Milk/household/day, litres*

7.80 0.57

9.04 0.44

9.47 0.41

11.01 0.43

Milk/cow/day, litres

5.40 0.78

5.04 0.38

5.80 0.27

5.44 0.23

Milk for calf, litres /cow/day

2.66 0.15

2.64 0.13

2.61 0.11

2.66 0.09

Milk sold, litres /cow/day*

2.62 0.41

3.42 0.20

3.84 0.16

4.59 0.30

Milk consumed, litres /cow/day*

2.41 0.16

2.27 0.11

1.85 0.09

1.90 0.08

Age male calves weaned, m*

5.76 0.23

5.48 0.32

4.71 0.20

4.40 0.30

Age female calves weaned, m*

6.11 0.21

5.87 0.31

5.16 0.21

4.50 0.34

Age male calves are sold, m*

21.89 2.15

19.75 2.46

18.42 1.21

14.41 0.82

Age female calves are sold, m*

24.33 1.67

20.85 1.01

17.83 1.01

17.64 0.82

* Means significantly different (P<0.05)


Milk production per cow per day was similar to findings by Waithaka et al (2002) who reported 5.1 litres/cow/day in Western Kenya, and Gitau et al (1994) who reported 5.0 kg/cow/day for smallholder dairy farms in central Kenya. This poor performance was attributed to inadequate year-round supply of feed (quality and quantity) as reported by Omore et al (1996) and Staal et al (1998). Grade dairy cattle production systems influenced (P<0.05) milk production/ household/day and less (P>0.05) milk production/cow/day. Daily milk per cow for home consumption, calf rearing and sales in Vihiga was 1.96, 2.64 and 4.01 litres respectively. However, daily milk per cow for home consumption and sales depended (P<0.05) on the production system. Milk sales were higher in stall feeding only and mainly stall feeding with some grazing production systems averaging 4.59 and 3.84 litres per cow per day respectively.

Milk for home consumption on the other hand, were higher in grazing only and mainly grazing with some stall feeding production systems averaging 2.41 and 2.27 litres per cow per day respectively (Table 3).


Table 3.  Grade dairy cattle breed types, herd structure and composition by production systems

Parameter

Grazing only

Mainly grazing + stall feeding

Mainly stall feeding + grazing

Stall feeding only

Herd Structure

 

 

 

 

Immature males (<3yrs)

< 1 0.00

1.17 0.17

1.31 0.15

1.14  0.08

Cows (calved at least once)

1.40 0.22

2.00 0.18

1.49 0.08

1.81 0.08

Heifers (post weaned, pre-calving)

1.57 0.20

1.36 0.12

1.31 0.09

1.41 0.09

Pre weaning males

< 1 0.00

1.29 0.18

1.14 0.07

1.13 0.06

Pre weaning females

< 1 0.00

1.53 0.26

1.30 0.15

1.45 0.13

Herd composition

 

 

 

 

Holstein-Friesian pure

10%

5.4%

8.6%

20.4%

Holstein-Friesian cross

40%

32.4%

28.4%

30.6%

Ayrshire pure

10%

2.7%

6.2%

8.3%

Ayrshire cross

30%

40.5%

40.7%

25%

Jersey cross

-

-

3.7%

1.9%

Guernsey pure

-

-

1.2%

1.9%

Guernsey cross

-

5.4%

6.2%

3.7%


These results are similar to findings by Omore et al (1999), Bebe (2003), Waithaka et al (2002) and Stotz (1979) that extensive dairy production systems (only grazing and mainly grazing with some stall feeding) are more subsistence oriented while intensive production systems (stall feeding only and mainly stall feeding with some grazing) are commercial oriented with more marketable surplus. Milk for calf rearing was least dependent (P>0.05) on the grade dairy cattle production system. Average age of grade dairy cows was 6.78 years and each cow had calved down 3.21 times (Table 2).

