Common Cattle Breeds

1.1 Breed Name

  • Friesians
  • Aryshires
  • Guernsey
  • Jersey
  • Sahiwal
  • East African Zebu
  • Simmental
  • Charolis
  • Hereford
  • Boran.

1.2 Breeds Characteristics


Body colour is black and white
Body size is large
Milk production is high
Feed requirements is very high
Meat production is high
The cow’s milk has low butter/fat content
Average Live-Weight is 600kg
She is very sensitive to management
Friesians are important for both dairy and beef production (i.e. they are dual purpose)


Body colour is Dark brown with white patches
Milk production is high
Feed requirements is high
Meat production is fair
Her milk has relatively low butter fat content
Average Live Weight is 450kg
Her major importance is dairy


Body colour is brown
Body size is medium
Milk production is moderate
Average Live Weight is 400kg
The cow’s major importance is dairy


Body colour is Grey
Body size is medium to small
Milk production is moderate
The cow is not a meat breed
Feed requirements is relatively low
Milk has high butter fat
Average Live-Weight is 350kg
The cow’s importance is dairy


Body colour is light brown
They are heavily built in body
Milk production is relatively low
Some are difficult to milk
Average Live-Weight is 500kg
Sahiwals are good breeds for marginal areas
The breed is important for both dairy and beef (Dual purpose)

East African Zebu

Body colour is variable
The breed has a prominent hump
Milk production is low
It is a very hardy animal
It is late maturing
East African Zebu are disease tolerant
Average Live Weight is 350kg
The breed is important for both dairy and beef (Dual purpose)


Body colour is Brown with white on the head and legs
Milk production is high
Meat production is high
Forage requirements is high
The Breed requires high standards of management
Average Live Weight is 750kg
They are important for both dairy and beef (Dual purpose)


Body colour is White
Beef production is good
Forage requirement is high
Average Live Weight is 800kg
They are important for beef production


Body colour is black or brown with white head
Beef production good
Forage requirement high
Average Live Weight is 550kg
The breed is important for beef production


Body colour is brown or light gray
The breed has a prominent hump
Beef production is good
They are good for harsh conditions
Average Live Weight is 500kg
The breed is important for beef production


2.1 Breeding Method

It is recommended that A.I. services are used for breeding dairy animals, but good and health bulls can be used where no A.I. services are available. Livestock production officers or other credible vet practitioners should be consulted if breed selection is a problem.

2.2 Age to breed

A heifer should be ready for service by 18 months if growing well. Heifers can be served even earlier if they have reached puberty and are in the right body weight. The right serving weight for heifers are as follows: –

  • Friesians – 300kg LW
  • Aryshires – 280kg LW
  • Guernsey – 240KG LW
  • Jerseys – 230kg LW
  • Sahiwals – 240kg LW
  • Boran – 230kg LW

2.3 Heat Signs

The animal will show some or all of these signs when in heat
Mounting of other cows or standing still while being mounted by other cows
Drop in milk yield
Dilated and enlarged vulva

2.4 Heat Period and Service Time

a. Heat Period
The heat period lasts from 6to 30 hours

b. Service Time
The animal should be served six hours after first heat sign to obtain good results

2.5 Heat and Calving Intervals

a. Heat Intervals
For most cows, time between one heat and the next is 21 days on average
For mature cows, the first heat may be 38th to 42nd day after calving. Unless management is very good it is not advisable to serve the cow on this heat, as it has not regained body condition. However, it may be served on the second heat, which may be 60 to 90 days after calving.

b. Calving Interval
The farmer should aim at his/her animal calving once in every 12 months.


3.1 Calving Preparation

Milking cows should be dried after 10 months of milking
The animal is then steamed up by giving it concentrates for the next two months before calving. 2 to 4 kg of good concentrates are given per cow in two splits per day.
Heifers should be prepared for milking by often taking it to the dairy, massage the udder gently squeezing and pulling the teats and patting her on the back and the like.
A cow due to calve, should be isolated one week before calving for closer attention.

3.2 Calving Signs

A cow due to calve will have some or all of the following signs: –

  • Rigid udder
  • Clear discharge of mucus from the enlarged vulva
  • Loss of appetite and restlessness.

3.3 Precautions During Calving

Calving heifers should be given special attention as they are likely to have problems
A veterinary doctor should be called in case of a difficult calving
Ensure that after the calf is born it is licked by the dam and is free of mucus at the nostrils, mouth and eyes.
Naval cord should be cut and tied then disinfected with iodine
The newborn calve should be allowed to suckle the mother the first 24 hours to get colostrums before isolating it.

