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Go Back       IAR Journal of Agriculture Research and Life Sciences | IAR J Agri Res Life Sci, 2(5), | Volume:2 Issue:5 ( Sept. 10, 2021 ) : 1-17.
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DOI : 10.47310/iarjals.2021.v02i05.001       Download PDF       HTML       XML

Dairy Animal Management Factors Influencing Milk Yield among Members of the Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society, Kabwe, Central Zambia: Magnifying the Role of Milk in Human Diet and Raising Nutritional Levels

Article History

Received: 10.08. 2021 Revision: 20. 08. 2021 Accepted: 31. 08 .2021 Published: 10. 09. 2021

Author Details

Chansa Chomba*1,and Idani Lichilo2

Authors Affiliations

1School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, Mulungushi University, P. O. Box 80415, Kabwe, Zambia

2School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mulungushi University, Kabwe, Zambia

Abstract: A study was carried out between September and December 2020 to characterize the dairy farming activities in Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society area of Kabwe central Zambia. Data were collected through Focused Group Discussion with cooperative leadership and a questionnaire survey to the 40 household heads included in the sample. The questions in the questionnaire were designed to capture information on cattle breeds used, number of cattle per housed hold and number of years in dairy cattle management, herd size, milking routines and milk yields, grazing regime practiced and size of land, feeding including quantity and quality of feed given, knowledge on the food conversion ratio and nutrients needed by individual dairy animals. Water access and quantity /supply, and management improvements needed to increase milk yields were also considered. Data entry and storage were carried out using a data entry form earlier prepared which were later entered in Excel Spread sheet where descriptive statistics were performed and later imported into Mini Tab Statistical software package. Chi-square goodness of fit test was applied to compare between expected and observed frequencies of the identified parameters. Graphical presentations were prepared using Microsoft Excel Version 2016. Results obtained showed that farmers had adequate number of years in cattle keeping (6 - 25 years), but that all of the households faced water shortages in the dry season, and fodder was also limited during this time as almost all farmers practiced open range/free ranging grazing regime. Supplementary feeding was limited as most farmers did not make hay or silage and did not have sufficient financial resources to source supplements from outside the district. The amount of feed given to each animal per day was generally low although it varied among farmers with most farmers 74%, n = 26, feeding their animals on 20kg and less per day, and only 26% of the farmers provided ≥ 26kg of feed per day per animal. Otherwise, only 14%, n = 5, provided feed of 30 - 40kgs. The quantity of milk produced was low 6 (5.9) liters per cow with most farmers 70% (n = 28) milking twice per day, and the remaining 30% (n = 12) milking only once. The quantity of milk slightly increased during the rainy season although the quantity was not specified but with farmers having Friesian and Jersey breeds producing slightly higher quantities of milk than other breeds. It was concluded that all farmers were aware of the potential of the breeds they own to produce larger quantities of milk than what is currently produced, and acknowledged that severe management constraints were the main factors preventing them from realizing their potential.

Keywords: Breed, feed, grazing, milk, nutrition, water yield.


The Mpima Dairy Producers Agricultural Co-operative Society was established in 2004 with 10 members, replacing an earlier state-run dairy farm established during the first republic. The Co-operative initially received 30 dairy animals from the Zambia Agribusiness and an additional 20 members were recruited. Since then, the membership has grown.

The cooperative was among other things established to promote the living standards of the members and the community of Mpima socially, economically, and environmentally by undertaking and encouraging its members to engage in keeping dairy animals to produce more milk (Personal comm.).

In 2015, famers lost about 50% of the pure breed stock due to disease and particularly exotic breeds such as the Friesian breed which the farmers said were difficult to manage while most crosses survived. Even after the high losses in 2015, the co-operative has not received any consistent and comprehensive veterinary care support or extension services from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, yet the co-operative was established to enhance milk production and help contribute to the improvement of nutrition in central province and the nation at large.

The Mpima area also experiences severe water shortages as streams are intermittent and most boreholes were reported to be dry boreholes. The small dam across Mpima stream barely sustains the animals in the dry season and farmers ferry water using ox drawn scotch carts from afar. In amelioration, government had promised to sink one bore hole but this has not yet materialized.

This study therefore, was carried out within the ambits of government’s intentions through the National Food and Nutrition Commission to improve the health status of the citizens. This is because the importance of dairy farming cannot be overemphasized because as milk is critical in the diets of all mammals. Milk provides many essential nutrients which include carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins which are critical for mental development and long-term good health of citizens. Poor nutrition can lead to stunting and brain underdevelopment both of which are inimical to the well being of the human society and development of the country in general.

Mzumara et al., (2018) showed that the consequences of stunting included short adult height, effect on health and negative impact on economic development over time. In the long-term, stunting has effects on individuals and societies, including diminished cognitive and physical development, reduced productive capacity and poor health, and increased risk of degenerative diseases which may eventually become a burden on the social and health care systems.

In Zambia for instance, Mzumara et al., (2018) and the National Food and Nutritional Commission report of 2012 (GRZ, 2012), provided a detailed summary report on levels of stunting in the country. The national average stunting was 45% in 2012 apportioned by province as follows; Luapula 56 % and the highest, Central 53%, Northern 49%, Eastern 50%, Northwestern and Copperbelt 44%, Lusaka 37% and the lowest were Western and Southern provinces at 36%. Such levels of stunting portrayed a nation that may be considered severely undernourished and the economic future at risk of self dilapidation. The national average slightly reduced by 11% from 45% in 2012 to 40.4% in 2018, distributed by province as follows; northern province was this time the highest 49% (representing no change between 2012 – 2018), Muchinga 44% ( new addition), Eastern 43% (a reduction of 7%) , Luapula 43% ( a reduction of 13%), Central 43% ( a reduction of 10%), Southern 37% (an increase of 1%), Northwestern 37% (a reduction of 7%), Copperbelt 36% (a reduction of 8%), Western 36% ( an increase of 1% and Lusaka 36% (a reduction of 1%). Luapula and Central provinces had the highest reduction (Mzumara et al., 2018).

