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Cattle Production

Cattle production systems all over the world can be simply divided into extensive (low input) and intensive (high input). There is no real line between the systems and you can find a lot of combinations. Choosing the right system depends on local conditions, climate, available feeding components, herd size, etc.

Systems of Milk Production

An estimated 80 to 90 percent of milk in developing countries is produced in small-scale farming systems. These operations are based on low inputs, so production per dairy animal is quite low.

TMR (Zero Grazing)

A TMR or Total Mixed Ration is a method of feeding cows that combines all forages, grains, protein feeds, minerals, vitamins and feed additives formulated to a specified nutrient concentration into a single feed mix. The TMR or complete ration mix is then offered free choice. Dairy herds may spend the majority of their time indoors in modern, well ventilated and light cattle sheds or outside in small lots close to the milking parlour, depends on the climate. The system is also called high input and high output. In other words, you have to invest a lot of money into your animals (feed, minerals, vitamins, additives, vet, etc.) to get very high production. Under these conditions you are able to get from a Friesian cow over 30 litres of milk per day or over 20 litres of milk from a Fleckvieh cow. More milk you get from your cows, more sensitive they are to any changes in management, bad feed or treatment.

Recommended breeds: FleckviehFriesian

Grass-based systems

Dairy cows are extensively grazed. This is typical of what the general public might consider to be a “traditional way of farming”. Grass land can be kept in natural way, without irrigation. It is necessary to use a synchronization for this system. A good practice is to have calving commencing 4 to 6 weeks before the start of the spring rains. AI will then commence 6 to 8 weeks after the first rains have fallen, when the veld has had time to become green and has grown out enough to support the needs of the cow and her calf. Disadvantage of this system is no milk production and income during dry season.

Recommended breeds: cross with Jersey or Fleckvieh

Using irrigation in grass-based system will increase a milk production. There is no need of synchronization in the system. Cows are inseminated 2-3 month after calving. A farm milk production is more or less the same all the year round. Irrigated lots have to be fenced.

Systems of Beef Production

While in the developed countries production of quality beef is usually achieved through the feeding of high-energy rations to young animals (6 to 30 months old), the bulk of the beef produced in the developing countries still comes from rather extensive systems. The main systems of production, and various combinations of them, can be identified as follows.

Intensive system

Under these systems specialists, not necessarily farmers, undertake the last phases of the beef production chain-feeding and finishing. The systems vary according to the principal feed ingredient used: grass, fodder, silage, grain, or industrial by-products. The operation of growing and finishing activities independently of breeding and rearing leads to job specialization, which is usually accompanied by a zoning of the beef industry as a whole.

Recommended breeds: AngusHerefordSimmental

Semi – Intensive system

In the past this was the traditional system of beef production in many parts of Europe. Small farmers kept young males and some culled heifers for feeding and finishing, and fed them on home-grown fodder. Fattening and finishing of work oxen was also an important source of beef. Under the mixed farming systems practised today, the feeder cattle are usually, but not always, produced on specialized breeding and raising farms located on poorer land or land unsuited to intensive farming.

Recommended breeds: BeefmasterBonsmaraBrangusSimbrah

Extensive system

The breeding, raising, growing and finishing activities are operated by the same people on virtually the same grazings in extensive systems of beef production. This occurs in most of the pastoralist areas of Africa and is also adopted by some ranchers in Latin America. Under this system meat is often a by-product of milk production, and beef output may be as low as 7 kg per hectare per year on a carcass basis; acceptable carcass weights (equal to or above 150 kg) can only be achieved when steers are 5 years or older. The animals stay in good condition for only 3–4 months of the year following the end of the rainy season. The small gain accumulated in these months is often partly lost (up to 25 percent) when stock are trekked over several hundred kilometres to slaughterhouses, which are usually located near large urban centres. However, in such a system there are practically no production costs, except those for watering the animals.

Recommended breeds: BoranBrahmanTuli



Open sided, single slope roof shed

This type of housing is most typical of structures used and is suitable for all cattle on the farm. This is the least expensive of new structures and very easy to build. Open sheds should face the south for winter sun and block the prevailing winds. Pole barns of this design can be partitioned for groups of animals without complicated interior construction.

Open sided, clear span pole shed

The clear span provides more space for equipment to remove manure and thus any side of the building can be open to the environment. The gable end of the barn is recommended to be open so that the discharge of rain and snow is not over the open side of the building. When the gable end is open, the bays areas are usually deeper and provide more protection from the wind. The back end of the structure may be dark and damp and may need additional design attention for ventilation and lighting. This type of housing is more practical for smaller sized herds (under 20 head of cattle).

Former Dairy Barns

Former Dairy Barns


Today there are many unused dairy barns due to dairy farmers either retiring or dispersing. The renovation costs are usually less than the cost of a new structure. Lighting and ventilation are usually adequate in former dairy facilities for use by beef cattle. Manure removal is a major piece of the renovation plan. Conventional tie stalls that are used on New England dairy farms with a gutter are not recommended. Free stall barns are the ideal dairy facility for use with beef cattle since the manure handling is already set-up.

Hoop Barns

Hoop Barns

One of the least expensive structures for housing cattle is the hoop barn. Hoop barns are similar to greenhouses. One disadvantage is the heat and ventilation problems during the summer months, but this should not pose an issue if you are planning on grazing your cattle during the warmer climate months.


Feed Management

Feed Management

Feeding of Calves Colostrums

It will vary with the system followed, but whatever system may be practiced, the calf must receive the first milk which the cow gives after calving and is called colostrum’s. Be sure to feed the calf enough of colostrum’s between 2 to 2.5 liters daily for the first 3 days following its birth. Any excess colostrum may be fed to other calves in the herd in amounts equal to the amount of whole milk normally fed. If possible where a cow is milked before calving, freeze some of the colostrum for later feeding to the calf. None of it should be wasted. The digestibility of colostrum increases when it is given at a temperature between 99oF and 102oF. The importance of colostrum can be felt more from the following virtues.

The protein of colostrum consists of a much higher proportion of globulin than doe’s normal milk. The globulins are presumed to be the source of antibodies which aid in protecting the animal from many infections liable to affect it after birth. Gamma – globulin level in blood serum of neonatal calves is only 0.97 mg/ml at birth. It increases to 16.55 mg/ml level after first colostrum feeding at 12 hr. and subsequently on the second day shows a peak of 28.18 mg/ml. This level more or less persists till the reticuloendothelial system of the calf starts functioning to produce antibodies.