Feeds And Feeding Practices

4.1 Forage Feeding

These are mainly green forages such as Napier grass, Lucerne and sweet potato vines among others.

All forages should be chopped and fed in feeding troughs to avoid feed wastage.

4.2 Straw and Farm Products

These include materials such as wheat straw. Rice straw maize Stover and other vegetable byproducts.

They are best fed by first soaking in water or molasses incase of straw and also poor quality hay.

A dairy cow should be given 40-70kg of chopped forage per day, preferably in two splits i.e. one in the morning and the other in the evening.

4.3 Ration

Dairy cattle ration should contain 70 percent energy source, 30 percent protein source and required minerals (such as: 35 percent wheat bran + 35 percent maize + 30 percent cotton seed cake + 1 percent minerals).

4.4 Supplements

A dairy cow should be given two kilograms of concentrates for each gallon of milk produced above the first 2 gallons. It is assumed that a cow can produce up to two gallons of milk per day from good forage without giving concentrates so long as the required minerals are present or available.

4.5 Concentrates

Dairy cubes, dairy meals, maize germ, bran (wheat, rice or maize), cotton seed cake sunflower cake, Soya bean cake etc.

For lactating cows concentrates are given always when milking
For steaming up cows and heifers concentrates are given daily for 2 months before calving

Concentrates to have 15-18 percent crude protein

2 kg/day/cow during steaming up and up to 4kg/cow/day for in calf heifers during steaming up.
2 kg/day/cow for each extra 1 gallon of milk above the first 2 gallons.
Note: Steaming up
This is extra feed of high quality concentrates (preferably compounded), which is given to in-calf cows and heifers at 2-4 kg per cow per day for two months before calving. However, it can be more or less depending on the condition of the animal. Growing heifers will need more.

4.6 Minerals

For milking cows maclic super can be used
For heifers and dry cows maclic plus can be used

Each animal should consume 80 to 100gm per day of maclic, super or plus

Granular mineral products should be mixed with feeds in a feeding trough while free lick should be allowed if it is in the form of a solid block.
· Note:
Calves should get maclic plus block in adlib.

Dairy Cattle Grazing Systems

5.1 Field Grazing

Animals feed freely on growing pasture in a designated area usually in paddocks.

Cows are kept in one paddock continuously. This is not recommended.

Cows are moved from one paddock to the next in a predetermined order
Fields is divided into paddocks and calves are grazed ahead of mature cows

Animals are confined in an area with enough grazing for one day. This method has very intensive utilization of pastures.

In large farms one-acre plot is preferred.
Paddock size can also depend on the rotational interval

Animals should not be allowed in a paddock for a period exceeding one week to avoid worm build up and infestation.

5.2 Zero grazing

Zero grazing means growing or acquiring high quality feeds and feeding animals inside a confining structure. It is not synonymous with zero feeding.
It involves cutting and transporting forages for feeding housed or confined animals.
This is good for small herds in small farms

Approved plans should be obtained from the staff of Ministry of Livestock Development or other qualified persons. This gives dimensional specifications and materials, for cubicles, feed troughs, water troughs, calf pens, milking parlor, feed store, floor slope, etc.

Use of durable cheaply available materials is recommended. However a cemented floor is preferred because of the constant washing required

High yielding fodder such as Napier grass or Maize Stover should be planted near the zero grazing unit.
Fodder conservation should be done where possible e.g. in form of silage or hay

All forage should be chopped before feeding and feed troughs should be used.
Feed trough should be enough to accommodate 40-70 kg of chopped feed material per day
Concentrates should be given to high yielders during milking i.e. to say those producing over 10 kg of milk per day.

Concrete floors should be washed daily.
Dung should be removed every day and heaped away from the unit
Water should be nearby and should be changed daily after cleaning the water trough.
Dry beddings should be supplied in the cubicles and in calf pens.
Hoofs of all cows should be trimmed regularly as need be.

Farm size should be small
Management must be high and yield more than 10 kg of milk per animal per day
Prices of milk must be high enough to meet the costs of production and make profit.

Calf Rearing

6.1 Basic Calf Management Practices

Proper calf rearing is the insurance for continuous dairy farming. Good management ensures a continuous replacement of spent stock with young and energetic stock. This is mainly by reducing calf mortality rate and cutting calving interval. The following precautions should be taken on newly born calf.