A growing body of knowledge now suggests that nutritional factors have a direct influence on cognitive growth including brain development of children which later manifest into adulthood and negatively impact the nation as a whole. Even though according to Hamer et al., (2016) brain development is fairly robust in principle, it can be modified by early environment, nutrition, illness and other experiences. However, nutritional deficiencies combined with repeated infections seemed to form a vicious cycle reinforcing each other, ultimately undermining the physical and cognitive development of children with subsequent effects on education and economic productivity of individuals and their families and the nation at large. At 45% stunting as a national average in 2012 (GRZ (2012) Zambia was enlisted as having one of the highest rates of childhood stunting (6 to 59 months) in the world which was higher than the 42% average for Africa. Other forms of under nutrition were reported to be wasting or acute malnutrition, with 5% of children under 5 years being under weight at 15%. In addition, 54% of children had vitamin A deficiency and 53% had iron deficiency, 9.3 % were born with low birth weight, all indicative of poor maternal nutrition.

It was postulated that if the levels of stunting remained unchanged in Zambia, over the next decade(s), the country would lose an estimated USD 775 million in economic underperformance (GRZ, 2012). Therefore, addressing under nutrition was essential to improved economic performance of the country and critical if the country was to meet the relevant Sustainable Development Goals. This is partly the reason why we emphasized the important role of milk production and consumption can play in changing the status quo to address the current nutritional challenges at micro, meso and macro scales.

To further underscore the importance of milk in enhancing the nutritional status of particularly children, the WHO and FAO launched in April 2003 an independent report on diet and nutrition, which served as the basis for developing a global strategy to combat the growing burden of chronic diseases mainly linked to poor nutrition (GRZ, 2012).

This global strategy of enhancing the nutritional status of people is very relevant to Zambia where under nutrition remains high. GRZ (2012) stated that food consumption in Zambia among all age groups was inadequate. Available data suggests high deficiencies in dietary frequency, quality and diversity. The Central Statistical Office data (CSO, 2014) showed that 51% of households could only afford two meals a day, 11 % one meal a day, and only 35% could afford three meals a day. Even the three meals per day did not consider the variety and quality of food. It was shown that the over reliance on maize cereal was not only insufficient to fulfill energy needs but was also not diverse to provide adequate quality and quantity of protein, and was highly deficient in micronutrients all of which had acute or severe implications on nutritional well being of the population.

A survey carried out in 2008 (GRZ, 2012) found that on average, only four out of 13 food groups were consumed in a day by households. The food groups regularly consumed were; cereal and cereal products, 98.9%, dark leafy vegetables 80.0%, oils and fats 60.06%, sugary foods 48.8%, legumes, nuts and oil seeds 40.7%. Only 1 % of the dietary energy supply was provided by fruit and vegetables. The low supply (5%) of food of animal origin (meat, milk, eggs, and fish) contributed to the iron and protein deficiency. The study also showed that 27% to 65% of the population could not afford a minimum cost of nutritionally adequate diet. This data underscores the importance of milk as a source of nutrition because it is inherently packed with a high variety of macro and micro nutrients.

Nutritionally, milk is nature’s perfect highly dense food source providing high quality protein and micronutrients in an easily absorbed form that can benefit both vulnerable and healthy people when consumed in appropriate amounts. It is a well-known fact that the critical window for adequate child growth and cognitive development is the first 1,000 days (GRZ, 2012) and no wonder all mammals start with milk during their most critical stage in life. IDFA (2021) and University of Kansas Medical Center (2015) demonstrated that milk products contain casein (C17H125N22O39P) a protein found only in milk and is used as a standard for evaluating proteins of other foods. Therefore, milk makes a significant contribution to meeting the required nutrient intakes of calcium, magnesium, selenium, riboflavin (C17H20N4O6) vitamin B12, pantothenic acid (C9H17NO5) and others. Milk from some animal species can also be a source of zinc and vitamins A, C, D and B6 (FAO, 2002, 2020; Pereira, et al., 2014). The calcium found in milk is readily absorbed by the body while phosphorous plays a role in calcium absorption and utilization. Phosphorous essentially is needed in the proper ratio to calcium to form bones. Milk is also a source of riboflavin (vitamin B2) which helps to promote healthy skin and eyes as well as vitamins A and D. In adults, a calcium deficiency along with other factors may result in bone deterioration called osteoporosis (IDFA, 2021).

Pereira, et al., (2014) underscored the role of milk in the young and adults alike. Despite the opposing views that milk might not be good for some individuals (Nelson and Jurmain, 1991) and age groups, the author argued that milk is a nutrient dense food supplying all essential components for growth and development. It contains water (87%) readily digestible fats (3 – 4%), high biological value proteins (3, 5%), lactose (5%), minerals (1.2%) and vitamins (0.1%) in addition to many other constituents that have positive human health. It was concluded that adequate intake of milk and dairy products particularly during childhood, might have beneficial effects on health and reduce risk of osteoporosis, hypertension and obesity during adulthood (Pereira, 2014).

Teklu (2021) acknowledged that milk was a complete food that contains all nutritional principles necessary for life, which is why it has been used by humans as food since times immemorial. Due to this perception of a complete food product, milk has acquired a strong cultural imprint in the symbolic system of health. Evidently, this precious food item must not be missing from the table of any nutritionally responsible household.