The protein content of colostrum is 3 to 5 times as that of normal milk. It is also rich in some of the materials, of which copper, iron, magnesium and manganese are important.

Colostrum contain 5-15 times the amount of Vitamin A- found in normal milk, depending upon the character of the ration given to the mother during the rest period.

Colostrum is also superior to milk in having a considerably greater amount of several other vitamins which have been found essential in the growth of dairy calves, including riboflavin, choline, thiamine and pantothenic acid.

Colostrum act as a laxative to free the digestive tract of faecal material.

Feeding whole milk

In feeding whole milk, calves may be fed as per feeding schedule. While feeding whole milk the following points should be remembered.

  • As far as possible provide milk from the calf’s mother.
  • Feed milk immediately after it is drawn.
  • The total amount of milk may be fed at 3 or 4 equal intervals up to the age of 7 days and then twice daily.

Feeding skim milk

On many farms, large quantities of separated milk are available for feeding to calves and other livestock.  Excellent dairy calves can be raised by changing them from whole milk gradually after two weeks of their age.   Here again the feeding schedule should be followed.

Feeding dried skim milk, whey or buttermilk

The above dried products are mixed with water at the rate of 1 kg to 9 kg of water and then it is fed as skim milk.  To avoid digestive troubles, the mix should always be fed to calves after warming it up to 100oF.


Feeding calf starters

Feeding calf starters


Calf starter is a mixture consisting of ground farm grains, protein feeds and minerals, vitamins and antibiotics.  After a calf attains the age of 2 weeks the amount of whole milk given to it may be cut down.  One should then rub a small amount of starter on the calf’s mouth, after each milk feeding for a few days when the calf will be accustomed to it.  When they reach four months of age, one should then transfer the calves to a “growing” grain ration.

Feeding grain mixture

Better growth and greater resistance to calf ailments result from consumption of grain and milk by the calf then when the calf is fed only on milk.  At the age of 7-15 days the feeding of grain mixtures may be started.  In order to get calves accustomed to grain mixtures, place a small handful of grain mixture in the used pail.  As the calf is finishing its milk it may consume a portion, or one may offer a little in the hand immediately after feeding milk.

Excessive protein rich grain mixture is not desirable as milk is already rich in proteins.  A medium protein grain mixture is most suitable when milk is fed freely. A grain mixture of oats – 35 percent, linseed cake – 5 percent, bran – 30 percent, barley – 10 percent, groundnut cake – 20 percent may be fed to the calves.  Another good mixture consists of ground maize – 2 parts, wheat bran – 2parts.

(Source: Dr. C. Paul Princely Rajkumar, AC&RI, Madurai)

Table 1.  Feeding schedule for calves up to 6 months

Age of calfApprox. body weight (kg)Quantity of milk (kg)Quantity of calf starter (g)Green grass (kg)
4 days to 4 weeks252.5Small qty.Small qty.
4-6 weeks303.050-100Small qty.
6-8 weeks352.5100-250Small qty.
8-10 weeks402.0250-350Small qty.
10-12 weeks451.5350-5001-0
12-16 weeks55500-7501-2
16-20 weeks65750-10002-3
20-24 weeks751000-15003-5

Calf starter is a highly nutritious concentrate mixture containing all the nutrients in proper proportion required for optimum growth and is used as a partial substitute for whole milk in the ration of calves. Since quality of protein is very important to calves until their rumen is fully functional, animal protein supplements such as fish meal should be included in calf starters. Urea should not be included in calf starters.

(Source: Kerala Agricultural University)


Feeding of growing animals (From 6 months onwards)

For calves below one year of age it is always desirable to give sufficient concentrates in addition to good roughage so that they make optimum growth. Feeding concentrate can be considerably reduced in the case of calves over one year of age fed on high quality roughage. A judicious mixture of roughage and concentrate is essential for obtaining optimum growth without undue fat deposition. From six months onwards, calves can be given the same type of concentrate mixture (14-16% Digestible Crude Protein and about 70% Total Digestible Nutrients) as used for adult cattle. Examples of concentrate mixtures are given separately.

Table 2. Feeding schedule of growing animals from 6 months onwards

Age (months)Approximate body weight (kg)Concentrate mixture (kg)Grass (kg)
Above 20200-3002.50-2.7515-20

(Source: Kerala Agricultural University)


Table 3. Recommended concentrate mixtures (Approx. 15% DCP about 70% TDN)

S. NoIngredientsParts( Kg)S. NoIngredientsParts( Kg)
1.Groundnut cake324Gingelly cake20
Gingelly oil   cake5Coconut cake15
Rice bran25Yellow maize32
Dried tapioca chips35Wheat bran30
Mineral mixture2Mineral mixture2
2.Coconut cake or cotton305.Sunflower cake(decorticated)25
seed cake10Cotton seed cake(decorticated)15
Rice bran30Jowar25
Yellow maize27Wheat bran32
Mineral mixture2Mineral mixture2
3.Groundnut cake336.Groundnut cake20
Rubber seed cake20
Rice bran30Yellow maize27
Tamarind seed(decorticated)10Wheat bran15
Dried tapioca chips24Tapioca starch waste15
Mineral mixture2Mineral mixture 22


Table 4. Feeding schedules for dairy animals (Quantity in kg.)

S. No.Type of animalFeeding duringGreen FodderDry FodderConcentrate
1.6 to 7 liters milk
per day
Lactation days20 to 255 to 63.0 to 3.5
Dry days15 to 206 to 70.5 to 1.0
2.8 to 10 liters milk
per day
Lactation days25 to 304 to 54.0 to 4.5
Dry days20 to 256 to 70.o 1.0

(Source: National Dairy Development Board)


Feeding of lactating cow

Feeding of lactating cow

Proper feeding of dairy cattle should envisage minimum wastage of nutrients and maximum returns in respect of milk produced.

A concentrate mixture made up of protein supplements such as oil cakes, energy sources such as cereal grains (maize, jowar), tapioca chips and laxative feeds such as brans (rice bran, wheat bran, gram husk) is generally used.

Mineral mixture containing major and all the trace elements should be included at a level of 2 percent.