  • Check and clean mucus membranes on the nostrils of the new born calf if not already licked by the dam.
  • Tie and cut the naval cord and disinfect with the iodine solution
  • Examine for abnormalities and if present alert a veterinary doctor
  • Ensure that the newborn calf gets the first milk from its mother for at least 4 days.

Types of Calf Pens

  1. Permanent calf pen with slatted floor should be 0.6m above the ground. Slats should be made of 2” x 2” timber separated at 0.5m apart and connected by 3”x 2” timber. This type of calf is very appropriate for zero grazing units. The calf stays in raised place and is kept dry and free of dung, urine and water.
  2. Permanent calf pens with cemented floor. These are actually cubicles, which are stone built at 1.5m long and 1.0m wide. The cubicle is sloped for free drainage.
  3. Mobile/portable calf pens. This is like permanent calf pen with slatted floor but is roofed as it is kept outside. Slats are not very necessary for this type as it is normally moved in pasture from point to point every 2 days and it is easy to keep it clean.

The pen should be properly cleaned and disinfected before restocking.
Dry straw should be provided on cemented floor preferably daily as beddings
A lot of sunlight should be allowed if the pens are in the house. Free movement of air should also be allowed.

Each calf pen should be provided with a water bucket, feeding trough and a place to put salt or salt lick.

Calf Feeding Schedule

a. One week of Age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed with colostrums plus adlib
For Early weaning a calf should be fed colostrums plus adlib
No concentrates

b. Two to three weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 5 litres milk per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 5 litres milk
per day
No concentrates

c. Four to Five weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 6 litres per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 4 litres milk plus 0.25 kg/day EWP concentrates

d. Six to Seven Weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 6 litres per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 4 litres milk plus 0. 5 kg/day EWP concentrates

e. Eight to Nine Weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 6 litres per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 3 litres milk plus 0. 75 kg/day EWP concentrates

f. Ten to Eleven Weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 5 litres per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 3 litres milk plus 1. 0 kg/day EWP concentrates

g. Twelve to Thirteen Weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 4 litres per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 1. 5 kg/day YSP concentrates

h. Fourteen to Fifteen Weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 2 litres per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 2.0 kg/day YSP concentrates

i. Sixteen Weeks of age
For Late weaning a calf should be fed 2 litres per day
For Early weaning a calf should be fed 2.0 kg/day YSP concentrates

Notes on Weaning Schedule

  • In late weaning it is assumed that the farmer is not able to get concentrate (a common situation in small scale conditions).
  • In early weaning schedule concentrate are readily available and the price of milk is very good.
  • In all cases the calf should be introduced to good quality hay and forage at 3rd week of age.
  • It is good to feed calves in the mornings and evenings each day.
  • For small breeds e.g. Jerseys and Zebu calves, the quantities of milk shown in the schedule may be too much to be fed. This should be reduced or fed three times a day.
  • Clean fresh water should be made available to calves
  • If diarrhoea is noticed during any of the feeding schedule then milk should be withdrawn for next 24 hours and institute remedial measures.
  • In some places where milk prices are very good, there is a tendency of farmers underfeeding calves in milk so that they save milk for sale.
  • This has negative effect on the growth of calves.

6.2 Other Calf Management Practices

Dehorning is done 2 to 3 months after calving or as soon as the horn bud is about one inch grown, we use disbudding iron or caustic stick.

If a heifer has more than 4 teats, remove the wrong teat. This should be 2 to 3 weeks after calving. Cut the wrong teat carefully with a sharp pair of scissors and disinfect the injury with iodine.

The castration should be done 2 to 4 weeks after birth for dairy animals and 6 to 9 months for beef animals. Use elastrator for young calves 2 to 4 weeks of age and a burdizzo for calves over 5 weeks of age.

Diseases and Parasites

7.1 Diseases

Calf Scours

This is caused by poor nutrition and feeding e.g. dirty milk, dirty buckets, overfeeding etc.


  • Loss of appetite
  • Rise in temperature
  • Dejectedness
  • Dehydration


Reduce or completely withdraw milk for two to three meals
If the above does not work withdraw milk 2-3 meals and then replace it with warm water mixed with ½ tablespoon of baking powder plus two tablespoons of common salt and 110g of glucose (should be mixed in 4.5 litres of warm water).

Calf Pneumonia

The disease occurs if the calf is exposed to sudden chilly conditions (e.g. droughty quarters).