Recent studies by Hyland (2015) suggest that older adults who drink milk tend to have higher levels of the naturally occurring antioxidant called glutathione (C10H17N3O6S) in the brain. Glutathione helps to stave off oxidative stress and the resulting damage caused by reactive chemical compounds produced during the normal metabolic process in the brain. It is like removing the buildup of rust on your car. Oxidative stress is known to be associated with a number of different diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many other conditions.

Mudd et al., (2017) in their experiment using a process called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) technique assessed how fast and where water molecules are moving in the brain. By knowing how the water moves, they were able to understand how neurons are aligned and how myelination is occurring in the brain; as these are important ways of measuring brain development. When babies are born, they do not have much myelin surrounding their axons, so water can flow out of the axons fairly easily; this would result in a high radial diffusivity measure. However, as babies’ brains develop, myelin wraps around axons and there is less room for water to move out of the axons, resulting in lower radial diffusivity. When a neuron cell body receives information from other neurons, the cell body processes that information and sends a new message along the axon to reach other neurons within the brain or in other sites within the body. Studies in human babies have also shown that the addition of milk fat globule membrane to a baby’s diet can help the brain to develop. This might be because milk fat globule membrane contains a molecule called sphingomyelin which is required for the production of myelin (Figure 1).

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure 1. Myelin in a Common Neuron

(Source: Shier, Butler and Lewis 2007, Human anatomy and physiology)

It is undeniable that although there are views to the contrary regarding the health benefits of consuming milk in adults which in some is due to lactose intolerance (Nelson and Jurmain, 1991) and other complications, overwhelming evidence suggests that milk is a miracle food source and its presence on each household’s dinner table is equivalent to good health (Hamer and Biemba, 2016). In an undernourished population such as is the case with Zambia, milk consumption is supposed to be diplomatically mandatory to improve the health and brain capacity of the citizens so that their contribution to economic activity can be maximized and disease burden reduced which also reduces the budgetary constraints of the Ministry of Health. This way, one would confidently suggest that a good diet is indeed the most efficient hospital.

Choi et al., (2015) also reiterated the importance of milk in nourishing the brain. Choi’s team asked 60 participants in the study about their diets in the days leading up to brain scans, which they used to monitor levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant in the brain. The researchers found that participants who had indicated that they had drunk milk recently had higher levels of glutathione in their brains. This is important, the researchers said, because glutathione could help stave off oxidative stress and resulting damage caused by reactive chemical compounds produced during the normal metabolic process in the brain.

Crishton et al., (2012) further suggested pouring at least one glass of milk each day could not only boost your intake of much needed key nutrients, but it could also positively impact your brain and mental performance. They noted that adults with higher intake of milk and milk products scored significantly higher on memory and other brain functions tests than those who drank little to no milk. Milk drinkers were five times less likely to fail the test, compared to non milk drinkers. Researchers at the University of Maine put more than 900 men and women aged 23 – 98 years through a series of brain tests including visual – spatial, verbal and working memory tests and tracked the milk consumption habits of the participants (Crichton et al., 2012). In the series of eight different measures of mental performance, regardless of age and through all tests, those who drank at least one glass of milk each day had an advantage. The highest score for all eight outcomes were observed for those with the highest intakes of milk and milk products compared to those with low and infrequent milk intakes. The benefits persisted even after controlling for other factors that can affect brain health, including cardiovascular health and other lifestyle and diet factors. In fact, milk drinkers tended to have healthier diets overall, but there was something about milk intake specifically that offered the brain health advantage, according to the researchers. In addition to the many established health benefits of milk from bone health to cardiovascular health, the potential to stave off mental decline was one of the novel benefits with great potential to impact the aging population. While more research is needed, the scientist suggested some of milk’s nutrients that may have a direct effect on brain function and which slow down or prevent neuropsychological dysfunction. Crichton et al., (2012) concluded that new and emerging brain health benefits are just one more reason to start each day with low fat or fat free milk. Whether in a latte, in a smoothie, on your favourite cereal or straight from the glass, milk at breakfast can be a key part of a healthy breakfast that help sets you up for a successful day.

In the report by the National Food and Nutrition Commission of 2012 (GRZ, 2012), central province had the second highest level of stunting (53%) although this had declined to 43% in 2018, we decided in this study to examine some of the efforts by government to address the issue of under nutrition. We selected Mpima Dairy cooperative society for the following reasons, i) the proximity of Mpima to Kabwe the capital of the province, ii) its proximity to Mulungushi University our work place. We were convinced that the performance of the dairy enterprise at Mpima though at small scale in comparison with the size of the province, (94,394km2) in extent) with a population of 1.69 million (2017 figures) about 10% of the national population, it would still have a domino effect on other similar projects. It was hoped that if the Mpima dairy worked well, it would inspire other organized groups and individuals in the province to undertake dairy farming as a business and as a means of improving nutrition to the population.

With respect to the availability of land to support the expansion of dairy farming in the province, records showed that even though wholesale and retail was listed as the main economic activity, it was agriculture that was the main, livelihood of the people of central province, practiced at subsistence level. According to the rural agricultural survey of 2015 (IAPRI, 2016a, b), small holder farmers in central province had cultivated fields averaging 3.3 hectares which can be pooled for dairy farming where this was practical. Southern province which has more cattle had 3.1 hectares and eastern 2.3 hectares (IAPRI, 2016a, b). The availability of land by small holder farmers therefore, provides an opportunity for them to consider dairy farming.

Contrary to the widely held notions of ample access to land in Zambia, evidence here suggests that available average size of farm land ownership in central province as with the rest of the provinces, is predominantly of small-scale sized farming where by very little land is actually available for expansion (IAPRI, 2016) and may not support free ranging grazing regimes.