Table 5. Feeding schedule for different classes of adult cows (approximate body weight-250 kg)

When green grass is plentyWhen paddy straw is the major roughage
CategoryConcentrate mixture (Kg)Green Grass (kg)Concentrate Mixture (kg)Green Grass (kg)Paddy Straw (kg)
Dry cows25 – 301.255.05 – 6
Milking1 kg for every 2.5 – 3.0 kg of milk301.25 + 1 kg for every 2.5 – 3.0 kg of milk5.05 – 6
PregnantProduction Allowance + 1 to 1.5 kg from 6th month of pregnancy25 – 30Maintenance + production + 1 to 1.5 kg from 6th month of pregnancy5.05 – 6


The total dry matter requirement of cattle is around 2-3 % of their body weight though high yielding animals may eat at a rate more than 3%. Such factors as climate, processing of feeds, palatability etc. influence the dry matter consumption. Good quality grasses (Guinea, Napier etc.) with a minimum of 6 % crude protein on dry matter basis alone can form maintenance ration of a cow of average size. But it is possible to maintain milk production of up to 3-4 kg with grass- legume fodder.

Feeding of bulls

Male calves to be reared as future breeding bulls, should be fed on a higher plane of nutrition than female calves.
Table 6. Feeding schedule of bull

Body weight (kg)Concentrate mixture (kg)Green grass (kg)

A bull in service should be given good quality roughage with sufficient concentrates. Too much roughage feeding should be avoided as it makes the bull paunchy and slow in service. A large concentrate allowance may make the bull too much fatty and less virile.

(Source: Kerala Agricultural University)

Maternity pen or calving boxes

In the large farms calving boxes are provided for cows nearing parturition. The cows are transferred into these pens 2-3 weeks before expected date of calving. Each calving pen should be about 3x4m for covered area and another 4x5m for open paddocks. A manger and water trough of proper size should be constructed in each pen. The covered area shall have 1.25m high walls all round. A 1.2 m wide gate opening into the open lot is also provided. The floor shall be of cement or brick on edge with slope towards drain. In large farms the member of calving boxes. required is about 5% of no. of breed able stock in the farm. These pens are located nearer to quarters of the farmer milking barn to monitor pregnant rows. Adequate lighting should be made.

(Source: Dr. C. Paul Princely Rajkumar, AC&RI, Madurai.)


Nutrient Requirement

Tips for feeding dairy cattle

Concentrate must be feed individually according to production requirements.

Good quality roughage saves concentrates. Approximately 20 kg of grasses (guinea, napier, etc.) or 6-8 kg legume fodder (cowpea, lucerne) can replace 1 kg of concentrate mixture (0.14-0.16 kg of DCP) in terms of protein content.

1kg straw can replace 4-5 kg of grass on dry matter basis. In this case the deficiency of protein and other nutrients should be compensated by a suitable concentrate mixture.

Regularity in feeding should be followed. Concentrate mixture can be fed at or preferably before milking – half in the morning and the other half in the evening – before the two milking. Half the roughage ration can be fed in the forenoon after watering and cleaning the animals. The other half is fed in the evening, after milking and watering. High yielding animals may be fed three times a day (both roughage and concentrate). Increasing the frequency of concentrate feeding will help maintain normal rumen motility and optimum milk fat levels.

Over-feeding concentrates may result in off feed and indigestion.

Abrupt change in the feed should be avoided.

Grains should be ground to medium degree of fineness before being fed to cattle.

Long and thick-stemmed fodders such as Napier may be chopped and fed.

Highly moist and tender grasses may be wilted or mixed with straw before feeding. Legume fodders may be mixed with straw or other grasses to prevent the occurrence of bloat and indigestion.

Silage and other feeds, which may impart flavour to milk, may be fed after milking. Concentrate mixture in the form of mash may be moistened with water and fed immediately. Pellets can be fed as such.

All feeds must be stored properly in well-ventilated and dry places. Mouldy or otherwise damaged feed should not be fed.

For high yielding animals, the optimum concentrate roughage ratio on dry matter basis should be 60:40.


Table 7. Nutrients required for maintenance of adult cattle per head per day (Growth rate- 550g per day)

Live weight (kg)Dry Matter (kg)Digestible Crude
Protein (g)
Total Digestible Nutrients (kg)Calcium (g)Phosphorus (g)


Straw can form the roughage in the absence of grasses and in such cases concentrates should be given for maintenance. For lactating cows, 1kg of concentrate mixture (compounded feed) (0.14-0.16 kg DCP and 0.70 kg TDN) may be required for every 2.5 – 3.0 kg of milk over and above the maintenance allowance. After parturition, the cow should be given the same type of feed and the same quantity as before and the concentrate allowance should be only gradually increased to avoid digestive troubles like acidosis, indigestion, etc.

In the case of young cross-bred cows below four years of age to meet the needs for growth, it is desirable to give additional concentrate allowance at the rate of 1kg for animals in first lactation and 0.5kg in the second lactation over and above the maintenance and production needs. Milking animals should always have free access to clean fresh drinking water.

Table: Bureau of Indian Standards specification for mineral mixture for cattle

S. NoCharacteristicsType I
(with salt)
Type II
(without salt)
1.Moisture, percent by mass, Max.55
2.Calcium, percent by mass, Min.1823
3.Phosphorus, percent by mass, Min.912
4.Magnesium, percent by mass, Min.56.5
5.Salt (Chloride as Sodium Chloride), percent by mass, Min.22
6.Iron, percent by mass, Min.0.40.5
7.Iodine (as KI), percent by mass.0.020.026
8.Copper, percent by mass, Min.0.060.077
9.Manganese, percent by mass, Min.0.100.12
10.Cobalt, percent by mass, Min.0.0090.012
11.Fluorine, percent by mass, Max.0.050.07
12.Zinc, per cent by mass, Min.0.300.38
13.Sulphur, percent by mass, Max.0.400.50
14.Acid insoluble ash, percent by mass3.002.50

(Source: )



Feeding Equipment

Feed Bunks

The main requirements for feed bunks are that they are practical, good quality, rugged, and economical. The bunk length and capacity should meet livestock requirements.

Portable Hay Feeders

This portable feeder is a proven hay-saving design for free-choice supplementary hay feeding in a field, feedlot, or loose housing barn. The sloping spacers allow cattle of varying sizes to feed comfortably with their heads inside the feeder. This helps to reduce waste since cattle do not have to withdraw their heads to stand and chew.

