Livestock Research for Rural Development 20 (4) 2008 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Characteristics and constraints of crossbred dairy cattle production in lowland areas of Eastern Ethiopia

Emebet Mureda and Zeleke Mekuriaw Zeleke*

Agricultural College, ATVET, Holleta, Ethiopia
*Bahir Dar University, PO Box 1866, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Zeleke_Mekuriaw@yahoo.co.uk

Abstract

The study was conducted with the aim of assessing characteristics and constraints of crossbred dairy cattle (Holstein Friesian X Zebu) production in Dire-Dawa administrative region, eastern Ethiopia. The study covered 57 farms and 304 crossbred cows found in three dairy production systems, namely small scale (SS), Medium scale (MS) and large scale (LS) with 44, 115 and 169 cows.  Data on general farm management variables feed resources and herd health problems were collected by means of questionnaire and from individual cow records.

 

The main sources of feed for SS farms were concentrate, non-conventional feeds, hay and crop residues with the respective proportions of 97, 85, 79 and 66.7%. The proportion of farms from MS that used concentrate, hay, and crop residue were 95, 81 and 67%, respectively. The main sources of feed for LS farms were hay and concentrate. All farms from LS and 67% of farms from MS reported mastitis, calf scour and reproductive disorders as major herd health problems. In SS, only 24, 15 and 15% of farms reported the occurrence of the respective health problems. The principal postpartum reproductive health problems across all the systems were retention of placenta (19.4%), anoestrus (17.1%) and uterine infections (15.2%). There was no significant difference (p< 0.05) among production systems for these variables.

 

An appropriate feed resource and reproductive herd health management, a reliable AI service and an appropriate level of husbandry could be the management options to alleviate some of the prevailing problems.

Key words: crossbred dairy cattle; feed resources; production systems; health, management; reproduction


Introduction

Ethiopia is known for its huge livestock population; however, meat and milk production are very low. The country’s per capita milk consumption is estimated to be about 19.2kg per year, which is far below the average per capita consumption of Africa, 37.2kg per year (FAO 2000). Many countries have experienced very vast development in dairy sector in or around the largest urban centers, responding immediately to the market demand and profiting from the lack of links between the rural producer and the urban consumer. In Ethiopia too, urban and peri-urban dairy production systems are emerging as an important component of the milk production system. This system is contributing immensely towards filling in the large demand-supply gap for milk and milk products in urban centers, where consumption of milk and milk products is remarkably high (Azage and Alemu 1998). The urban and peri-urban dairy production system has tremendous potential for development and could play a significant role in minimizing the acute shortage of dairy products in urban centers of Ethiopia. However, except in towns situated in the central highland areas of Ethiopia including the capital city, very little work has been done to identify overall husbandry practices and constraints of dairy production systems in towns, especially situated in hot lowland areas. This study was, therefore, initiated to characterize husbandry practices and constraints of crossbred dairy production in urban and peri-urban areas of Dire-Dawa administrative region.

 

Materials and methods 

The study was conducted out in Dire Dawa administrative region (Figure 1) which is located in eastern part of Ethiopia between 9027'E and 49'N latitude and between 41038' N and 19'E longitude occupying about 133,000ha of land.



Figure 1.
 Map of the study area


The area comprises of diversified topography features with altitude varying from 950 masl in the Northeast lowlands to 2,260 masl in the Southeast highlands (DDACADO 1998). The study area has a bimodal rainfall with the mean annual rainfall varying from 550 mm in the Northern lowlands to about 850 mm in the Southern mountains. The short rainy season is from April to May whereas the main rainy season is from July to September. The mean monthly maximum and minimum temperatures are 28.1 and 14.50C (DDACAO 1998). Short-cycle annuals dominate the herbaceous layer, however, there are also perennials among which acacia is dominant and provides dry-season forage.

 

The farms considered for this study were categorised into defined strata based on dairy cattle herd size. These were small scale dairy production (SSDP), medium scale dairy production (MSDP) and large scale dairy production (LSDP) having 5 or less, 6 to 30 and 72 to 171 dairy cattle, respectively. The numbers of study farms, total herd size and herd structure in each production systems are summarized in Table 1.


Table 1.  Dairy cattle herd structure in three different production systems in Dire-Dawa administrative region

Category1

Total no. of Farms

Cows

Heifers

Female calves

Male calves

Bulls

Indigenous cattle

Total

SSDP

33

44

25

14

12

7

6

108

MSDP

21

115

58

22

17

10

15

237

LSDP

3

169

69

72

43

4

_

357

Total

57

328

152

108

72

21

21

702

1 SSDP= Small Scale dairy production; MSDP= Medium scale dairy production

LSDP= Large scale dairy production


Purposive sampling method was employed to select study farms that have got individual dairy cattle reproductive history or able to recall reproductive history of at least the last calving and willing to be part of the study. In all production systems, farms having crossbred cows and heifers were considered. A cross-sectional survey was carried out across the farms in Dire- Dawa Administrative region and then pre-designed structured questionnaires were developed, tested and administered to farm owners and attendants of all farms considered for the study. The questionnaire addresses livestock composition (herd size and herd structure), management (feed resources and feeding system, watering, husbandry and herd health problems) and reproduction (measure of reproductive performance, major dairy cattle reproductive problems and herd reproductive health management). Observational study on management, feeding, herd health and reproductive parameters and abnormalities were undertaken. Besides, individual animal records were included in the study from individual record sheets. Data on management forces (family labour versus employee), housing (floor and roof type, drainage and ventilation, presence of calving stall), general farm hygiene and recording systems and culling reason were collected. Similarly, feeding system, feed types, source of water and frequency of watering were recorded. Major dairy cattle health problems encountered and prophylactic measures undertaken were also recorded.