On the aspect of livestock in general, records on ownership and production showed that the most common type of livestock owned by the majority of households were chickens, followed by goats and cattle. On average, more than 80% of the households had at least one chicken, 35% owned goats, 31% had cattle and only 16% owned pigs (RALS, 2015). In fact, according to the CSO (2016) there were about 3 million cattle in Zambia in 2015, of the ten provinces, only southern province had 1 million cattle accounting for 45% of the national herd, eastern province had 19%, central province was third with 15% and western province 13%. The remaining provinces had 2% or less each.

In selecting central province as our study area of interest we also took cognizance of the fact that the area already had cattle keeping traditions and transforming these mainly beef cattle farmers to dairy may not be a daunting task. We also considered the fact that although the province has provident skill in cattle keeping, they, like many other small holder farmers face numerous challenges related to human capacity. And the practice of cattle keeping is more or less ornamental as can be deciphered from low milk yields.

In general terms therefore, almost all small holder farmers experience low livestock productivity mainly attributed to; high incidences of animal diseases, inadequate animal nutrition, poor husbandry and management practices, poor marketing infrastructure, and ineffective extension and research services GRZ (2004). Yet, the 2004 records showed that smallholder dairy farmers contributed the largest proportion of about 50% of the marketed milk (150 million in 2004), while 23% was supplied by large-scale commercial farmers, while the remaining 27% was imported as milk and milk products (GRZ, 2004). The dairy sub-sector despite the poor performance continues to attract new membership and more farmers continue to join the dairy co-operatives/farmer groups. Although current figures on the contribution of small holder dairy farmers to the national milk basket may not be readily available, it is assumed that the pattern earlier observed could still be the same, implying that the stallholder farmers still contribute the largest proportion to the national milk basket.

If that is true, then, we can state that the prominence of the smallholder farmers in milk production underscores the importance of addressing challenges faced by the group(s) because they contribute the largest proportion of milk in the country. If the country has to increase milk production and ultimately improve milk per capita consumption, then dairy science research and extension services should focus on the smallholder farmers to elevate their capacity to manage the enterprise effectively and efficiently.

It was for this reason that we decided to investigate and analyze the management capacity of the Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society, because success scored by one co-operative society can easily be replicated in other areas, and ultimately improving the entire smallholder community in the country.

This study therefore, focused on the areas that are critical in managing dairy animals for increased milk production; water provision, feed, experience in cattle keeping, grazing systems employed and size of land owned, number of cows per household, and how milk production can be improved.


    1. Location and Description of Study Area

The study was carried out between September and December 2020 to characterize the dairy farming in Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society area located about 25 km east of Kabwe town centre (Figure 2) and is situated at coordinates, Latitude 14o 23’ 4” S and Longitude 28o 32’ 9’’ E.

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure 2. Location of Mpima Dairy Area in Kabwe, the Provincial Capital of Central Province, Zambia

The area experiences rainy season between November/December – March/April, followed by a cool dry season lasting until July and a hot season ending November at the beginning of the rainy season. The area is located in Agro-ecological region II receiving rainfall of between 800 mm – 1,000 mm/yr -1. Streams are largely seasonal/ intermittent making water availability a major constraint. The common vegetation community is this area is mainly open miombo woodland (Brachystegia, Julbernardia, Isoberlinia woodland) with undergrowth dominated by many species of grass (Poaceae) most of which are not palatable to grazers.

2.2 Sampling techniques

A Focused Group Discussion (FGD) was held with cooperative society leadership at the milk receiving center. Secondly, a total of 40 dairy farming house hold heads were randomly selected from a prepared list of the Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society membership using simple random sampling selection criterion. The sample size was determined based on the formula by Bennet et al (1991). A nondiscriminatory criterion used to include household heads in the sample was possession of at least one lactating cow.

2.3 Data Collection

Data were collected through FGD with cooperative leadership, and a questionnaire to the 40 household heads included in the sample. The questions in the questionnaire were designed to capture information on; breeds used, number of cattle per housed hold and number of years in dairy cattle management, milking routines and yields, grazing regime practiced and size of land, feeding including quantity and quality of feed given, knowledge on the food conversion ratio and nutrients needed by individual dairy animals, water access and quantity /supply, and management improvements needed to increase milk yields.

2.4 Data Analysis

Data entry and storage were carried out using a data entry form earlier prepared which were later entered in Excel Spread sheet where descriptive statistics were performed and later imported into Mini Tab Statistical software package. Chi-square goodness of fit test was applied to compare between expected and observed frequencies of the identified parameters. Graphical presentations were prepared using Microsoft Excel Version 2016.


    1. Number of years in dairy animal management and breeds preferred

The mean number of years in dairy animal management was four years but ranged between one and 25 years, the difference of which was found to be significantly different (χ2 = 51.0, DF = 8, α = 0.05, P < 0.05). Despite the difference in the number of years among farmers, the majority of the farmers, 82.5% had between 6 – 25 years of experience broken down as follows; 6.0 – 10.0 years, 40%, n = 16; 11.0 – 15 years, 20%, n = 8; 16.0 – 20 years 15%, n = 6; and 21.0 – 25 years, 7.5%, n = 3, which is long enough to acquire relevant skills needed to improve milk yield. In general terms, all farmers had adequate number of years in dairy cattle management.

The length of experience was taken as a yard stick to measure other parameters. Therefore, from the aspect of experience, all the farmers had adequate number of years in dairy animal management and were expected to be competent in all other critical areas of animal management and milk production.

    1. Sources Of Water

Water is an important component in managing dairy cows as milk itself contains up to 87% of water. Having a reliable source of good quality and quantity water is a very important management factor. Farmers were asked to indicate the sources of water and whether such sources were reliable guaranteeing accessibility both in quality and quantity all year round.

