The Nutrition Unit supports the Carabao Development Program of PCC on the development of feed technologies for sustainable production and supply of feed and forages to improve the nutrition and productivity of dairy buffaloes. Establishment of year-round feeding systems through the use of practical and least-cost animal rations utilizing the locally available feed resources or with the use of supplementary concentrates and mineral mixtures to augment energy and protein requirements and to correct the nutritional problems/ deficiencies are being undertaken. Production and conservation of forages and legumes in the most practical manner such as silage production and urea-molasses treatment of rice straw to improve its feeding value for feeding buffaloes are established and are being practiced at the institutional and at the small-hold farms.
Feeds and Feeding Technologies Developed
this management intervention is done to improve if not change the usual practice of the farmers in calf rearing. Traditionally, the calf goes with its dam to suck milk starting from birth to 5-7 months, the age at weaning. This practice posts some problems because the calf cannot fully consume the available milk from its dam and the suckling stimulus has negative effects on the post-partum estrus and succeeding reproduction of the dam.
In zero suckling, the calf is immediately separated from its dam. The calf is kept in an elevated individual calf hutch bedded with rice straw and is equipped with feeding trough and pail for drinking milk and water. The newly calved mother is manually milk to get the colostrums. Colostral feeding is done by bottle or pail feeding within three hours from birth up to 5 or 7 days of age. The calf is fed for 90 days (weaning age) with 4 liters of milk per day which is divided into 2 liters milk each for morning and afternoon feeding. The advantages of this zero sucking in calf rearing practice are the following; 1) Excess colostrums from the dam can be collected and stored/frozen for future use, 2) Promotes early weaning of calf leading to collection of more milk for sale and more profit than natural suckling, 3) In zero suckling, early post-partum estrus is observed among cows due to the absence of the suckling stimulus.
feeding pure mothers’ milk in calf rearing is expensive. In natural suckling, the calf can consume about 4 liters of milk each day from its dam. At a farm gate price of P45/liter of milk, the cost of maintaining the calf is P180/day or a total of P16,200 up to the weaning age of 90 days.
With the continuing effort to improve calf production and management, the milk replacer feeding was first adopted at the PCC-Gene Pool farm. The milk replacer is an infant formula for buffalo calf with almost the same nutritive value as that of the cows’ milk. Only about 640-800 grams milk replacer powder is diluted to 4 liters of warm water to meet the daily milk requirement of the calf. It was found practical and cost saving when use during nursing stage of the calf. At a cost of P140/kilo of milk replacer, the farmer will spend only P90 to P112/day to feed his calf or a total cost of P8,100 to P10,080 in 90 days (weaning age). Research findings have shown that the milk replacer is readily, available, practical to use, promotes growth and health condition of the calf and it is economical to use with a feed cost savings of P5000 to P6,000 in 90 days feeding period. To date, the milk replacer is regularly adopted not only at the PCC farms but also by other dairy farmers.
management of buffalo cow and its calf is one of the major concerns in the success of the dairy farming. The cow experienced physiological stress and nutritional imbalance immediately after calving but during this condition the cow should lactate and produce milk to nourish its calf. While on lactation, the cow’s uterus involutes followed by the occurrence of post-partum estrus, a cycle that calls for re-breeding in preparation for the next gestation and calving of the cow. These physiologic conditions of the cow are somewhat complicated because the nutrients required for milk synthesis are large and it appears to be in competition with the nutrients needed for reproduction.
At the village level, low milk production and reproductive abnormalities such as irregular estrus cycle, low conception rate, longer service period (>120-200 days) and long calving intervals, (18-20 months) are some of the commonly observed problems among dairy buffaloes. These conditions are usually associated with poor nutrition which directly affects the body condition score (e.g. BCS 2-3) of the cows.
Flushing is the management term of providing high quality rations or nutrients to the cow. Through flushing the cow enables to cope up with the nutrients demand for milk production and subsequent reproduction. Giving 2-4 kg supplementary concentrates as means of flushing the cows one month before calving to 2 months post-calving provided adequate nutrients for improving BCS, higher milk production and longer lactation period. This technology promotes early re-breeding and with only 127 days service period, about 70 % of the flushed cows were already confirmed pregnant. With flushing, the calving interval of the cows was reduced from 18.4 months to 14.8 months thus leading to improved reproduction production of calf every 14-15 months interval and higher milk production. As a result of flushing, the farmers enjoyed a net benefit of P33,532.35/lactation of their cow.
Integrating all the efforts in forage production, conservation and utilization coupled with the development of practical and appropriate feeding system for small-hold dairy farmers would simply lead to a productive and profitable dairy buffalo enterprises.