Age at first calving for grade dairy cows in Vihiga was 31.11 months and this was within the range reported for grade dairy herds on smallholdings in the Kenya highlands (Staal et al 2001, Waithaka et al 2002, Omore et al 1999). This finding, however contrasted Valk van der (1992) that dairy cattle in extensive production systems had lower age at first calving than those in intensive production systems due to the opportunity of constant exposure of heifers to bulls or other cows. Both cow age and age at first calving were significantly influenced (P<0.05) by the grade dairy production system. Lower age at first calving for animals kept in intensive production systems (Stall feeding only and Mainly stall feeding with some grazing) could only be attributed to management and feeding. Calving interval for grade dairy cows was 18.66 months (559.8 days) and also depended (P<0.05) on the production systems (Table 2). These results were similar to findings by Staal et al 1998, Waithaka et al 2002 and Odima et al 1994 that calving intervals averaging 600 days (20 months) are common on smallholder herds. Grade dairy male and female calves were weaned when they averaged 5.16 and 5.56 months old respectively. Weaning and sale ages for both male and female calves were significantly influenced (P<0.05) by the grade dairy cattle production system (Table 2).

Grade dairy cattle breed types, herd structure and composition

Cows comprised 45.02% of the grade dairy herd and each household had 1.70 cows on average. Ownership of grade dairy cows was highly influenced (P<0.05) by the production system (Table 3). Heifers comprised 23.05% of the grade dairy cattle herd and each household had 1.38 heifers. Production systems had no substantial influence (P>0.05) on heifer ownership. Preferred grade dairy cattle breed types were mainly Ayrshire cross (33.1%), Holstein-Friesian cross (30.5%) and Holstein-Friesian pure (13.6%) as indicated in Table 3. However, majority (66.9%) of grade dairy cattle owning households in Vihiga chose the preferred grade dairy cattle breed types without any professional advice. Only 30% of the grade dairy cattle owning households were influenced variably by extension advice, experience, neighbours and literature/media in choice of breed types.

Preference for these breed types was mainly on account of high milk production and hence these breeds enabled grade dairy cattle owning households to meet their major objectives in farming in general (supply of food for the household) and dairying in particular (milk for household consumption and for sale). This finding is in agreement with Bebe et al (2003) that in the Kenya highlands, market-oriented farmers gave top priority to the commercial objective of milk production in the choice of breed types in order to produce a marketable surplus for cash income. It is also important to note that the preferred breed types indicated above were the major (70%) starting breeds (foundation breeds) for grade dairy cattle owning households in all production systems and were mainly acquired from other smallholder farmers (48.6%) and cattle markets (31.2%).

Objectives of farming and dairying for grade dairy cattle owning households

The main objective of farming was food supply as indicated by over 70% of the households irrespective of the production system (Table 4).


 

Table 4.  Distribution (%) of farming/dairying objectives, income sources and expenditure by grade dairy cattle production systems

Parameter

Grazing only

Mainly grazing + stall feeding

Mainly stall feeding + grazing

Stall feeding
only

Farming Objectives

 

 

 

 

         Food supply

70

86.5

90.1

90.7

         Income generation

20

51.4

65.6

50.9

         Maximize profits

-

8.1

5.0

13.0

         Soil improvement

50

24.3

18.8

23.1

         Social prestige/status

10

2.7

1.3

1.9

Dairying Objectives

 

 

 

 

         Surplus milk for sale

70

64.9

76.5

77.4

         Milk for home consumption

70

70.3

79.0

78.5

         Manure for sale

10

10.8

21.0

13.0

         Breeding stock for sale

20

27.0

14.8

37.0

         Capital assets building

20

18.9

12.3

25.9

         Supplement income sources

20

24.3

22.2

22.2

Main household income sources per year

 

 

 

         Farm income

60

51.4

65.0

57.4

         Off-farm income -  employment, business

40

35.1

44.4

43.5

         Remittances

20

43.2

19.8

25.9

Farm income sources per year

 

 

 

 

         Sale of dairy cattle milk

80

73.0

77.7

90.7

         Sale of dairy cattle animals

20

21.6

25.9

43.5

         Other livestock products

10

8.1

1.2

3.7

         Cash crops

20

8.1

7.4

13.0

         Food crops

20

13.5

19.8

21.3

         Horticultural crops

30

27.0

24.7

13.0

Income expenditures per year

 

