Calliandra calothyrsus as a Supplement for Milk Production in the Kenya Highlands

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Two on-farm experiments and one on-station observation were conducted between July 1994 and September 1995 to study the effect of supplementation with fresh fodder of Calliandra calothyrsus on milk production from grade Friesian and Ayrshire cows in the second trimester of their lactations. The cattle were kept under zero-grazing systems on small farms in the coffee-based land use system at altitudes of 1500 to 1800 m on the slopes of Mt Kenya. These cows form a pivotal part of the farming system since they produce both milk for sale and manure for crop production. Milk production is normally in the region of 10 kg/cow per day when the animals are fed on a diet based on Napier grass and crop residues, together with 2-4 kg/day of commercial concentrate. In terms of milk production, 3 kg of fresh calliandra had the same effect on yield as 1 kg of additional dairy meal and, at normal production levels, the effects of the two supplements were strictly additive. Calliandra had a marked positive effect (about a 10% increase) on the butterfat content of the milk, a factor that was highly valued by farmers, even though institutional buyers as yet offer no premium price for milk quality. The average small farm can produce enough calliandra fodder to supplement two dairy cows and some additional small stock from relatively underutilized niches along the farm perimeter and terrace risers, without any adverse effect on current levels of crop production.

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