Round and big bale feed racks are easy to load, move, and also prevent hay wastage. The round version requires a bender to reform the square tube rails, but the round shape makes it easier to roll it from place to place. The square version is easier to build in the farm shop, and it can be completely collapsed for transport in a pickup truck. Important feed- saving features are the solid lower section and the slanted divider bars above.

Water Equipment

Many watering equipment system options are available. Different systems may be used throughout the year. If you are grazing animals, you may want portable water tanks to reduce the impact of cattle in one location. In the winter, depending upon your climate, you may need heated units for use in pasture. There are many things to consider when selecting a system for use on your farm. The most important factor to understand your livestock’ water needs and ensure that the current system can meet those requirements.


The headgate is the most important part of the entire working facility. It should be sturdy, safe, easy to operate, and work smoothly and quietly. Headgates come in four basic types; self-catching, scissors-stanchion, positive-control and fully opening stanchion. The self-catching headgate closes automatically due to the movement of the animal. The scissors-stanchion type has bi-parting halves that pivot at the bottom. The positive-control type locks firmly around the animal’s neck. The fully opening stanchion consists of two bi-parting halves that work like a pair of sliding doors. The self-catching, scissor-stanchion and the fully opening stanchion are available with either straight or curved stanchion bars. The straight-bar stanchion is extremely safe and will rarely choke an animal. The disadvantage is animals can move their heads up and down unless a nose bar is used. The curved-bar stanchion offers more control of the animal’s head but is more likely to choke the animal than the straight-bar type. Both types are safer than the positive-control headgate. No matter which type of headgate is selected, proper adjustment for the type of cattle being worked is necessary to prevent injury to the animals.

Holding Chute

The holding chute is secured to the head gate and located immediately behind it. The holding chute should generally not be any wider than 26 inches but should be adjustable in order to compensate for different-size animals. The sides should be solid so that animals are not able to look out and be scared by their surroundings.

Working Chute

The working chute connects the holding chute with the holding pen. It should be long enough to hold five to six animals at a time.

Crowding Pen

The crowding pen is located at the back of the working chute. Size should be about 150 square feet. This area will hold five or six head of cattle.

Holding Pens

Holding pens should mesh conveniently with the rest of the facility. Each holding pen should provide approximately 20 square feet of space per animal.


Scales are optional depending on your size operation but can be useful in weighing cattle. The scales should be located so cattle can be easily moved on and off. Do not locate scales in highly trafficked areas.

Loading Chute

The loading chute may be optional if a trailer is used to transport animals. The loading chute should be located directly off the crowding pen.


Note: As a rule, all ages of cattle can stay on pasture during the warm weather months. Pastured or grass fed beef is a growing trend with New England beef producers and the consumer’s demand for this product is increasing.

Note: A one or two-sided structure with a roof can provide shelter to cattle during periods of intense cold. Structures should be built with the open sides facing the south or east (depending upon prevailing winds) to maximize effects of solar radiation during the winter.

Note: Cattle on average can consume 1 gallon of water per 100 pounds live weight per day.




Common Cattle Diseases

Cattle suffer from a variety of diseases. Diseases are more common among herds kept in tight quarters, such as on feedlots, or large herds kept on too few acres. Diseases are also more common among stressed animals, such as calves weaned and shipped immediately to new locations. Keeping new animals quarantined until you’re sure they aren’t suffering from disease is a simple herd management practice that can keep the majority of your livestock healthy by reducing the number of potentially transmitted diseases.

Beef cattle diseases fall into specific categories:

Respiratory: These airborne ailments are caused by microorganisms spread by coughing, sneezing, eye discharge and mucous discharge.

Enteric: Enteric diseases develop in the intestinal tract. They are often caused by parasites ingested during feeding.

Skin and hooves: Beef cattle can develop diseases in their hooves and on their skin.

Neurological: Neurological diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses transmitted through insect bites. These can cause cattle to stumble or have difficulty walking.

Beef cattle, like their dairy cattle counterparts, can also suffer from udder infections and reproductive diseases. And like any mammal, cattle are susceptible to rabies, anthrax and other serious diseases.

Many diseases can be prevented through good herd management, proper nutrition and vaccinations. Cattle should receive specific vaccinations such as vaccinations for anthrax, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and many other diseases. The University of Arkansas provides a free vaccination schedule for livestock that includes vaccinations for adults, breeding females and calves.

Several Common Cattle Diseases

Although it’s not possible to list every potential disease among beef cattle, there are certain diseases that livestock owners see more often than others. These include:

Bloat: Bloat is a herd management issue related to cattle grazing on rich pasture that ferments rapidly in their stomachs. Fermentation creates gas, and too much gas causes pain and stomach bloating that puts pressure on internal organs. If the pressure isn’t relieved, your cattle can die. Watch the quantity of alfalfa your cattle are eating and other legumes, especially in the spring as they transition from hay and poorer grass to newly growing pastures.

Grass tetany: Grass tetany is caused by a severe magnesium deficiency. Cattle stagger and seem to have neurological problems. It’s often caused by springtime pastures rich in nitrogen and deficient in magnesium, or poor forage during winter months. Consult a veterinarian immediately if you suspect this problem. Cows treated quickly can recover, but if left untreated they may not.

Foot rot: A lame cow with discharge from the hoof may be suffering from foot rot. It’s caused by a common soil-borne bacteria such as streptococci, staphylococci, corynebacterium and various fungi. These microorganisms love moist, warm environments, such as the interior of the hoof. Treatments from your veterinarian are available to cure foot rot, but it’s easier to manage wet pastures to prevent your livestock from standing in areas potentially contaminated with foot rot microorganisms.

IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis): IBR is also called “red nose disease” because a cow or calf’s nose becomes red and raw. The animal rubs their nose to get rid of an annoying and constant mucous discharge. Animals may experience loss of appetite and a fever, too. It’s very contagious, so separate your animal from the herd and call a veterinarian.

BVD (bovine viral diarrhea): Animals infected with BVD have scours, or constant diarrhea, nasal discharge and fever. This is a serious disease that can cause intestinal hemorrhaging, especially in young or weak animals.

