When only the best is good enough

Willa Vorster is the type of dairy manager who believes in hands-on management. So hands-on that he will actually eat some of the calves' feed pellets to taste if it is good enough for his babies!

"At some stage the calves were not eating well despite the most carefully worked out nutritional rations, so I tasted the pellets and I understood their problem. After talking to the experts, we pushed up the protein content from 18% to 21% and suddenly they started chewing away," he explains.

On ProAgri's visit to Zambeef's Kalundu Dairy Farm at Chisamba we were also offered some of the calves' tasty chews and if ever I return to this world as a Holstein calf, Kalundu would be my preferred home! Willa took over the management of Kalundu Dairy in 2017 shortly after a huge upgrade to the largest state-ofthe-art rotary milking parlour in Zambia with the capacity to milk up to 2 500 cows a day in future.

Currently 1 090 cows are being milked and there are 2 608 animals in total. The herd is being built up after last year's foot-and-mouth disease which impacted severely on the numbers.

When Willa took over, the dairy produced a daily average of 17 litres per cow, and he immediately took steps to improve the feeding programme. He says: "There was not much wrong with the content of the feed, but the cows were not getting enough feed at the right time to improve milk production." With the support of Novatek, who provides all the concentrates for the feed mixes on the farm, a proper plan was set in motion.

Currently the dairy average is 27 litres and with the feeding programme in combination with a breeding plan set on productivity, Willa believes it will increase even more.

"We have five different rations for the cows and for each one, Novatek delivers the concentrated DairyMeal. The five groups are fresh cows, high production cows, late lactating cows, dry cows from 60 to 21 days before calving and lastly from 21 days before calving until the calf is born. If you look at the recipes, you will see that the dry cows will have a higher percentage of roughage while the high production cows receive more concentrates," Willa says.

Every ration is mixed separately on the farm with the correct measure of DairyMeal, silage, hay and other roughage components according to the prescribed recipe. The calves also receive their special rations according to age and size and they are weighed every month to check their growth. The average daily growth is around 750 grams, but the aim is 850 grams. The birthweight should be doubled by the time the calf is weaned. To achieve this goal, only the best feed is supplied.

Willa says he works closely with Wiehan Visagie and his team at Novatek, and he knows he can rely on them.

"The thing about working with a company like Novatek, is that you not only receive the best quality concentrates, but you can also rely on the consistency of the mix and timely delivery."

Kalundu Dairy uses ten tonnes of concentrates every day. Every Monday, Novatek receives the order for the week and their trucks deliver two to three times during the week.

Willa says: "It runs like a well-oiled machine!"

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