It was found that farmers derived their water from different sources (χ2 = 125.0, DF = 9, α = 0.05, P < 0.05). The quality and quantity of water was not guaranteed. Water therefore, was a major constraint among all dairy farmers. Most farmers, 62.5% n = 25, derived their water from seasonal or intermittent streams, and the least derived from borehole 5%, n = 2 (Figure 3).

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure 3. Major Sources of Water for Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society Members, Kabwe Central Province, 2020

    1. Nutrition and Fodder, Grazing System and Size of Land for Pasture

Natural pastures are the cheapest way of feeding cattle. Although they are mostly used for beef cattle, good grazing management can give very good results for dairy cattle as well. Most of the allocated grazing area should be left for natural grazing. During the rainy season, the nutritive value of natural grasses is high. Thus, dairy animals can solely be maintained on these pastures. In the dry season however, supplementary feeding becomes inevitable.

Thus, quality feed to meet animal nutritional needs for increased milk production does not only depend on quantity given but also the nutritional value of the food. Farmers are expected to know the type of nutrients and sources dairy animals require for good health and optimal milk production. In this study, farmers were asked to indicate the types of nutrients and sources of food from which such nutrients can be derived. The major nutrient groups for which farmers were required to indicate sources were energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. In the four categories indicated the majority of farmers did not know food types where such nutrients could be obtained; protein 44%, n = 18; energy 47%, n = 19; vitamins 64 % n = 26, minerals 64%, n = 26 (Figure 4). In addition to unreliable sources of good quantity and quality water, low levels of knowledge about the nutritional content of feed given to animals was seen as another major constraint.

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure 4. Knowledge about Sources on Nutrients for Dairy Cows

The next parameter related to nutritional value was the quantity of food given to each animal per unit time. Food facilitates increased milk yields and maintains body metabolic functions.

In this study, the amount of feed given to each animal per day varied among farmers. Most farmers 74%, n = 26, fed their animals on 20kg and less per day, and only 26% of the farmers provided ≥ 26kg of feed per day per animal. Otherwise, only a minority 14%, n = 5, provided feed within the range of 30 - 40kgs of quality feed each day (Figure 5).

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure 5. Quantity of Feed Given to an Individual Animal per Day, Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society, Kabwe 2020

In order to satisfy animal feed needs in terms of quantity and quality, it is in most instances desirable to have an adequate size of land to grow own fodder entirely or to supplement with purchases from outside. We investigated the size of land owned versus the grazing regime practiced. For good management and optimal milk yields, zero grazing is the most suitable form of management.

In this study, the commonest form of grazing was open range, 72.5%, n = 29, and yet the majority of the farmers 52.5%, n – 21, owned ≤ 10 hectares which was grossly inadequate for free ranging. In fact, free ranging is only suitable for beef cattle and not dairy cows (Figure 6a, b). In both systems, the differences were significantly different (Grazing systems - χ2 = 74.0, DF = 4, α = 0.05, P < 0.05; Size of land - χ2 = 18.0, DF = 6, α = 0.05, P < 0.05).

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format


Figure Image is Available in PDF Format


Figure 6. A) Grazing Regime Practiced, and B) Size of Land Owned by Dairy Farmers

3.4 Milk Yields

The inadequacy of water supply and limitation of good quantity and quality of food were assumed to be responsible for low milk yields (Figure 6), although the other factor considered were the breeds kept by each dairy farmer.

All famers (n = 40) reported seasonal effects on milk volume produced. The mean quantity produced was 6 (5.9) liters per cow with most farmers 70% (n = 28) milking twice per day, and the remaining 30% (n = 30) milking only once. This quantity slightly increased during the rainy season but farmers did not state the quantity. The two farmers who milked 11-15 litres per cow / day had Friesian lactating cows and milked twice per day.

When we compared feeding routines to milk volume, we found that farmers who had Friesian cows and gave above 30 kg of feed per cow /day are the ones that mostly yielded ≥ 10 litres/day.

In this study, farmers generally stated inadequate feed for their animals, particularly during the dry season as a major constraint. The low average yield of 6 litres /day was attributed to insufficient quality feed in consortium with other factors stated above. Majority of the farmers 50% (n = 20) reported yielding 6 litres and less per cow/day, followed by 45% (n = 18) having 6 -10 litres and the least were those producing 11-15 litres per cow /day 5% (n = 2) (Figure 7).

In a separate interview with executive members of the Co-operative however, different figures on milk yields/day were given as follows; that most farmers obtained 8 litres /day from cross breeds and 26 litres /day in the wet season and 20 litres/day in the dry season from pure breeds particularly the exotic breeds, milking twice a day.

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure 7. Milk Yield per Cow per Day, Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society, 2020.

3.5 Breeds

Farmers had five breeds, the highest being Cross 37% (n = 21) essentially because it is more suited to the local environment than pure breeds and yields more milk than local breeds, Friesian 35% (n = 19), Jersey 22 % (n = 12) the two being preferred for higher milk yields although they are less suited to the local environment and are difficult to manage, Angoni 4% (n = 2), Boran 2% (n= 1) (Figure 8). Despite having some of the high milk yielding breeds such as Friesian and Jersey (57%, n = 31), milk yields were still much lower than was expected under a good management regime.

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format

Figure 8. Dairy Cow Breeds Kept by Mpima Dairy Farmers for Milk Production, 2020.

Further inquiry was launched to find out what the dairy farmers would like to change in order to improver milk production. Assessing the level of knowledge on what needs to be changed was necessary to identify areas of intervention. Results showed that food, water supply and breed were the main parameters needed to change in order to increase milk yields (Figure 9a, b).

