Characterization of grade dairy cattle owning households in mixed small scale farming systems of Vihiga, Kenya

This study characterized grade dairy cattle owning households, specifically understanding the farm system as influenced by grade dairy cattle production systems. Information was collected through a pre-tested structured questionnaire, administered to a purposive sample of 236 grade dairy cattle owning households in Vihiga from April to August 2005. Results obtained showed 0.76, 0.54, 0.58 and 0.24 acres of land were allocated to maize/beans, napier grass, tea and natural pastures/fallow land respectively. The major objectives in farming and dairying were food supply and milk for home consumption respectively. Cows comprised 45.02% of the grade dairy herd and heifers 23.05%. Cow ownership was significantly influenced by the grade dairy cattle production system and comprised mainly Ayrshire cross (33.1%) and Holstein-Friesian cross (30.5%). Cows produced 5.49 litres of milk/day and were 6.78 years old. Age at 1st calving was 31.11 months with a calving interval of 18.66 months. Calving interval, cow age and age at first calving were significantly influenced (P<0.05) by the production system. In conclusion, grade dairy cattle production and calving performance parameters were low limiting optimization of productivity from grade dairy cattle in Vihiga District, Kenya.