Livestock Research for Rural Development 17 (12) 2005 Guidelines to authors LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Reproductive performances of Fogera cattle and their Friesian crosses in Andassa ranch, Northwestern Ethiopia

G Gebeyehu, A Asmare* and B Asseged

Addis Ababa University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, PO Box 34, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia ;
*Mekelle University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine PO Box 231, Mekelle, Ethiopia


A study was conducted in Andassa Cattle Breeding and Improvement Ranch (ACBIR), northwestern Ethiopia, with the aims of assessing the reproductive performance of Fogera cattle and their Friesian crosses. The study involved the use of data compiled on record books and individual animal cards, and monitoring. General Linear Model (GLM) was used to analyze the data.

The overall mean age at first service (AFS), number of services per-conception (NSC) and days open (DO) were 40.6±8 months, 1.62±0.1 and 305±10 days respectively. AFS was significantly affected by breed group; NSC and DO were significantly affected by parity of the cows; whereas season of birth/calving does not seem to have a significant effect on any of the traits measured.

Although wide variations were recorded among study subjects, the performance of the breed (and the crosses) was low indicating that poor management prevails in the center. The wide ranges of values recorded, however, create an avenue to improve the performance of the breed or its crosses through rigorous selection procedures.

Key words: crossbred, Fogera, Friesian, parity, season


The productivity of cattle depends largely on their reproductive performance (Arthur et al 1989; Mukasa-Mugerwa 1989). Among the reproductive traits, age at first service (AFS), number of services per conception (NSC), days open (DO) and calving interval (CI) are the bases for a profitable dairy farming (Enyew et al 1999). The heritabilities of these traits are low, so that environmental factors, including management conditions, play a significant role in the variability of the traits (Olori et al 2002).

The Fogera Cattle are found in the northwestern Ethiopia, distributed around Lake Tana. Alberro and Hailemariam (1982) and Gebeyehu et al (2004) documented the distribution and population size of the breed. What was learnt from those reports, among other things, was that in terms of the population size and utility, the Fogera breed is important in Ethiopian livestock economy. So far, the breed has been maintained for pure and cross breeding purposes in Andassa Cattle Breeding and Improvement Ranch (ACBIR), northwestern Ethiopia, since 1961. However, because of the knowledge gap about the associated factors, it was not possible to devise and implement effective measures that can enhance the reproductive performances of the breed. The present study was designed to assess the reproductive performance of Fogera breed and its F1 Friesian crosses under the management conditions of the ranch.

Materials and methods

Study site

Andassa Cattle Breeding and Improvement Ranch is located at 11°29'¢N Latitude and 37°29'¢E Longitude, 500 km northwest of Addis Ababa, at an elevation of 1730 m above sea level. The total area of the ranch is 356 ha. The mean annual rainfall ranges from 550-1600 mm, which falls from June to September; the mean temperature is 18 ºC. The topography of the area is marked by a flat-to-gentle slope that is bisected by Anadassa River, a permanent water source for the animals. The dominant vegetation of the area includes Cynodon, Hyperrhenia, Andropogon, and Trifolium species.

Breeding program

The ranch runs two breeding schemes: the pure Fogera Breeding Unit (FBU) and the Cross Breeding Unit (CBU). In the FBU, the practice is to run the Fogera bull among 40-50 breeding cows for three months during the breeding season (September to December). Females produced in this unit are retained as replacement heifers on the basis of their growth performance and health status. In the CBU, Fogera heifers are bred to Friesian sires by artificial insemination throughout the year. The F1 heifers produced are then bred to a Friesian bull (by AI), and handed over to the community after pregnancy is confirmed.

Herd management

Animals are herded in-group based on their age, sex and breed. Grazing constitutes the basal ration, but hay, made of natural pasture, is additionally supplemented during the dry season. Concentrate feed composed of wheat bran and nougcake (oil cake of Guizotia abyssinica) is also supplemented to lactating and pregnant cows. Calves are allowed to run with their dams till they reach the weaning age (8 mo), and later on are selected for further breeding program based on their weaning weight, body conformation and health status.

Data collection and analysis

To determine AFS, 342 heifers (155 Fogera and 187 F1 Friesain-Fogera crosses) that had survived the first 600 days of life were selected and monitored until the first heat-sign was manifested. Weaning weight was additionally considered during final analysis of AFS. Similarly, NSC was determined for the 342 breeding-age heifers and 833 Fogera cows. Additionally, DO was determined for the cows. All the traits were measured for the effects of season (wet season, June-September and dry season, October-May) and parity (heifers and 6 levels of parities); and were analyzed using the General Linear Model (Statgraphics Plus 2.1);



Yij is dependent variable (NSC, DO, and AFS),
m is overall mean,
Si is season effect,
Pj, is effect of parity and
eij is a random error.

In all the analyses, confidence level was held at 95% and P≤0.05 was set for significance.


Table 1 summarizes the least-squares means of age at first service (AFS), number of services per conception (NSC), and days open (DO) by parity, breed group, and calving season. It can be appreciated from the table that the overall mean for AFS was 40.6±0.8 months. Breed specific AFS estimates were 36.8±0.8 months for F1 Friesian-Fogera crosses and 45.4±1.2 months for Fogera heifers. The difference between the mean values of the two groups was statistically significant (P<0.001).

Table 1. Least-squares means  (SE) of number of services per conception (NSC), days open (DO) and age at first service (AFS) for, breed group, season and parity




DO, days

AFS, months















































1.50.09 ab







1.60.07 bc







1.40.07 a







1.60.10 bc







1.70.10 c







1.90.10 cd







2.00.10 d





NB: Within  variable groups, values carrying different superscripts are significantly different
Values with no superscripts are not significantly different
+ Crossbreds were given out to farmers as an in-heifers after conception is confirmed.

