In many parts of the country, cattle play various roles. They are a source of milk, beef, skins and wealth.
Cattle are used to drive ox-ploughs on the farm. Only the strongest bulls can do this. For many years, farmers used the indigenous breeds to pull ox-ploughs.
However, they had shortcomings such as poor traction capacity. This called for the improvement of the local breeds. As researchers, we then moved in to improve on the indigenous breeds.
Indigenous zebu cattle were cross-bred with sahiwal bulls to improve traction capacity.
The other purpose was to produce a bull that could pull the ox-plough faster, resist diseases and a cow that could produce more milk.
The cross-bred animals are stronger, have better growth rates and higher body weights than indigenous zebu.
With good nutrition, sahiwal cows also give higher milk yields. This translates into more land under crop cultivation and higher yield of meat, milk and income.
Most of the improved breeds have been passed on to farmers mainly in eastern Uganda.
Produce heavier calves
The improved sahiwal crossbred cattle also produce calves with heavier birth weights of 19.5 kg or 4 kg (26%) heavier than indigenous zebu, weaning weights of 92.5kg or 31kg (50%) heavier at nine months, 115.3 kg or 25.1 kg (27.8%) heavier at 12 months and with a pre-weaning growth rate of 405 g/day or 150.6 g/day (59.2%) than zebu.
Increased meat production from F1 Boran crossbred animals of 6.5 kg (42%) birth weight from 15.5 to 22.0 kg, 10 kg (16%) increase in 9 months weaning weight from 61.5 to 71.5 kg, 21.7 g/day (8.5%) increase in pre-weaning gain from 254.5 g/day to 405 g/day and 17 kg (18.6%) increased for 12 months live weight from 90.2 to 117kg.
All these have translated into more money for farmers.