Knowledge, attitudes and practices of dairy cattle feeding in selected districts of major milksheds of Uganda
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Feeding dairy cattle has remained a major challenge globally and particularly in Uganda hindering optimal productivity of animals and in turn limiting investment and income into dairy farming. A study was conducted in the major milk sheds of Uganda to assess dairy cattle farmers’ knowledge, attitudes and feeding practices. 411 semi structured interviews were conducted with randomly selected dairy cattle farmers while qualitative data was collected by Key Informant Interviews and Focus Group Discussions. Results indicated that dairy farmers were majorly feeding dairy cattle on natural pastures (45.1%), grown pastures (25.7%), crop and food residues (19.7%) with very few feeding on processed or preserved rations and industrial by products (9.5%). Whereas over 85% of farmers claimed to supplement feeding to the milking cows to boost the milk yield, they mainly provided rock salt or mineral licks. The various feed supplements included: salt (49.4%), maize bran (25.3%), dairy meal (7.7%), brewers spent grain (2.2%), concentrates (1.3%) and crop residues (14.1%) that include; banana peelings, maize stovers and potato vines amongst others exclusively given to dairy milking cows as supplements. The study also revealed that fewer farmers (19.3%) practiced forage preservation in form of silage and hay. The respondent farmers’ major challenges were unavailability of feeds during the dry season, low milk production coupled with low milk prices, ineffectiveness of acaricides amongst others. Of the farmers growing pastures (216/411), (34.7%) were in Wakiso and Mukono and their average land under pasture growing was 1.3 (SD=1.2) acres. Of note, only (63/411) of respondents 15.3% had ever considered dairy feed formulation. Farmers were generally not knowledgeable on the importance of dairy animal nutrition and its effect on milk production. Based on the study findings, it is recommended that farmers be given adequate training in dairy animal nutrition, forage preservation and feed formulation. Dairy cattle farmers should be supported with genuine pasture seeds to enhance forage production adoption.