THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a finding that could give the much-needed push to dairy-farming in the state, Dr Sajith Purushothaman and Dr Ajith Jacob George of the Veterinary College, Pookode, have developed a novel calf-starter feed. This starter feed, with a unique combination of ingredients, is expected to improve the growth and milk yield of native cows and thus put a stop to our dairy farmers being cheated by middle-men who promise high- yielding cows.
“A recent fad among dairy farmers in the state was to go to various parts of the country and bring in cows of various breeds to the state. They do not realise that it would be difficult for most of these breeds to adjust to our conditions. The best alternative is to improve the yield of our native cows,” said Sujith Purushothaman.
The calf-starter feed was developed as a result of an ongoing search for ways to
improve the yield of the native cows. Scientists tinkered with various proportions of protein and mineral sources before finalising one.
“The starter feed is a scientific mix of maize, groundnut oil cake, wheat bran, soybean meal, mineral mixture and salt in specific proportions,” said Sajith Purushothaman.
The quantity of starter feed as well as the green grass that was given along with it, varied with the age group of the calves. The feed went on trial under the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY) scheme in Vythiri village of Wayanad district. As many as 100 female calves aged between two to three months were selected for the study. Before starting the trial, the calves were dewormed and drugs were given to kill the ectoparasites.
The calves were weighed and the feed starter was given as per the feeding schedule devised by the scientists. Calves in the age group of 3 to 4 months were given a calf-starter feed of 500-750 grams along with 1 kg of green grass, those aged between 4 to 5 months were given 750-1000 grams of calf-starter with 2-5 kg of green grass and so on.
Apart from this the cows were given lots of fresh drinking water. All through the feeding experiments, the weight of the calves was measured regularly. Calves that received calf-starter feed showed tremendous growth rate with an average body weight increase of 400 grams/day.
What made the experiment results more significant was the fact that these calves showed sexual maturity earlier than what is generally noticed. The feedback from the farmers who were included in the trial was that the calves showed the first sign of heat in the age ranging from 13 to 15 months.
The experiment is continuing with the calves being monitored during pregnancy and childbirth. The yield of milk in the first lot of cows will also be noted. If all works out well, this could prove to be a boon to dairy farmers.