As summer peaks and temperatures rise, management of dairy cattle assumes more significance. Dairy farmers say there is a 20-25% dip in milk production during summer months. Scarcity of green fodder, heat and certain diseases affect the milk production.
Since Kerala has more than 96% cross-bred cattle, appropriate summer management advisories must be followed to maintain milk production. Extreme summer conditions create scarcity of green fodder, vitamin A deficiency and incidences of bovine mastitis (udder inflammation) among cattle. There will also be increased respiration rate and body temperature, says T.P. Sethumadhavan, former director of Entrepreneurship, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU).
“In order to sustain milk production, scientific interventions have to be followed during feeding and management phases. Provision for adequate ventilation must be assured in the cattle shed. Fans and cooling systems, including sprinkling of water, can be arranged. Sufficient drinking water must be made available. Try to feed during the cooler times of the day, and fresh feed is recommended. High-quality forages with increased fibre content will ease digestion,” he said.
Sreeja K.V., a dairy farmer from Arangottukara, Thrissur, says milk yield clearly goes down in during summer. “Some farmers in our region have started growing fodder grass to overcome the scarcity. We try to keep them under tree shades. Shortage of water is also a problem,” she says.
Dr. Sethumadhavan points out that milch cattle must be given 60 g of vitamin-mineral mixture daily to counter deficiencies. “If adequate quantity of green fodder is not available, vitamin A can be supplemented orally at a rate of one ounce per 2-3 days interval. The cattle should not be allowed to graze during hot hours of the day,” he says.
Chances of milk spoilage is more during summer. Hence, milk must be chilled or boiled immediately after milking or appropriate action may be taken to market the milk at the earliest, he advises.
“Care must be taken to avoid infestation of ecto-parasites and to assure the quality of drinking water. During extreme hot hours, 30 g of sodium bicarbonate can be added to the feed. Feed and water can be given separately. Recent research reveals that curcumin at the rate of 1 g per day facilitates milk production and assure immunity against heat stress in cattle,” adds Dr. Sethumadhavan.