Milk is a clear, wholesome lacteal secretion obtained from the udder of healthy cows, free from any extraneous material like dust, dirt, feces, drug residues, etc.
It is obtained from cows after parturition, which serves as a nutrient-rich food for the newborn calf.
Normal milk production in dairy cows
Regular cows: 1600-2500 kg/ lactation cycle
Holstein/ Jersey purebred: 4500-5500 kg/ lactation cycle
Other breeds of the cow may produce in between these, as the Holstein and Jersey range.
Causes of Low Milk Production in Cows
While talking about milk production in cows, one point that matters the most is the breed of cow.
A cow can produce only as much milk as its genetics can permit.
This capacity can be increased up to some marginal levels, but a substantial increase is close to impossible.
Hence, it is imperative to consider the breed of cows before starting a dairy enterprise. Remember, high-yielding breeds yield the best milk production.
Cows sired by the best parents with better genetics (high-yielding dam + best sire) produce more milk.
This causes variation in milk-producing breeds.
Hence, emphasis must be placed on selecting the best of both worlds!!
No matter what breed you have how superior the pedigree is, you can never get high milk production if the nutrition requirements for the animal are not met.
Another most important factor contributing to the loss of production is inadequate or improper management practices.
Management of animals at the farm includes
- The housing of animals,
- Regular screening for diseases,
- Feeding practices,
- Methods of milking,
- A clean environment contributes a lot to the milk-producing potential of the milch animals.
If neglected, it can lead to severe diseases among the herd and further loss of milk production.
Many livestock diseases threaten the production of milk.
These include mastitis, deficiency diseases (especially calcium deficiency), parasitic diseases, and viral and bacterial diseases.
We’ll see common diseases hampering production one by one-
1. Bovine Mastitis
Mastitis is the inflammation of the udder. Theoretically, it may be caused by a variety of causes, mainly infectious agents.
- Causative agents– bacteria that mainly cause mastitis are staphylococcus, streptococcus, mycobacterium, and actinomyces.
- Sources of infection– The route of infection is mainly through the teat canal. Infection may be spread by wounds on teats, injuries caused by the suckling of calves, milker’s hands, etc.
- Signs and symptoms–
Hardening of the udder, which becomes swollen and painful. The secretion of the milk is minimal and stained by blood; toxins may be released into the bloodstream, which may cause death. Udder becomes cold and greenish or blue; gangrene may supervene, and in acute cases, death occurs. If the animal survives, the udder is lost.
- Preventive care
- A kit for mastitis testing, the California Mastitis Test, is available on the market. This consists of a teat cup and a reagent that should be used to screen the animals in lactation periodically, ideally once a week.
- If any signs of the disease are seen, treatment should be followed by a qualified veterinary practitioner.
- Mastitis mainly occurs in a dirty environment. Hence, care must be taken to keep surroundings clean, and animal excrement should be cleaned regularly as it acts as a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Any wounds on the teat or scabs from pock lesions are to be treated as early as possible.
2. Milk fever/ Hypocalcaemia
It is a metabolic disease of adult females most commonly occurring at the time of parturition.
Excessive loss of calcium in colostrum.
A reduced feed intake at parturition.
Deficiency of Vitamin D in the diet.
The improper ratio of calcium and phosphorus.
Cold climate, long-distance transport by foot, sudden deprivation of food, grazing on oxalate-rich plants, digestive disturbances.
Excitement, tetany, hypersensitivity, muscle tremors, ataxia, drowsiness, cold skin, inability to stand, head turned towards the flank, bloating of the stomach.
Give exercise to an animal to maintain gut function and stimulate bone metabolism.
Provide warmth in a cold climate.
Do not milk completely after calving for a few days.
Feed a calcium-rich diet during the last two weeks of gestation.
3. Phosphorus deficiency hemoglobinuria
It is a metabolic disease of high-producing dairy cows characterized by intravascular hemolysis of red-colored or coffee-colored urine.
Deficiency of phosphorus in the diet, impaired absorption of phosphorus, excess calcium in the body, improper calcium-phosphorus ratio, a heavy drain of phosphorus through milk, increased demand by the fetus during pregnancy, feeding cruciferous plants like rape, kale, and turnip.
Signs and symptoms
- Partial to complete anorexia.
- Dullness, depression, weakness.
- A marked drop in milk yield.
