The current milk production in Uganda is still low, given the fact that the country has a comparative advantage to produce milk over other countries south of the Sahara.
Furthermore, the milk consumption per capita in Uganda is only 50 litres. The population of Uganda is estimated to be 42 million and, going by the recommended per capita consumption of 200 litres per person per year by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the people will need six billion litres per annum, which is much higher than what is being produced.
This goal can only be achieved through the introduction of appropriate technology in feeding, breeding, and management at the farm level. In this article, breed improvement will be discussed.
Other technologies relating to animal nutrition, feeding and management systems will be discussed in the subsequent ones.
Animal breeding is the multiplication of the number of animals for a specific purpose. For dairy farmers, the main purpose is to provide breeds of animals that are suitable for milk production. Breed improvement, therefore, refers to the process through which inferior breeds of animals are upgraded, using improved bulls or artificial insemination.
The outcome of the process is normally an animal that gives more milk and reaches maturity quickly. The cattle population in Uganda consists, predominantly, of the indigenous breeds of cattle and their crosses. Examples of the indigenous breeds include Ankole, Small Zebu and Nganda types. Examples of exotic breeds include Holstein Friesian, Jersey, Guernsey and Brown Swiss. The indigenous breeds are characterised by a higher degree of heat tolerance, lower nutritional requirements, mainly due to their smaller size, a higher level of resistance to ticks and tick borne diseases.
However, they produce little milk, takelong to mature and are small in size. On the other hand, the exotic breeds and their crosses are characterised by high yields in terms of growth and milk, susceptibility to diseases, especially the tick-borne diseases and they are expensive to manage and feed.
In planning the breed improvement programme of dairy animals, the emphasis should be two fold; to attain a good conception rate and to improve the genetic potential of the dairy stock of the producer.
To carry out artificial insemination, semen is collected from proven good quality bulls at a breeding centre and frozen using liquid nitrogen. It is then collected by a technician, who, when notified by a farmer, visits the farm and deposits the semen in the uterus of the cow. The method is used widely for breeding dairy cattle in many countries.
Where is good quality semen?
Good quality semen in Uganda can be obtained from the Government’s National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank (NAGRIC & DB) in Entebbe or from private breeding service providers, such as World Wide Sires, Africa Breed Services and Heifer Project International.
Advantages artificial insemination
- Allows faster genetic improvement of a herd
- Does not have the maintenance costs and danger of keeping a bull.
- Reduces the risk of transfer of diseases and injuries from natural mating.
- Less risk of inbreeding.
Flexible breeding programmes
Understanding the functioning of a cow and accurate detection of the period when the cow can be served (heat detection) is key for a successful breed improvement strategy through artificial insemination.
A non-pregnant dairy cow with a normal oestrus cycle, will release an egg and show heat about every 21 days. A cow will continue to have its oestrus cycle, until she is successfully mated and becomes pregnant.
Signs that an is animal on heat
- The cow becomes restless and separates from other cows when it is walking in the field.
- Some breeds bellow to attract the bull. l Milk production and food intake may decrease.
- The cow tries to mount other animals, sniffs at others and other cows sniff at the cow on heat.
- Other cows try to mount the animal which is on heat and she stands and allows them to do so.
- The lips of the vulva become red and swollen.
A thin, clear discharge of mucous from the vulva opening can be seen, sometimes sticking to the tail and the skin surrounding the vulva.
The cow is on heat every 18 to 24 days. The heat period lasts between six and 30 hours. The standing heat lasts 12 to 24 hours. This is the best time to serve the animal.
As a rule, animals seen on heat in the morning should be served in the evening, while those seen in the evening should be served in the morning of the following day.
Some dairy animals fail to get on heat, show signs of heat irregularly or do not become pregnant after insemination (repeat breeders). This may be due to abnormal body functioning of the cow, poor management, wrong feeding or failure of the farmer to observe heat. After three times of unsuccessful inseminations or natural mating, ask a veterinarian to investigate the causes of infertility.
The common causes of reduced fertility include failure to detect heat, poor health of animals, poor nutrition, low quality semen and poor insemination procedure. What are the common cattle diseases? Diseases may be caused by micro-organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, digestion disorders and traumatic incidences, such as objects that may cut the body.
Signs of health and disease can be reviewed from the entire animal body, region(s) or system(s), but this requires basic knowledge on the animal’s body and how it functions when it is healthy.
Brucellosis is an infectious disease that causes abortion, infertility and decreased milk yield in cattle. It may be transferred to people through milk and meat. It is caused by bacteria.
The type which affects cattle is called brucella abortus. Abortions and stillborn calves delivered at or before term are often the most obvious features to be observed. After abortion, metritis (infection of the uterus) will follow in most cases, reducing the fertility of the animal.
Control and treatment
- Use healthy bulls for natural mating
- Vaccinate calves below age of eight months
- Avoid contamination of water and pastures by aborting cows
- Properly dispose of aborted foetuses to reduce risks of spreading the infection.
Provide a comfortable, hygienic and safe environment for all dairy animals by, for instance, clearing the bushes on the farm. Also, remove any poisonous plants on your farm.
Ensure adequate feeding of colostrum to new-born calves. Provide ample amounts of clean water for drinking. Provide animals with enough feed to allow for maintenance, growth, pregnancy weight gain and lactation.
Adjust feeding levels to ensure that animals are kept in good condition (not too thin or too fat). Ensure that feeding is balanced for energy and protein and supplement with minerals and vitamins, where required.
Vaccinate animals against diseases. Vaccination should be done against foot-and-mouth disease, East Coast fever, rinderpest, anthrax, lumpy skin disease and brucellosis.
Regular de-worming (every three months), using appropriate drugs from reputable suppliers should be done. Ticks should be controlled through regular spraying, once a week or otherwise, depending on the acaricides used. Instructions from the manufacturers showing how to mix and apply the pesticides must be followed.
Movement of animals
To protect the health status of your herd, it is very important not to bring into the farm sick animals. It is important to observe quarantine regulations. When purchasing new stock, try to ensure that the animal is healthy and has had the necessary vaccinations before it joins the other animals on your farm.