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Must ‘knows’ in cattle farming

by Harvest Money Editor
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Land and environment

This is the most crucial factor in the livestock industry without which, production cannot take place.

Farmers need clear policies on land ownership which can motivate them to invest without threat of losing their land.

The cattle corridor has been grossly abused by the land owners through charcoal burning, clearing all the vegetation for cereal crops (mainly maize), encroachment on the wetlands, cutting of trees in search of poles for fencing.

All these malpractices have adversely affected climate change.

Farmers should be trained on the dangers of land degradation as it negatively impacts on their livestock production.

It is high time farmers learnt how to cycle resources, especially animal waste into crop farming.

Genetics

There are limited resources yet the quest for maximum profit in production of beef and milk is high. Farmers would like to keep highly productive cattle under the local climatic conditions.

Most farmers use bulls to offer natural services in their herds and only a few employ artificial breeding technologies.

This has yielded offspring with poor growth rates and milk production. The use of a bull has got its limitations as its pedigree cannot be proved to be good beyond two generations.

The incidences of infertility problems are high as it is very easy for one bull to transmit diseases to many cows or even the neighbouring herds.

Importation of live animals (bulls) is costly with high risks and very few farmers can afford it. Most of our cattle are crossbreeds between the exotic and the indigenous breeds and their genetic potential cannot be easily assessed.

Artificial insemination (AI)

All breeds can be got either by importation of live animals, artificial insemination or by the technology of embryo transfer.

The semen for artificial insemination can be sexed or not depending on the order and price. Artificial breeding has many limitations which have scared farmers from adopting it;

  • Poor heat detection by the farmers
  • Lack of trained A.I technicians
  • Infertility
  • Expensive semen and embryos are sometimes of inferior quality

The most important aspect in breeding is profitability as a result of hybrid animals having high feed conversion efficiency, which is reflected in weight gain and milk production.

Take for example; for a Simmental breed (beef) can put on up to 3kg per day whereas a Boran can gain 200g per day under the same feeding and management conditions.

Due to the expensive inputs, farmers should target breeds (dairy or beef) with a high feed conversion efficiently to maximize profits.

The objectives of the farmer dictate the type of breed a farmer should take on in relationship to the market demand. This should take into consideration the input requirements and availability of feed resources, growth rate, resistance to diseases, adaptability to our climate, milk production and farm infrastructure such as housing.

Methods of cattle identification

  • Description of the colour pattern or giving names. This process may be complicated.
  • Ear notching. The method is cheap but not applicable to many animals.
  • Ear tattoo. It requires special tattoo machine and the tattoo may not be legible.
  • Ear tag. Numbers will be legible and good, but they may fall off during grazing. However, it is the most recommended method of identification.
  • Neck collar. The method easy, but leaves loop in security for the animals. The collars can be changed easily
  • between cattle.
  • Animal branding. It is a permanent method of identification but lowers quality of the hides.

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