Figure Image is Available in PDF Format


Figure Image is Available in PDF Format


Figure 9. Farmer’s Response to Improved Milk Yield (A) and What Farmers Would like to Change to Improve Animal Management, Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society, 2020.

Generally, all farmers were aware of the potential of the breeds they have to produce larger quantities of milk, but had severe management constraints which limited the attainment of such potential.


In general terms, milk yield among smallholder farmers in Zambia is low. The main reasons for low livestock productivity include the high incidence of animal diseases, inadequate animal nutrition, poor husbandry and management practices, poor marketing infrastructure, and ineffective extension and research services (GRZ, 2004; Yambayamba, 2008). Despite these challenges, the small holder dairy farmers still play a major part in the livestock sub sector. In fact, production of milk for the market is dominated by smallholders largely due to a somewhat exponential increase in the number of farmers joining the dairy co-operatives/farmer groups. In Zambia for instance, the 2004 figures showed that the smallholder dairy farmers contributed the largest proportion of about 50% of the marketed milk (150 million litres by 2004), while 23% was supplied by large-scale commercial farmers, and the remaining 27% was imported as milk and milk products (GRZ, 2004). We assumed that although the figures might have changed over time, it is expected that the pattern has remained the same since 2004 and the small holder farmers still dominate the market. If that is true then we can state that the prominence of the smallholder farmers in milk production underscores the importance of addressing challenges they face because they still contribute the largest proportion of milk in the country. If the country has to increase the milk yield and improve milk per capita consumption, then dairy science research and extension services should selectively focus on the smallholder farmers to elevate to higher levels where their yields per cow would reach near optimum potential for each breed.

The important role smallholder farmers play in milk production at national level in Africa was also reported in Kenya where small-scale dairy farmers keep over 70% of the 3.5 million dairy cattle and produced a total of 4.2 billion litres of milk every year providing employment to over 350,000 people at farm level and over 400,000 people in the informal and close to 50,000 people in the formal marketing sector (Gachuiri, et al., 2012). The report also noted that although small scale farmers in Kenya had good quality exotic cows, milk production was also low despite their potential. This low productivity was as earlier reported for Zambia, attributed to; i) poor management especially inadequate feeding, ii) poor health management, iii) poor breeding management that leads to long calving intervals, the factors of which also apply to the small holder dairy farmers in Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society. However, the small scale farmers in Kenya had a better pasture management system and managed their animals under three production systems arranged in order of importance as follows: i) Zero-grazing, where the animals are housed and the farmers bring all the feed and water to the animals which results in higher milk yields per cow of 15-30 litres; ii) Semi zero-grazing where the animals are confined but released to graze at least for a few hours per day; iii) Open range, animals are grazed in open fields throughout the day and given water and minerals in the gazing field (Gachuiri et al., 2012).

At Mpima Dairy Cooperative Society, the common grazing system was open range /free ranging, while in Kenya almost all smallholder farmers practice zero and semi-zero grazing which explains why they are able to produce more milk per cow per day which is much higher that the milk yields recorded by small scale dairy farmers in Zambia (Hofer, 2015).

4.1 Feeding and Water

Dairy animals require proper nutrition which provides all the necessary nutrients to keep them healthy and in good body condition (Yambayamba, 2008; McGuckin, 1983). Dairy cattle must eat a balanced diet. Poor quality feed coupled with less quantities would result in animals losing body condition which then becomes a predisposing factor to disease while over supplying of feed is a waste of resources. Lack of essential nutrients in the diet often results in ill-health, failure to reach full production potential and sometimes death. From the results obtained in this study, poor nutrition and undersupplying feed for lactating dairy cows could be one of the leading factors contributing to low milk yields (mean = 6 litres/day).

Common food stuffs with desirable nutrients are bulk forages and pastures – grass, hay, straw, stovers; cereal by-products - maize, maize bran and maize germ, wheat, pollard, wheat bran, rice bran and rice polishing; root crops – cassava chips; oil seed products, molasses; fat;

Protein- legume crops and forages – desmodium (Family-Fabaceae), sweet potato vines or calliandra (Subfamily – Caesalpinioideae) leaves; plant by-products - mostly from extracted oil seeds (cotton seed cake, sunflower cake, soybean cake), copra cake, groundnut cake; animal origin fish meal; non protein nitrogen sources (NPN); urea; poultry litter. Farmers are expected to have this basic information because good nutrition determines body condition and performance of their animals, which was not the case in Mpima area where most farmers did not know the various nutrients and food types from which such nutrients can be derived.

Next to feed is the farm lay out, which relates to watering points, pasture, paddocks and the milking parlour which are important. Animals walking long distances will utilize a lot of energy, which should go to milk synthesis. Since all farmers reported open range grazing, with one reliable water source in the dry season, there is no doubt that even lactating cows were subjected to walking long distances searching for pasture and water.

Few farmers (12 %, n = 5) made some effort to make hay and silage while 40% purchased although the quantity purchased was withheld, yet supplementary feeding is one way of bridging the gap when the farmer cannot grow own feed or provide a balanced diet. Supplements are feeds with a higher concentration of energy or protein or both, i.e., more nutrients per volume or weight of feed compared to forages. Certain forages such as legumes, commercial dairy concentrates and cereal by-products are high in protein and should have been considered as priority by farmers in Mpima area. They are fed in relatively small amounts together with the bulk feeds and are most often fed to productive animals such as lactating or pregnant cows.

The minerals did not feature prominently in the diet of animals in the study area yet; dairy cattle require at least 17 minerals and three vitamins in their diet for optimal milk production, reproductive performance, and herd health. Even small imbalances or deficiencies can develop into reproductive, health, and milk production problems (Gachuiri, et al., 2012; FAO, 2002). Generally, the two sources of minerals include natural feeds (forages and grains) and mineral supplements to balance the minerals present in the forages and grains.