Bovine respiratory disease complex: This disease is also called “shipping fever” and strikes animals after being shipped. It’s a type of pneumonia that cattle, horses and other livestock get after being stressed. It’s not caused by one particular virus or bacteria but brought on by many factors coming together and an animal under extreme stress. BRDC causes respiratory distress, runny nose, fever and loss of appetite. If your cattle have just been shipped in, quarantine them for several days to watch for symptoms of BRDC to prevent it from spreading.

Signs of Sick Cattle

It’s important to check your herd daily for signs of sick cattle. Get your cattle into the habit of feeding from a round bale feeder or a livestock trough daily at a set time so they will line up on their own for inspection. Look for signs of sick cattle such as:

Eye problems: Cattle with eye problems may keep one eye shut and rub their face against fence posts, trees or rocks. The eye may appear cloudy when the cow opens it, and they may have a running, weeping discharge from one or both eyes. They may also seek shade under a tree and remain away from bright sunlight. Eye discharge may be a sign of an injury to the eye, or more commonly conjunctivitis or pink eye. This highly contagious bacterial disease among beef cattle can result in scarring of the cornea and even blindness if not caught and treated early.

Hoof problems: Cattle with hoof ailments will limp or favor one hoof over another. The hoof may appear hot, swollen or cracked. If you can get near enough to handle your animal, or you can get your cow into a chute for inspection, you may be able to examine the hooves. Pus or any type of discharge must be treated immediately.

Skin lesions:  It’s normal for cows to have an occasional patch of skin showing. It’s the same thing among beef cattle as a scraped knee is among people. But lesions across the back or circular patterns can indicate ringworm, rain rot or another fungal infection that can make your livestock miserable.

Respiratory problems: Respiratory issues in beef cattle are more common after transportation or purchasing cattle from auction, when numerous cattle from different farms may be penned together during the auction. It’s during these times of stress that cattle may be vulnerable to respiratory infections. Coughing, wheezing, mucous discharge and similar signs can all point to respiratory problems. Common respiratory infections include viral infections.

Neurological problems: Cattle that stagger should be immediately investigated. These animals may be suffering from a severe neurological problem. Some cattle lay down and are unable to get up. Neurological problems may be caused by microorganisms or dietary deficiencies brought about by grazing on lush, new pasture that’s deficient in minerals. Poisonous plants may also be to blame, or grazing on land that has a high proportion of arsenic or lead in the soil. Downed cows should be evaluated by a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Other signs of a sick cow include weight loss. Unexplained weight loss may be due to a heavy parasite load or dietary deficiencies.

A good livestock owner gets to know their cattle and can immediately spot changes in behavior or appearance. Cattle are usually consistent in their behavior, and any noticeable change may be due to sickness, stress or something in the environment. Investigating and resolving the problem quickly can keep your herd healthy for a long time to come.


Disease Prevention

You’ve heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Nothing could be truer when it comes to raising beef cattle. Preventing diseases is a lot less expensive than treating them, and you’ll be able to raise your cattle to market weight faster and easier if you take a few steps to keep your cattle healthy.

Keeping your livestock’s disease resistance high should be first on your list of health measures. This includes providing your beef cattle with good nutrition and clean water. Because cattle rely heavily on the pastures in which they’re housed for both food and shelter, keeping an eye on the quality and quantity of grass in pastures is essential to keeping cattle healthy.

It’s not enough to manage pasture grass. You’ve also got to keep an eye out for debris. It’s an unfortunate fact of country life that many people don’t think twice about tossing beer bottles, soda cans and fast food wrappers out their car windows. These objects can blow into an open field and end up in the mouths of curious cattle.

Foreign objects lodged in the intestinal tract can be deadly, and an unwary cow can cut a fetlock or hoof on debris tossed over a pasture fence. Walking your fence line daily or weekly enables you not only to check its security but avoid catastrophe from unthinking litter bugs.

Your cattle should be vaccinated against major diseases, including anthrax and many others. You can obtain a list of recommended vaccinations from your veterinarian or your local Cooperative Extension Office, which should have information for raising healthy beef cattle in your state and county. This list will include specific localized illnesses your herd should be vaccinated against.

Keep accurate and timely records of your vaccination schedule, worming schedule and any health issues among your herd. Many farmers prefer computerized record-keeping systems that enable them to track and monitor herd health, weight and sales prices. Such programs provide invaluable data when you’re looking to expand or change your herd composition.

In addition to vaccinations, routine worming for common parasites is another great practice to keep herds healthy. Parasite prevention and treatment ensures your cattle stay healthy and put on adequate weight.

The right cattle handling equipment can make a huge difference in helping you maintain the health and well-being of your herd by making regular veterinary care hassle-free.


Pasture Maintenance for Healthy Cattle

Cattle spend much of their lives grazing and live outside almost every day of the year. Most farmers graze their herds on large open pastures. Just like you keep your home clean and the air inside of it healthy, so too must you keep your cattle’s pasture healthy and free from problems that can lead to diseases.

Regular planting with nutritious pasture grass keeps the grazing composition right for beef cattle. A mix of fescue, orchard grass, rye, white clover and other forage grasses provides the right nutritional composition to raise healthy cattle.

Learn how to identify the most common plants poisonous to beef cattle. Develop a program to eradicate common pasture weeds and poisonous plants.

Consider pasture rotation if you have enough room. Moving your herd from one pasture to another to let a pasture rest and grow for several weeks or months is ideal.

Pick up or disk manure to prevent parasites from re-infecting herds.

Keep hay bales contained to round bale feeders so they don’t rot in the pasture from rains or make a mess.

Fix any low-lying, swampy areas that are prone to flooding and mud. If your pasture is wet throughout, consider moving cattle to dry land for a few days so they’re not standing in mud.

Check areas around ponds or water troughs for excess mud, too. Make sure water troughs aren’t surrounded by a “mud moat” that forces cattle to stand in bacteria-rich mud, which can infect and weaken hooves.

Provide mineral blocks, especially to developing calves, or mineral and protein blocks to supplement the pasture during winter months.

Offer plenty of clean water to cattle so they can drink as much as they want to.

If you purchase hay for winter feeding, make sure you buy the best quality you can. Keep it dry and covered until ready to use. Discard moldy or wet hay.


Herd Management

In addition to these best practices for beef cattle health, certain herd management practices can also prevent diseases from spreading.

Purchase new cattle or calves from reputable auction houses or local farms.