 

 

 

         Food

50

45.9

44.4

45.4

         School fees

60

43.2

45.7

50.9

         Other livestock products

10

8.1

3.7

4.6

         Fertilizer

20

18.9

13.6

17.6

         Dairy cattle feeds and drugs

40

29.7

32.1

39.8

         Family health costs

20

32.4

34.6

22.2


However, differences across production systems come in their second main objective of farming. 50% of the farmers who kept their grade dairy in Grazing only production system indicated that their second main objective of farming was soil improvement. Over 50% of the farmers who kept their grade dairy cattle in each of the other production systems indicated that their second main objective of farming was income generation. Maximizing profits and social prestige/status were considered less as important objectives in farming across the four production systems. This results show that in general grade dairy cattle farmers consider income generation their second most important objective in farming after provision of food. Milk for home consumption and surplus milk for sale were indicated equally as the major objectives of dairying (Table 4).

However, the fact that grade dairy cattle owning households in Vihiga endeavor to satisfy their food needs before income generation implies some kind of risk aversion where the grade dairy cattle households are unwilling to rely on market for their household food requirements as similarly reported by Salasya (2005). Milk for home consumption and surplus milk for sale were indicated by the grade dairy cattle households as the major objectives of dairying in Vihiga irrespective of the grade dairy cattle production system (Table 4). Breeding stock for sale and capital assets building were indicated as third and fourth objectives of dairying by 37% and 25.9% of grade dairy cattle owning households who kept their grade dairy cattle in stall feeding only production system. Manure for sale was not a major objective for dairying across the four grade dairy cattle production systems in Vihiga.

Income sources and expenditures by grade dairy cattle owning households

The farm provided income per year for over 50% of households in all the grade dairy cattle production systems (Table 4). Off-farm income was the second main source of household income for 40%, 44.4% and 43.5% of the households under Grazing only, Mainly stall feeding with some grazing and Stall feeding only production systems respectively. Remittance was the second important source of income for 43.2% for households under Mainly grazing with some stall feeding. This finding contrasts Waithaka et al (2002) who reported that the bulk of income to households in Western Kenya came from outside the farm, mainly by way of salaries and wage earnings from employment off-farm. The major source of farm income/year to 70% of households in all production systems was sale of milk (Table 4).

Sale of grade dairy animals was the second main source of farm income. Food crops were the third source of farm income for households under Stall feeding only. Horticultural crops (mostly bananas) were the third important source of farm income to 30%, 20% and 24.7% households under Grazing only, Mainly grazing with some stall feeding and Mainly stall feeding with some grazing respectively. Farm income from food crops and cash crops in the area was limited by the land size hence yields were very variable limiting sales as similarly reported by Salasya 2005. Other livestock products (poultry, sheep, goats etc) contributed less to farm incomes. Expenditure of household income per year was mainly on school fees and food irrespective of the grade dairy cattle production system (Table 4).
 

Conclusions

Because of the small land sizes per household and the need to satisfy households' requirements for food, grade dairy cattle owning households have adopted more of the intensive production systems (Stall feeding only and Mainly stall feeding with some grazing). The growing importance of grade dairy cattle in the mixed small scale farming systems is indicated by the amount of land allocated to napier grass and further by the prevalence of milking cows and heifers in the herds. Since food supply was the major objective of farming, it implies that farming in the area was mainly for subsistence. In general households considered income generation their second most important objective in farming after provision of food. The predominant breed types in the grade dairy cattle herds were Ayrshire cross, Holstein-Friesian cross and Holstein-Friesian pure and these bigger breeds were preferred over Guernsey and Jersey because of high milk yields. Generally production and calving performance parameters for grade dairy cattle were low, limiting optimization of productivity under the different grade dairy cattle production systems.
 

Acknowledgements

The first author was supported by a scholarship from KARI/IDA World Bank NARP II Project. The authors acknowledge the support of Director KARI; Chairman, Department of Animal Production - University of Nairobi and Centre Director, KARI-Kakamega for this study.
 

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Received 22 August 2006; Accepted 27 January 2007; Published 1 March 2007

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