- Rapid breathing and difficulty breathing are the next stages.
- Passage of pasty feces with straining.
Jaundice may occur in advanced stages.
- Regular provision of a mineral mixture containing phosphorus according to the requirement of maintenance and production.
- Protect the recently calved or advanced animals from cold stress.
It is a metabolic disease of high-yielding animals characterized by hypoglycemia, ketonemia, and ketonuria.
- Starvation or feeding of a low carbohydrate diet.
- Feeding excess amount of protein-rich diet.
- Excess feeding of silage.
- High milk yield
- Deficiency of cobalt and phosphorus.
- Lack of exercise.
- Loss of appetite.
Signs and symptoms
- Refusal to concentrate feed.
- A marked drop in milk production.
- Rapid loss of body weight.
- Sweetish smell to breath, milk, urine.
- Feces are firm, dry, and covered in mucus.
Nervous symptoms like circling, staggering, head pressing, aimless walking, vigorous licking of inanimate objects, and chewing movements with hypersalivation.
- Cows should not be over or underfed at calving.
- An extra allowance of concentration is made in advance of pregnancy.
- Feeding of ground maize and cooked and ground grains.
- Provide good quality silage and hay.
- Give adequate exercise.
- The ratio should be adequate and balanced.
- Select cows with good feed capacity and appetite.
Other metabolic diseases
- Hypomagnesaemic tetany.
- Downer cow syndrome
- Pregnancy toxemia
- Cobalt deficiency
- Copper deficiency
- Iron deficiency
- Iodine deficiency
- Diabetes mellitus
*almost all the deficiency diseases of metals and vitamins can be avoided by following good feeding along with supplements and good husbandry practices.
So How to Improve Milk Production in Cows
Production and Employment of Superior Cow Breeds
While starting a dairy farm or continuing a dairy farm, high-yielding varieties of cows should be reared to increase milk production.
Some of the high-yielding varieties are Holstein Friesian, Jersey, Gir, etc.
Also it should also be kept in mind to ensure the excellent pedigree of the calves that are produced on the farm.
To achieve this goal, AI (artificial insemination) is to be employed to impregnate the dams using high-quality sperm from an outstanding sire.
This will ensure a good pedigree of the progeny, which will have enhanced milk production.
Sometimes, exotic breeds may have problems getting acclimatized to the weather.
In such cases, crossbreeding may be used to improve the production performance of the existing cows and concurrently to make them more tolerant of the weather conditions of the area.
This will help bridge the gap commonly faced in milk production, mainly due to high-yielding and low-yielding varieties or breeds.
Improving Feeding Practices
No matter how good the potential of a breed for high production is, if the feeding is not up to the mark, all the efforts go down the drain.
Therefore, it is important to improve the feeding of the cows.
The main components of feed given to cows are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats; they should be given in sufficient amounts to fulfill an animal’s maintenance and production requirements.
Green fodder, along with dry fodder and concentrates like oil cakes, is important to sustain and improve milk production.
High-yielding fodder varieties like hybrid Napier, Pearl Millet (bajra), sorghum fodder, guinea grass, and para grass should be used.
To fulfill the protein requirement of the animal, high-yielding legume varieties like Lucerne, hedge Lucerne, and fodder cowpea should be used.
To fulfill the fat requirements, oil cakes like linseed cake, cottonseed cake, etc., are to be used.
Also, byproducts of other industries like bone meal, meat meal, and vegetable parts can be used.
Cheap fodder can be treated to transform them into highly nutritious fodder, which will be mentioned later.
Protection from and Treatment of Diseases
Diseases occurring in milch animals are the leading cause of low production and low-quality production of milk. Commonly occurring diseases like mastitis should be regularly screened for and treated promptly by a certified veterinarian. Other deadly diseases like brucellosis cause heavy losses in animals like abortion and spread throughout the herd rapidly; such infected animals can be culled from the stock.
Treated animals should be given extra care. Their milk is to be abstained from the total daily collection for a prescribed amount of withdrawal period to preserve the quality and wholesomeness of milk.
Vaccination for available diseases should be done at the proper time with guidance from a veterinarian. It can help reduce the mortality and morbidity of the diseases and help improve the farm’s overall productivity.