Purchase only healthy-looking animals, and ask for a health history, such as a vaccination or worming history, if available.

Transport livestock the shortest distance possible. Transportation stresses animals.

Isolate newcomers to the herd for two weeks until you’re sure they aren’t sick.

Isolate any sick animals for treatment and to prevent illnesses from spreading.

Don’t breed sick or weakened animals.

Call a veterinarian promptly if your animals are injured, down in the field, or seriously ill. Prompt attention can prevent big problems later.

Beef cattle are among the easiest livestock to raise, but they aren’t without problems. By keeping ahead of their health needs and providing adequate nutrition and dry pasture on which to live and graze, your beef cattle can stay healthy, happy and productive for many seasons to come.




Foot & Mouth Diseases (FMD)All cloven footed animalsPolyvalent FMD vaccine3 ml. S/C1 YearFebruary & December
Hemorrhagic Septicemia (HS)Cattle, BuffaloHS Vaccine5 ml S/C6 month & 1 YearMay-June
Black Quarter (BQCattle, BuffaloBQ Vaccine5 ml S/C6 month & 1 YearMay-June
AnthraxAll species of animalsAnthrax spore vaccine1 mlS/C1 YearMay-June
Enterotoxemia (ET)Sheep and GoatET vaccine5 ml S/C1 YearMay-June
Contagious Caprine Pleuro Pneumonia (CCPP)Sheep and GoatIVRI Vaccine0.2 ml S/C1 Year
Peste Des Pettis Ruminants (PPR)Sheep and GoatPPR Vaccine1 ml S/C3 Year
BrucellaFemale cattle & buffalo Calf age 4-8 months onlyBrucella Vaccine2 ml S/C1 Year
TheileriosisCattle & calves above 2 months of ageTheileria Vaccine3 ml S/C1 Year
RabiesAll species of animalsRabies Post Bite Vaccine1 ml S/C1 Year0, 3,7,14,28 & 90 days

Note – Before any vaccination deworming should be compulsory to get better results.



Livestock exports

Australia is the world’s leading supplier of high quality live cattle, sheep and goats to countries around the world, in particular throughout the Middle East and South-East Asia.

Many countries across these regions do not have the resources or geography to efficiently produce enough livestock to feed their population. Australia meets the demand for essential red meat protein by exporting cattle and sheep for food production and breeding, as well as chilled and frozen meat products.


Transporting livestock 

Australia exports livestock by sea and air. The industry is recognised as having the world’s highest animal welfare standards for livestock export. Australian live export operates under strict regulations and is committed to maintaining Australia’s world leading reputation. Live exporters must be licensed by the Australian Government and livestock vessels must meet strict requirements governed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. These standards, along with strict regulation and the industry’s commitment to caring for livestock on their voyages overseas, mean that over 99% of all Australian animals arrive fit and healthy at their destinations.


Export destination facilities and livestock care 

At the export destinations, livestock are cared for by trained stockmen in feedlots where they have constant access to food, fresh water and shade. Australian animal welfare experts are based in export locations and regularly deliver animal welfare training and education programs and make improvements to infrastructure and livestock facilities.


Livestock industry participants

In addition to providing much needed protein for global communities, the livestock export industry also supports the livelihoods of thousands of farming families and communities. The industry employs 13,000 people across rural and regional Australia and is worth $1.8 billion to the Australian economy. The industry is also vital in underpinning livestock prices for sheep, cattle and goat producers across Australia by providing an additional market for livestock.


Industry partnership 

MLA and Live Corp invest levies paid by Australian red meat producers and exporters into supporting and fostering the industry through the Livestock Export Program. The joint MLA and Live Corp initiative invests in activities and tools to improve the trade both in Australia, on board livestock vessels and overseas.


The key topics the Livestock Export Program focuses on are: 

Livestock management and welfare

Market access and trade development

Supply chain improvements

Regulatory framework

The Australian Government introduced a new regulatory framework, the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), from October 2011. Under ESCAS, the exporter must provide evidence of compliance right through the supply chain before being issued with approval by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.



Transportation and Marketing


A pattern of movement has emerged over the years where the Fulani transfer cattle from the producing areas in the north to the consuming areas in the south. The policy of the government on livestock transportation is noticed in the extension of roads that will link rural producers with urban consumers. Government policies are also visible in the provision of fences, scales, grains, freight facilities, feed lots, meat markets, retail sheds, fattening centers, cooperative societies, limited grazing spaces, and veterinary inspection at the livestock evacuation centers.

The Fulani have often been described as people without the need for automotive transportation. That claim is correct when applied to the slow and treacherous movement of animals from one grazing location to another. The claim is, however, incorrect when applied to the extensive use of trains and lorries to convey animals to the market. Table 1 shows the extent of Fulani’s use of road transportation.


Other places427.14
No Response122.04

*N in the sample are household heads.


00-01 km21436.4059.354
02-05 km15927.0428.571
06-10 km10918.549.694
more than 11 km528.842.381

*N in the sample are household heads.

The Fulani are attaching importance to vehicular movement. Closeness to a road or railway line influences the location of a camp-site. Table 2 shows that more than half of the Fulani reside within a kilometer of the road.

Journeys on hooves have been the oldest and still the dominant method of transferring livestock to the south. Railway becomes important during the colonial era, but falls to road in post-independence period. Today, the Fulani are using all the three means of surface freightage: hooves, road, and railway.

Hooves Conveyance

Most bovines are conveyed to the coastal market by the long, risky journeys on the hooves. There are two chief trade cattle-routes to the southern markets. The first begins from Sokoto in the northwest and ends in Lagos in the southwest through Jebba. The second route starts from Maiduguri in northeast and ends in Calabar in southeast going through Kano and Zaria. Seventy-five percent of the animals follow these fixed routes. The trek from Sokoto to Lagos takes twenty-four to twenty-seven days. The journey from Maiduguri to Calabar lasts fifty to fifty-four days (Shaw and Colvile 1950).

Problems of hooves transportation

The draconian overland drovage results in frequent thefts, strays, accidents, offtakes, and transit mortalities. During the journey, the Fulani whip, traumatize, and subject the animals to walking up to twenty-five kilometers a day. With little time to graze or drink water, animals arrive at Jebba Bridge (half way in the journey) in a very poor state. Many of them are too weak to cross the bridge and have to be slaughtered. A crude estimate shows that cattle lose up to forty percent of their weight in the 1,288 kilometer journey from northern Nigeria to southern Nigeria.