Vitamins on the other hand fall into two groups: fat soluble and water soluble. The water-soluble vitamins are synthesized in the rumen thus only the fat soluble (A, D, E) are required in the diet. Vitamin K is not required in the ration because it is synthesized in the rumen (largest chamber of ruminants).

4.2 Size of Land and Its Uses

Since the framers practice free ranging, it would be preferable to have slightly larger tracts of land. This is because farmers would have enough pasture some of which can be harvested and conserved as silage or hay. Given 50 hectares of land for instance, 30 hectares can be maintained as natural pasture and 20 ha to be developed for improved pasture. The 30 hectares natural pasture can be divided into 6 paddocks of approximately 5 ha each. This would guarantee availability of feed all year round and particularly in the dry season when pasture is limited and of low nutritional value.

The development of improved pasture may include Rhode’s grass (Chloris gayana) star grass (Cynodon nlemfuensis), and Lucerne /Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) among the popular ones. Gachuiri, et al., (2012) suggested that it would be cheaper to buy hay from else where and that the suggested species for pasture improvement would be apportioned as follows: i) Star grass 15 ha (no fertilizer, no irrigation), divide this paddock into five (5) areas of 3 ha each; ii) Lucerne 5 ha (fertilized and irrigated during dry season), divide this paddock into five (5) areas of 1 ha each.

4.3 Water

Although water is not a nutrient as such, it is essential for life and it is critical for milk production because it is estimated that up to 87 - 90% of milk is water (Gachuiri, et al., 2012; Gakige and Gioopy, 2016). The amount required depends mainly on milk yield, water content of feed, amount of feed consumed, salt content of feed and the environmental temperature as well as the physiology of individual animals. For example, lactating cows need larger proportions of water relative to body weight than dry cows or livestock of other species. Cows will drink more water if it is availed at all times and when warm water is offered on cold days. Dairy cows suffer from a limited intake of water more quickly and severely than from a deficiency of any other dietary nutrient. So, lack of water has a big effect on feed intake (especially if the feed is low in moisture) and thus on milk yield. The shortage of water in Mpima Dairy area is supposedly one of the major factors responsible for low milk yields.

4.4 Breeds

The cattle breeds commonly used in Zambia for milk production differ in milk yield. The breeds used by small scale farmers are mainly local breeds, Angoni, Barotse and Tonga, and exotic, Friesian, Holstein and Jersey and crosses between these breeds (Olofsson, 2013; Zulu et al., 2003). The local breeds in Zambia are low yielding ranging from 1.9 – 5.3 kg/day and are seldom fed to maximize the production that their genetic potential could result in (Olofsson, 2013; Kaluba, 2015; Aregheore, 2009). Exotic crosses on the other hand can produce 10 kg milk per day (Olofsson, 2013; Kaluba, 2015; Aregheore, 2009) but require good management practices and in warm climates zones usually only receiving 45 – 60 % of the feed needed to maximize their genetic potential. In these areas, Olofsson (2013), Kaluba (2015) and Aregheore, (2009) suggested combination of 50 % exotic and 50 % local breed as being the most economic profitable considering milk production (McDowell et al., 1996) if the cattle are fed properly. In the Mpima dairy farming area, the combination of breeds seemed right, because farmers had at least two popular breeds; Friesian and Jersey. The Friesian breed is a high yielding breed. In Kenya, it was recorded to produce (40 – 60 litres /day with low fat content of about 3.2%. Jersey was recorded to yield an average 22 litres/day and about 5.3% butter fat, the figures of which were much higher than the ones recorded at Mpima Dairy farm suggesting poor management at the latter. The feed requirement was recorded to be low at 65-85 Kg fresh forage, yet the majority (74%) dairy farmers in Mpima gave 20 kg and less. We suggest that perhaps the challenge was with other management aspects such as water, feed and disease management rather than breeds (see Figure 7).

It is also prudent to suggest that poor nutrition, free-ranging grazing system which is not suitable for dairy animals as they are not required to cover long distances looking for food or water, coupled with other animal management factors collectively reduced milk yields preventing the animals from reaching their full potential.

McDowell et al., (1996) however, held a different opinion on breeds. They showed that although local breeds had lower milk yields, they should also be encouraged because of the other benefits such as, resistance to heat stress in warm climates such as Zambia, better udder health (Olofsson, 2013; Giovambattista et al., 2001; Habeeb 1991; Mason and Maule, 1960; Mason, 1996) and a lower tick burden (Wambura et al., 1998) and thereby having less tick related diseases which lowers the cost of veterinary care (Jonsson et al., 2008). Ticks may cause a production loss as they irritate the animals and cause anaemia. They may also spread diseases such as East coast fever (Makala et al., 2003) that also lowers milk yield (Onono et al., 2013; Habeeb, 1991). So, farmers can weigh up the risks and make an appropriate choice assisted with skilled and experienced extension workers from line ministries. This assertion however, does not justify lower milk yields attributed to poor animal management. It should be taken from the context of animal – local environment compatibility and the possibility of lowering management costs arising from frequent diseases, heavy tick burden and others which often disadvantage most exotic high milk yielding breeds.