Management of Farm Animals
Good management has a massive impact on milk production. Some of the ideal management practices are-
Keeping the barn clean
Regular milking of the animals at the same time
Good feeding practices
Access to clean water
Vigilance about diseases
Number of times the milking is done
Well ventilated farm
Animal housing objectives
- Protection from a hostile environment.
- Availability of nutritious food and water.
- To provide a comfortable resting place.
- Protection from diseases by the disposal of waste.
- The welfare of animals.
Large animal housing
- High standard of insulation of all surfaces.
- The surface of the walls should be smooth and the corners blunt.
- The design of stalls and managers should provide easy consumption of food.
- The roof should allow reflection of light, thereby maintaining temperature.
- Fly control should be done by spraying appropriate fly repellent in cracks and crevices.
- Sunlight should enter the cow shed as it helps disinfect the cows.
- The orientation of the cow shed should be east-west.
Disinfection of animal houses
- Disinfection is carried out by light, heat, and chemicals.
- Sunlight is a good disinfecting agent.
- Burning, boiling of articles and equipment, and use of steam or hot water are effective disinfection methods.
- Water troughs, feed managers, and floors should be washed regularly with 4% hot sodium bicarbonate solution.
- Quick lime and calcium oxide should be sprinkled over manure and animal discharge on the floor to act as disinfectant and deodorant.
- Other chemicals used are- potassium permanganate, bleaching powder, caustic soda, and cationic detergents.
- Flame guns can also be used to disinfect barns with proper care.
Disinfestation of sheds
- This simply means the elimination of sources of parasitic infections.
- Proper and prompt disposal of manure and feces should be done away from the shed.
- Treatment of pasture, ponds, and streams with CuSO4 should be done to control the snail population, which spreads parasites like the liver fluke, tapeworms, etc.
- Proper deworming should be done by a veterinarian.
- Rotational grazing on different parts of pastures should be followed.
- Insecticides should be sprayed in the shed often to control parasitic development.
- Another option is spraying DDT in the barn, but it should be avoided as it is harmful to the environment.
- Vector control- natural poisons- rotenone, pyrethrum, derris, mineral oil
Synthetic poisons- organophosphates, organochlorines, carbamates
Stomach poisons- Paris green, sodium fluoride
Fumigation- methyl bromide, sulfur dioxide.
Vectors can also be destroyed by proper disposal of manure.
If all the management practices are carried out properly, then milk production will increase.
Usually, milking is done 2 times a day on most farms, but much research has been conducted, and it was found that 3 times milking increases milk production.
The method of milking also plays an important role, especially if hand milking is followed. Many farmers follow the knuckling method of drawing milk from the udder, which is a harmful method for the animal, and it damages teat tissue, leading to scarring of the teat canal. Complete hand milking is the best method of milking a cow; it should be followed by stripping, which has been shown to increase the fat content of the milk.
- Knuckling method of milking-
This is a common practice of milking cows, wherein the thumb is opposed against the teat and fingers; it puts pressure on the teat tissue damages the teat, and is also painful.
- Treatment of animals in case of deficiency
Animals can also produce less milk when minerals and vitamins are deficient. In general, mineral mixtures available in the market can be included in the diet of the animal, which will fulfill the mineral requirements. In more immediate cases, a veterinarian can treat calcium deficiency and will likely inject calcium into animals via intravenous injections.
However, if proper feeding and management are followed, deficiencies are not developed.
Contents of mineral mixture commonly available-
- Acid insoluble ash
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- B complex vitamins
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Treatment of low-quality fodder into high-quality, nutritious fodder
There is ample scope to increase the yield or to reduce the production cost by utilizing crop residues and agricultural byproducts.
Low-cost technologies like the enrichment of straw urea molasses mineral block can be employed to enrich low-quality fodder into high-quality, nutritious fodder.
Methods to enrich low-quality fodder.
Urea treatment of the straw- (urea and jaggery)
This helps increase the nitrogen content of the feed, which in turn is consumed by the ruminal microbes and is converted into digestible protein, which can be absorbed by the animals and help improve milk production.
Green leafy fodder, which is low in nutrients, can be transformed by this process of silage-making.
This method uses green fodder chopped into small bits, a mineral mixture, whey, urea, jaggery, and common salt. This is done in silage or tower procedure, which can also be found on YouTube.
This process uses the whole plant, so wastage is limited, and animals also get highly nutritious feed, which boosts production.