Railway Carriage

The potential for profit in cattle trade between the north and the south was first realized in 1912 when the Shehu of Borno, with the help of the then British Resident, exported cattle and sheep to Lagos by the then newly completed rail line. A report said the Shehu made a ninety percent profit. Since then, interest in livestock trade between the two regions of the country grew steadily (Dunbur 1970).

The Fulani are using the railway as an alternative means of transportation, but poor rail connection and shortage of wagon spaces undermine the capacity of trains to haul goods. Railway officials who capitalize on these shortages exhort excess fees from the Fulani at the rail heads.

Problems of rail transportation

The railway greatly eases the hardship of merchantable animals going to the south. The rail, however, has its share of problems. First, the rail lines do not reach the remote cattle producing areas. Second, railway services do not provide for sufficient stock feeds, water sources, resting places, veterinary facilities, or housing for livestock freighters at the termini. Third, cattle trains and wagons are grossly inadequate, resulting in delays, overloading, and the spread of diseases among animals waiting to be evacuated.

Railway officials and veterinary inspectors engage in unscrupulous deals. They demand bribes from herd-owners before allocating wagon spaces. Apart from choosing the herds of people who offer gratification, officials promote chaos in livestock carriage by selecting healthier herds first, while the condition of the frail animals deteriorates at the railway stations. These malpractices undermine the effectiveness of rail services and cause needless suffering of herds on the waiting lists. As a result of these hardships, the railway is less popular than the road. Roads have replaced railways as the primary means of transferring animals in Nigeria.

Road Truckage

Roads have made the railways a nonentity in Nigeria. Unlike the government-run railways, road truckage is in private hands and, therefore, is more efficient. By road, it takes just two days to drive animals to the south from the north. The speed of road haulage has resulted in an over-supply of cattle in the southern markets, leading to a beef glut and a fall in meat price. The strongest advantage of road over rail, according to the cattle freighters, is the removal of government’s monopoly in livestock transfer. The Fulani, who do not own the vehicles, rely on the middlemen to haul the herds. Important in distinguishing merchantable stock are transporters who may be more important than the primary producers in livestock marketing. The services offered by these freighters are inexpensive considering the huge cost of fuel, vehicles, and spare parts.

Problems of road haulage

Animals transferred by road face a number of difficulties. Throughout the journey, animals are kept standing, without food or water (Ademosun 1976). Most rural roads are seasonal and inoperable during the greater part of the year. Trucks are few and are operated for extended hours. Vehicles are prone to accidents because they are overloaded and travel on laterite. In the absence of livestock and freight insurance in Nigeria, some Fulani are reluctant to use road haulage for lack of safety.

Transportation is dearer by road than by rail, although if delays and risks of animals’ catching diseases are added to the cost, the roads may be cheaper than the trains. In 1992, it costs about N15,000 to transport a truck-load of cattle from Kano to Lagos. The high cost of transportation is passed on to the consumer. The economic hardship in Nigeria has soured the cost of vehicles and is reflected in the exorbitant price of meat and livestock products in the country.


The improved transportation system has helped Nigeria to increase the scope of its marketing operation. The numerous feeder roads in Nigeria ensure that weekly markets enjoy the patronage of the Fulani from satellite camps, although some perishable goods such as milk cannot be sold at distant market due to the lack of storage and refrigerants (Baker 1975). Sixty percent of the marketable cattle crossing national borders are destined to Nigeria (von Kaufmann 1986). Nigeria is the leading livestock market in West Africa. More than half of the cattle slaughtered in Nigeria come from neighboring Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. By building more roads, abattoirs, slaughter slabs, and cattle markets near the Fulani, the government has boosted livestock trading in Nigeria. These facilities also help in creating a demand and supply culture for merchantable goods and services between the Fulani and non-Fulani.


Government Policy on Livestock Marketing

The government sees the commercialization of the pastoral sector as a promising means of social and economic transformation of the pastoral Fulani. The government has two broad policy goals in this area. First, it wants to raise the offtakes of livestock, thereby breaking the chronic herd retention among the Fulani. Second, it seeks to incorporate the Fulani into the national economy, thus, reducing the long-standing social and economic isolation of the Fulani from the rest of the country. Although the second goal is succeeding, the first goal is failing.

Effects of Governments Policy

On the issue of market integration, the government’s livestock marketing strategies are yielding the desired result. The numerous livestock markets (Zango) located in large settlements are bringing the Fulani closer to the community. For example, the Fulani are exchanging livestock with horticultural produce and hardware. The markets are important avenue where the Fulani and the farmers are sharing information about pastoral and agricultural innovations. Markets have also become the place for learning about governmental policies. The Fulani are using markets for social interaction such as conducting meetings, arranging marriages, and settling disputes.

On its goal of increasing the sales of livestock, however, the government only partially succeeded. Offtakes of cows in Nigeria stands at about five percent. The policy-makers thought that increased market outlets and demands for meat would make the Fulani to sell more animals. The prevailing assumption was that by reducing the herd size, better quality stock would emerge from the Fulani livestock. In a few cases this had happened, but in most cases, the Fulani replaced the animals as fast as they sold them. In some cases, the Fulani even enlarged their herd size in anticipation of the offtakes.

Contrary to expectations, over ninety percent of the Fulani in this sample refuse to trade their marketable animals for fear of reducing the stock size. The increase in marketing facilities escalate the sale of milk rather than beef, thus, defeating the goals of increasing meat sales. Field data show that many Fulani visiting the markets are milk-maids selling dairy products. The refusal of the Fulani to sell their cows affects the demand and the supply of beef throughout Nigeria.

Nature of the Demand and Supply of Meat

In spite of the claim (Anadu, Elamah, and Oates 1988, 208) that “Nigerians are not by nature a meat-eating people,” the demand for beef is high in the metropolis. The demand is even greater in the southern cities, where at least twenty species of bushmeat are eaten (Ademosun 1976; and Anadu, Elamah, and Oates 1988). Since the closure of the Nigerian Livestock and Meat Authority, which kept sales and slaughter records of indigenous and imported animals, Nigeria is unable to furnish current and accurate data on livestock transaction. In 1991, the output of bone, flesh, skin, organ, and tissue from Nigeria’s abattoirs and slaughter slabs stood at about 135,000 kilograms, just about half of the meat consumed annually in the country (N.L.P.D. record 1992).

