Fleckvieh is a hardy breed that can resist diseases, eats less and produces more high quality milk. Kenyan dairy farmers are used to the common exotic breeds of dairy cows such as the Holstein-Fresians, Ayrshire, Guernsey or even Jerseys.
For two years now, a new cattle breed has attracted the attention of Kenyan dairy farmers: Fleckvieh is a high yielding, dual-purpose cow that can be used for both dairy and beef production. Kenyan farmers who have discovered the qualities of this breed have introduced them into their herds. So far, more than 20, 000 farmers in Kenya have adopted the breed.
Years of selective breeding
Fleckvieh (or Miling Simmental) is the second largest dairy breed in the world – and one of Europe’s oldest. At the moment, there are an estimated 42 million cattle with Fleckvieh bloodlines worldwide. Developed in the highlands of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the breed became popular in most parts of the world because of their adaptability to harsh climatic conditions.
Through many years of selective breeding, Fleckvieh has acquired some of the characteristics that dairy farmers are looking for. The Fleckvieh breed was introduced by Fleckvieh Genetics East Africa (FGEA) from South Africa in 2009.
The company gets most of its semen from top bulls in upper Bavarian region in Germany. Other sources of the Fleckvieh genetics are Austria, Czech republic, Australia. Farmers can buy semen from these top bulls from the company and cross with their dairy cows. This is the cheapest and easiest way to reduce the cost of buying pure Fleckvieh breed for small-scale farmers. Fleckvieh semen goes for between KSh 800 to KSh 400 depending on the sire (bull) a farmer chooses.
Active genetic potential
“The Fleckvieh cow is durable, hardy and easy to handle even within a small farm, ” says Dr. Anthony Gichohi from Fleckvieh Genetics (EA). “They are able to move easily even in the most difficult terrain. A mature Fleckvieh has good strength and body development. A mature cow weighs about 650-800 kilograms.
The breed has a very large and active genetic potential. We believe it is going to be one of the major breeds in the country once farmers discover its quality, ” he says. Already, Fleckvieh is attracting a lot of attention and farmers want to try it.
Nutritious milk and good meat
Studies show that every 1 kg of milk from a Fleckvieh cow contains 4.2% fat and 3.7% protein. In addition, the milk is rich in other micronutrients and Omega 3 fats, which are vital for a healthy body. According to Dr Wanjohi, Fleckvieh bulls are fast growing and gain muscle at a rate of 1.5 kilogrammes per day for the first 200 days when cross-bred with other breeds, the farmer is assured of high quality of milk and beef. Under intensive fattening conditions, young bulls reach a daily weight gain of more than 1300 grams. In the first 6 months after birth, a bull can attain up to 300 kg with proper feeding and management.
Compared with other breeds, Fleckvieh owners will not have to incur huge veterinary bills – due to the breed’s ability to withstand some of the common livestock diseases, mastitis for instance - This is an inflammation of the udder that cuts down milk production. The infection is caused by somatic cells (dead cells) from the bloodstreams that get into the milk in the udder. Fleckvieh cow milk has lower numbers of somatic cells compared to other dairy breeds, meaning that Fleckvieh is less prone to mastitis; there is another advantage: Less somatic cells means: The milk lasts longer without refrigeration.
And, since Fleckvieh has a very thick skin, it is more resistant against diseases transmitted by ticks and tsetse flies- the proboscis of these vectors cannot penetrate the thick Fleckvieh skin.