The cumulative proportion of F1 heifers reaching puberty is constantly higher than for the pure Fogera heifers till they reach the age of 45 months and above (Figure 1), indicating that crossbred heifers reach puberty earlier than the purebred heifers.

Figure 1.Cumulative proportion (%)of heifers (Fogera and F1 Crosses) attaining puberty at different age

The striking feature of this analysis is that crossbred heifers having average (and above) weaning weights performed better than heifers having below average weaning weight (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Cumulative proportion of F1 heifers attaining maturity at different ages
according to their weaning weight

On the other hand, the effect of weaning weight on attaining maturity was not so conspicuous for purebred Fogera heifers (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Cumulative proportion of Fogera heifers attaining maturity at different ages
based on their weaning weight

The overall mean NSC was 1.62±0.1, and it ranged from 1-5 and 1-9 in heifers and cows respectively. The NSC was found to be significantly affected by parity classes, but not by breed and season. Similarly, DO consistently decreased from the 1st through the 4th parity classes, but then raised to reach an average maximum of 338 days at the 6th and above parity classes (Table 1).


The overall mean AFS reported in this study was higher than the previous reports for zebu cattle and their Friesian crosses (Tegegne et al 1981; Alberro 1983; Yoseph et al 2000). Irregularities in feed supply and differences in the management systems may bring about variations in AFS at different localities. However, the present finding was consistent with the earlier reports on the same breed (Asheber 1992) indicating that the trait has been relatively stable over the years. F1 Friesian-Fogera crosses were younger at puberty compared to pure Fogera heifers (Table 1; Figure 1). This could be attributed to the effect of individual heterosis and additive genetic effects resulting from cross breeding Friesian bulls, which have faster growth rate, with Fogera cows. Previously, Arije and Wiltbank (1971) and Knuderson and Sohael (1970), working respectively on Hereford heifers and white Fulani and their Friesian crosses, similarly documented a significant effect of breed on AFS. In the contrary, an insignificant effect of sire breed on AFS has been documented (Rajan et al 1981). On the other hand, in agreement to an earlier report (Giday 2001), season of birth did not show any association with AFS (Table 1), although other authors (Badway et al 1973; Rajan et al 1981) reported a seasonal variability of AFS, which could be associated with feed availability that in turn affect the preweaning growth rate.

The overall mean NSC reported in this study (Table 1) agrees with an earlier study conducted on the same breed at a different locality (Hailemariam and Mekonnen 1987), but it was lower than other reports from the country (Tegegne et al 1981; Alberro 1983; Kiwuwa et al 1983; Hailemariam et al 1993; Asseged and Birhanu 2004). The NSC depends largely on the breeding system used; being higher under uncontrolled natural breeding, and lower where hand-mating or AI is used (Mukasa-Mugerwa 1989). The significant effect of parity of the dam on the NSC (Table 1) was consistent with previous reports (Sharma and Bhatnagar 1975; Tadesse et al 2000), and could be produced by mild infections gaining access to the reproductive tract and the increased probability of developing reproductive abnormalities after repeated calvings (Arthur et al 1989). In agreement with previous reports (El-Amin et al 1981; Hailemariam and Mekonnen 1987; Giday 2001; Asseged and Birhanu 2004) breed group had no significant influence on the NSC (Table 1). Similarly, calving season failed to show a significant association with the NSC although cows that calved in the dry season needed 0.1 more extra service per conception compared to those calved in the wet season (Table 1), probably due to decreased fertility and lowered embryonic viability resulting from high ambient temperature (Thatcher 1974). Corresponding increase in the NSC during the dry months of the year has been reported in Ethiopia (Tegegne 1981; Giday 2001).

The mean DO consistently decreased to attain the minimum value of 259 days at 4th parity, and then increased to reach the average maximum of 338 days at 6th and above parity classes (Figure 1). Resumption of ovarian activity often takes irregular pattern in primiparous cows, but weaker and older cows often take much longer time to recover from successive pregnancy, parturition and lactation stresses (Giday 2001). In line with this finding, Nega and Sendros (2000) previously recommended to cull cows over 8-years old, in order to maintain an optimum productivity. In general, the mean DO obtained in this study is far from being 'optimum' to attain a calving interval of 365-385 days (Peters 1984). Low NSC but protracted DO reported in this study may indicate missed heat signs, service irregularities and/or poor record keeping (McDowell 1972). Nutritional deficiencies coupled with heavy internal and external parasite load under extensive management systems, and allowing calves to suckle their dams may all interfere with ovarian function, thereby prolonging the DO (Short et al 1990; Hafez 1993). In the present study, calving season had no significant effect on DO (Table 1). Similarly, previous studies (Agyemang and Nkhonjera 1990; Asheber 1992) failed to show any association between calving season and DO although Rao (1984); Yimam (1994) and Giday (2001) noted a significant effect due to seasonal variations in ambient temperature and feed availability, which have recognizable influence on the reproductive physiology of the cows.


This study has shown that the reproductive performances of Fogera cows and their Friesian crosses are very poor. However, the traits measured showed significant variation among animals, indicating a remarkable improvement can be achieved through rigorous selection of indigenous breeds for crossbreeding program based on their performance data and health status.


The authors would like to thank the management unit and the experts of the center for their unreserved help during data collection.


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Received 11 August 2005; Accepted 3 September 2005; Published 1 December 2005

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