Sheep and goats supply eleven percent and twenty percent respectively of the meat demand in Nigeria (Waters-Bayer 1986). In the rural areas, they supply three times more consumable beef than large animals do. In part because of the lack of demand for beef that will warrant the slaughter of a large beast. In the cities, however, ruminants furnish just a quarter of the meat eaten (Waters-Bayer 1986).

The seasonal availability of herds, the prevailing environmental condition, the demand for cash, and the price of stock affect the quantity of animals the Fulani take to the markets. Animals reach their highest prices during the rainy season, when they are fattest. Livestock sales peak during droughts, epidemics, or dry-seasons when selling becomes as much a way of getting rid of sick stock as it is of balancing herd size with water and pasture availability. Livestock dealers report the influx of sick and impoverished animals during famines or epidemics, resulting in beef glut.

Problems of Beef Supply in Nigeria

The demand for meat rose in the seventies due the oil boom that increased the income of Nigerian workers especially after the Udoji salary increase. The government responded to the demand by importing live animals, canned meat, and frozen fish. Two main aims influenced Nigeria’s import policy; first, to reduce beef demand in the urban areas; and second, to avoid the social and political consequences of failing to provide inexpensive beef to metropolitan residents.

The government, aware of such consequences, keeps the price of beef low through subsidies on imported meat. Massive meat imports not only kill the incentives of local producers but they also encourage corruption among officials responsible for the import (Bashir 1986). Table 3 shows that even with these subsidies, the price of fresh, red meat has climbed steadily because of urbanization, rapid population expansion, and the Structural Adjustment Program that depreciated the naira.

Table 3: Average Retail Price of Fresh Meat (In Naira Per Kilogram)

YearBeefMuttonGoat MeatPorkFrozen ChickenCame Meat

Source: (FDL & PCS record 1992).

Cattle dealers (dillalai), who suffocate the market by overcharging the consumers and underpaying the producers, also influence the price of beef. The value of an animal is determined by visual and tactile examination. Scales are seldom used. The sellers and the buyers prefer appraising the animal by their physical appearance. Combining their business acumen and extortion, these cattle traders have become wealthier and more influential than the primary producers. These mediators, most of them non-Fulani, maintain a large network of representatives. They have chains of markets within and beyond Nigeria. The middlemen, who receive three to five percent sales commission (la’ada), perform the important task of transporting the animals to the market, protecting the herds from bandits, and ensuring that contractual obligations between the sellers and the buyers are fulfilled. At the village level, the cattle producers take the herds to the brokers. Sometimes, however, the brokers themselves go to the encampments to buy the animals directly from the Fulani. An animal may change hands up to seven times before reaching the slaughter slab. Through trading, good relationships based on trust have developed between the Fulani and the cattle brokers, despite the exploitation of the former by the latter.

The process of relinquishing a cow by the Fulani takes a long time and involves many advisors from within and outside the household. The decision to relinquish a small beast may be reached by members at the lowest social level, but disposing of a large beast may require the approval of members in the highest social echelon, who may come from outside of the owner’s immediate family (Dahl and Hjort 1979). The delay in selling the animals increases their average marketing age, which is about six years for a cow. The late sale of an animal means less profit for producers and high cost for consumers. The higher the selling age the fewer stock are sold. Veterinarians in Nigeria believe that one way to increase offtake and reduce herd retention among the Fulani is to lower the selling age of the stock. The marketing age of the cow may be reduced to four or three by improving the health and nutrition of the animals.

The Fulani view selling a cow as consuming one’s capital. Because animals are a repository of wealth, the pastoralists find it difficult to part with their stock (Konczacki 1978). The decision to sell or slaughter an animal is met with the strongest resistance and condemnation. The killing or selling of an able-bodied, reproductive cow is a taboo and an abominable act that signifies poverty (Brokensha, Horowitz, and Scudder 1977; and Arhem 1989).

Even when conditions such as good markets favor the sale of the herds, pastoralists show what Horowitz (1980) refers to as a ‘backward bending’ supply curve or a ‘perversive supply response’, in which the better the prices, the fewer the number of animals the livestock owners are willing to sell. Even in hard times the Fulani try to resist selling their animals. Instead, the pastoralists try to keep the largest number of animals that can outlast the adversities.

Reasons for Sales and Uses of Sales Receipts

The Fulani sell animals to buy salt, cloth, food, and animal feed. They also sell to buy luxury goods such as radios, bicycles, motorcycles, and furniture. In some cases, the motive is to trade a bull to buy two or more calves, to marry, or to go to Mecca for pilgrimage. An urgent demand for cash may compel the marketing of an animal. The Fulani cattle-owners use sales proceeds to school fees, and fines for crop damage, and pay taxes at it were in the past. The purchase of household needs and the meeting of important social and religious commitments are strong reasons for a Fulani man to take his animals to the market (Fricke 1979; Vengroff 1980; Frantz 1981; and Awogbade 1982).

Unlike the selling of animals, the selling of dairy products is widespread among the Fulani. The traditional pastoral sector is noted for the production of milk. The vending of milk is the most important economic preoccupation of the Fulani. Milk selling, however, faces many challenges in Nigeria, as the section that follows explains.

It must be added that one of the recurring problems in livestock transfer in the frequent ethnic clashes involving the Fulani directly or their pathways. Recently, newspapers have reported disruption of livestock movement to the East as a result of the crisis in the middle section of the country. It is also obvious too that the escalation of animosity against the Fulani by southern tribes have forced a reduction in commercial beef production. At one time, for instance, the Fulani and the cattle brokers threaten to close the cattle market at Enugu and move it northward to Makurdi if attacks on the Fulani and their cattle continue in the east.


The Fulani use road, rail and hooves to transport their cattle to the south. The problems of the rails is inadequate coaches and freight facilities suitable for the herds. Roads are faster and more convenient for the Fulani, but the cost is high and road networks in the rural areas inadequate or at best seasonal to meet the transportation need of the Fulani. Overland drovage is extraneous, time consuming, and often very risky. The solution is for the government to improve feeder roads especially in the rural areas and to ensure safety of the Fulani and their livestock enterprise.