  • Watery discharge from nose and eyes
  • Shallow and rapid breathing
  • Calf coughs and will not eat


House all calves for the first 6 weeks if in cold areas.
Call veterinary help when it occurs.

7.2 Parasites


These are mainly ticks, fleas, lice and flies


Regular dipping or spraying with approved and effective acaricides and insecticides.


Mainly roundworms, flatworms, liver flukes, etc


Dose calves with recommended anthelmintics at 4 months and every 6 months thereafter.

  • Restrain the animal either by putting it between you legs (for small animals) or by putting it into a crush.
  • Measure the drug into the bottle or drenching gun according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Put one hand over the animals nose, open the mouth just enough to admit the gun or the bottle.
  • Place the bottle in the corner to the animal’s mouth and ensure that the tongue is not held when dosing.
  • Hold the mouth closed for a few seconds after withdrawing the gun or bottle so that the drug is completely swallowed.

7.3 Vaccination

Calves should be vaccinated against killer diseases such as:-

  • 4 months old – against black quarter disease
  • 6 months old – against Anthrax and Black Water
  • 3-8 months old – against Brucellosis in heifers.

Clean Milk production

8.1 General Information

Milk is the main product from a dairy enterprise, produced basically as food for human consumption. A dairy farmer must therefore aim at maximising on milk output from his/her dairy herd. At the same time the farmer must ensure that milk is produced in clean and hygienic conditions so that it is fit for human consumption.

From public’s health point of view, milk is a very good media for bacterial and other micro-organisms development. As such, disease hazard in public can easily be predisposed by infected milk during production, handling and marketing.

As business, milk which is not available for human and economical use is a loss to the producing farmer.

The following reasons will justify why ever farmer should strive to produce clean and wholesome milk:

  • Farmers are not paid for the milk which is rejected in the market. As such, they lose in labour and other inputs used in producing this milk.
  • Dirty milk will have keeping period and if it cannot be used quickly, then it is thrown away and lost as useless food.
  • Rejected milk due to dirt means a total loss as a source of food for the nation. The nation will therefore spend money to import such food and that money spent could have been used for other development projects.

8.2 Clean Milk Production Practices

8.2.1 Source Hygiene and Preparations

  • Check for mastitis with a strip cup or any other method.
  • Isolate sick animals and milk them last (Their milk should not be mixed with good milk).
  • Wash udder, teats and flank of the animal with clean water preferably add a disinfectant. Wipe with a clean cloth.
  • Always groom and cut the hair around the under.
  • Dispose fore-milk
  • Tie tails of troublesome animals when milking.

8.2.2 Milker’s Hygiene

Milker should: –

  • Be healthy and clean
  • Maintain short finger nails and hair cut (ladies can cover their heads when milking as guard to falling hair)
  • Avoid smoking during milking time.
  • Be quick and efficient
  • Milk continuously (no interruptions).

8.2.3 Milking Environment

  • The shed can be permanent or movable
  • Where possible provide a cement floor for easy and proper cleaning.
  • Water should drain easily and away from the shed
  • Provide a clean feed trough, water trough and protected store.
  • There should be a good source of water nearby
  • It should be cleaned after every milking
  • Livestock should not have access to the shed during the day

8.2.4 Utensils

  1. Types
    • Use seamless utensils preferably aluminium or stainless steel
    • Use cans, sufurias or metal buckets in milking
    • Provide a good washing place
  2. Washing procedure
    • Rinse excess milk with cold and clean water
    • Scrub with a brush using hot water mixed with a detergent e.g. soap or detergent
    • Rinse with cold water and place the utensils to dry on a rack upside down during the day.
  3. Storage
    • Utensils should be stored at night in a safe and clean place, which is well ventilated.

8.2.5 Milking

  1. Preparation
    • Do not excite the animals
    • Regularize milking intervals
  2. Method
    • Squeeze the teat and do not pull.
    • All milk should be got from the under i.e. avoid incomplete milking
    • Use a teat dip after milking

8.2.6 Milk Handling

  1. Filtering
    • Use a white filter cloth
    • Filter immediately after milking
    • Disinfect, wash and dry the filter cloth after use
  2. Storage
    • Store milk in cool and clean place
    • The room used to store milk should without other materials such as chemicals and should also be lockable.
  3. Marketing or Disposal
    • Milk should be delivered to the market as soon as possible
    • It is advisable to delivery milk early in the morning and evening to avoid hot periods of the day.
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