The farmers in this study produced an average 6 litres of milk per cow/day, which is in line with earlier studies (Olofsson, 2013; Kaluba, 2015). Milk yield ranged from less than 1 liter per cow/day up to 15 liters. Farmers that had Friesian breed, fed at least 30kg or more and milked two times per day and had milk yield ranging 10 – 15 litres /day. The low mean yield of 6 litres/day could be attributes to a number of factors including, milking frequency, variation in breed, quantity and quality of feed and others. The 26 litres /day reported by executive members of the Co-operative perhaps was erroneous because; i) figures that farmers might have given were according to farmers own estimation, and the information may not be completely correct; ii) executive members of the cooperative may have only considered figures from the best performing households with high milk yielding exotic breeds and those that provide supplementary feed ignoring the poorer performers. The other explanation could also be associated with the earlier observations made by Stelwagen and Knight (1997), who recorded that an increase in milking frequency improved milk yield. They observed a higher yield in instances where calves were completely separated from the cows than vice versa as also observed by Ugarte, (1991), and Mejia et al., (1998). It is therefore, likely that within the small holder farmers some may have had slightly better practices than others and this may have caused the slight increases in milk yields reported by the executive members of the co-operative.

With all the explanations being considered, still a large proportion of the farmers in Mpima area experienced lack of feed (45 %) especially in the dry season, which is in line with other studies from sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., Orodho, 2006; Tolera and Abebe, 2007; Rurinda et al., 2014) including Zambia (Hicks, 1995). A lack of feed lowers milk yields (Moran, 2005) and this was confirmed in this study where access to forage and concentrate did affect milk production.

A significant difference in yield was seen between farmers that had or did not have supplements in addition to open range grazing and farmers that gave forage year around compared to only in the dry season. Also, farmers that gave concentrate in early lactation had a higher milk yield as well as farmers that gave concentrate compared to those not giving any concentrate at all.

This is also in line with the findings by Moran (2005) where it was observed that energy and especially protein influenced milk yield. The general body condition class of 3 given by one of the executive committee members could indicate that feeding may be fair but insufficient for a high milk production. Increasing forage may be difficult because most practice free ranging/open range, and concentrate was not on-farm produced and if farmers could produce it from crops available on-farm, maybe access to concentrates could increase and protein levels as well as energy levels be enough to increase milk yield. Secondly, there was no supplier or any agent for molasses in the locality making it difficult for cows to utilize dry matter including crop residue in the dry season. Even though a majority did not have criteria for assessing nutritious feed, the major problem may not have been quality alone but a general lack of feed (both in energy, protein, vitamins and minerals). This again could also be attributed to farmers lacking knowledge on how much feed, and of which quality, is needed to maintain a high milk production (see Figure 3). We therefore, postulate that the findings of this study and several other related studies which indicate that management factors influence milk yield could be correct and reliable.


The art of dairy animal management for enhanced milk production requires knowledge, skill and passion. The results of this study suggest that dairy animal management practices in the Mpima area are generally inadequate to promote high milk yields per cow/day. We therefore conclude as follows;

  • The mean milk yield of 6.9 liter per cow / day was low in comparison with the breeds’ potential.

  • A slightly higher milk yield was found for farmers that in addition to grazing, supplemented their cows with forage and concentrates, especially if done all year around and not only in the dry season.

  • Breeds such as Friesian or Jersey though difficult to manage are high milk yielding breeds, but poor management prevents them from attaining their potential.

  • The breed mix was appropriate, but the water supply, feed quality and quantity were poor and the practice of open range grazing is inappropriate for dairy animals as it takes away energy that is supposed to be invested in milk synthesis.

  • Improvement in feeding (both energy and protein) could improve milk yield for the herds in the Mpima area.

  • That the lack of veterinary care is a major threat to herd health as disease can reduce milk yield and can also easily eliminate the entire herd as was the case in 2015 when 50% of the animals were lost.

  • Lack of capacity and/or initiative to conserve natural pastures. These pastures are normally left to the course of nature until they grow and mature into roughage of low quality with very little value to the animals. There is total absence of the use of prescribed fires to improve the pasture.

4.6 Recommendations

To achieve the objective of improved milk yield, we proposed that the following strategies be considered:

  1. Engage partners on agreed terms including government to provide adequate water resources perhaps by sinking boreholes based on the density, distribution and settlement patterns of the small holder farmers.

  2. Institute and sustain capacity-building through short courses and field visits by experts in agribusiness, dairy husbandry, breeding and artificial insemination, clean milk production and improved dairy nutrition.

  3. Engage the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and request for the establishment of a specialized dairy extension system for small-scale dairy farmers including field visits by veterinary officers to address the issues relating to disease outbreaks.

  4. Consider the possibility of introducing dairy goat production among the small-scale farmers to take advantage of browse.

  5. Teach small holder farmers the art and skill of hay making (This would include the growing of leguminous forage such as Lucerne and known nutritious species of grass which can be harvested for making better quality hay).

  6. Provide skills in silage production which is high-moisture fodder preserved through fermentation in the absence of air (Silage can be made from grasses, fodder sorghum, green oats, green maize or Napier grass - an ideal crop for silage making should;

  • contain an adequate level of fermentable sugars in the form of water-soluble carbohydrates,

  • have dry matter content in the fresh crop above 20%,

  • possess a physical structure that will allow it to compact readily in the silo after harvesting (Crops not fulfilling these requirements may require pre-treatment such as- field wilting, to reduce moisture, fine chopping, generally 20–25 mm preferred to allow compaction and use of additives to increase soluble carbohydrates).

4.6.1 Dairy Science Research

The art of dairy science is not yet fully understood in Zambia. It may be necessary to engage government through the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock in conjunction with the local universities to establish a modern dairy research facility. This will enable the country to take advantage of the current levels of technology and advances in cell and molecular biology to improve milk production in the country.


We wish to thank numerous people who reviewed the drafts. We also thank those individuals who were willing to be interviewed and who gave us information about cattle keeping and milk production.


The authors of this article declare no competing professional or personal interests to affect the results/ findings or the validity of this research publication.


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