An on-station feeding trial was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of using hydroponically produced pigeon pea fodder as a feed supplement against grain-based feed supplements on dairy cow production performance in Malawi. Six multiparous Holstein-Friesian x Malawi Zebu crossbred dairy cows were allocated into three groups with each group having a cow in mid and late lactation. The groups were systematically assigned to three diet supplements [Diet A: Hydroponically produced pigeon pea fodder; Diet B: raw pigeon pea and Diet C: roasted pigeon pea] instead of Centrosema pubescens over three periods in a 3 x 3 cross-over design. Each feeding period lasted for two weeks which was followed by a week of resting to avoid a diet carry-over effect. Data collected included daily milk yield, milk samples, weight at fortnight interval and costs. Milk samples were analysed using a digital milk analyser (Milk- Lab Compact). All data were managed and analysed in Statistical Package for Social Sciences. The results indicated that during adaptation and resting periods, the daily milk yield per cow was significantly (p < 0.05) lower than during the treatment periods. However, all the three treatment diets (A, B and C) did not significantly differ (p > 0.05) in influencing daily milk yield, milk composition (except fat) and daily weight gain of the cows. Economic analysis results on the other hand showed that supplementing lactating cows with diet A was 26% cheaper than diets B and C. In conclusion, hydroponically produced pigeon pea fodder was less expensive feed supplement when compared to grain-based feed supplements and resulted in similar influence in improving daily milk yield, milk composition and average daily weight gain. These results suggest that using hydroponically produced pigeon pea fodder in comparison to grains as feed supplements, may be an economically sound alternative feeding management solution for farmers during the long dry season in Malawi.
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RUFORUM Working document series
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