 

Descriptive statistics was used to illustrate the various variables in the production system including husbandry and management variables, inventory of feed types, feeding systems and herd health problems by using Statistical Analysis System Software (SAS 2002/3).

 

Results and discussion 

Husbandry and management

 

Herd size, herd structure and breeds of dairy cattle in the three farming systems are summarized in Table 2.


Table 2.  Average herd size, herd structure and dominant cattle breeds in each production systems in Dire-Dawa administrative region

Variables

Production systems1

SSDP (n=33)

MSDP (n=21)

LSDP(n=3)

Herd Size

 

 

 

 

Mean SD

3.2 1.7

11.3 6.05

140.7 59.7

 

Range

1 to 5

6 to 29

72 to 171

Herd structure, Mean SD

 

 

 

 

Cows

1.6 0.8

5.8 4.2

56.3 27.5

 

Heifers

1.3 0.6

3.4 3.0

23.0 5.6

 

Heifer calves

1.4 0.5

2.0 0.9

24.0 7.9

 

Male calves

1.3 0.5

1.5 1.0

14.3 10.7

 

Bulls, %

0.0

33.3

66.7

Dominant cattle breed, % farms

 

 

 

 

Friesian crosses

87.9

81.0

33.3

 

Jersey crosses

0.0

4.8

0.0

 

Friesian crosses and local zebu

12.1

9.5

0.0

 

Friesian and Jersey crosses

0.0

4.8

66.7

Presence of other species,  % farms

63.6

52.4

100.0

1 SSDP = Small scale dairy Production; MSDP = Medium scale dairy production;

LSDP= Large scale dairy Production; n = number of farms


Farmers under SSDP, MSDP and LSDP systems possessed on average 3.24, 11.29 and 140.67 heads of crossbred cattle, respectively. In all the systems, farmers possessed dairy cows followed by heifers as their future herd replacement animals. The dominant dairy cattle breed across all the farm categories was a Friesian cross and only few farms from medium scale and large scales kept few Jersey crosses. Appreciable number of farms possessed other species of animals especially goats and poultry. Most of the smallholder dairy producers had no formal access to grazing land. Production was in a backyard utilizing whatever space was available in a compound.

 

Cattle sheds in SSDP were normally small structures made of corrugated metal sheet or mud and wattle and floored with blocks of stone or concrete. In MSDP system, most of the farms (57.14%) use traditional free stall with feeding trough. In both systems, all dairy cattle were managed together and calves kept in one corner of the same house or separately in another house. In all the systems, except one farm from LSDP, where they use both machine and hand milking, cows were hand-milked twice daily and only 28% of farms from SSDP allow suckling before and after milking.

 

None of the SSDP had breeding bulls mainly due to shortage of space and difficulties of management including shortage of feed. On the other hand, some of the MSDP and all of the LSDP had breeding bulls as an alternative to artificial insemination.

 

In LSDP systems, dairy cattle were kept in a modern barn but had no individual cattle pen (Table 3).


Table 3.  General aspects of dairy cattle husbandry and management practices in Dire-Dawa administrative region

Husbandry variables, % farms

Production systems1

SSDP (n=33)

MSDP (n=21)

LSSDP (n=3)

Management and Labor force

 

 

 

 

Family management

100

95.2

33.3

 

Employed manager

0.0

4.8

66.7

 

Family labor

84.9

57.1

0.0

 

Family and wage employee

15.2

28.6

0.0

 

Wage employee

0.0

14.3

100

Record keeping

54.6

71.4

66.7

Housing

 

 

 

 

Traditional free stall

87.9

57.1

0.0

 

Modern barn with individual cattle pen

0.0

4.8

0.0

       

Modern barn without individual cattle pen

9.1

28.6

100

 

Open barn (only fence)

3.0

9.5

0.0

Presence of calving pen

0.0

4.8

66.7

Floor type, % farm

 

 

 

 

Hardened soil

69.7

52.4

0.0

 

Concrete

27.3

47.6

100

 

Stone slab

3.0

0.0

0.0

Drainage

 

 

 

 

Good

0.0

19.1

66.7

 

Satisfactory

57.6

47.6

0.0

 

Poor

42.4

33.3

33.3

General farm hygiene

 

 

 

 

Good

60.6

23.8

66.7

 

Satisfactory

27.3

52.4

33.3

 

Poor

12.1

23.8

0.0

Major culling reason

 

 

 

 

Production

18.2

47.6

100

 

Feed shortage

21.2

47.6

33.3

 

Health problems

21.2

28.6

66.7

 

Financial requirement

21.2

38.1

0.0

1 SSDP = Small scale dairy production; MSDP = Medium scale dairy production; LSDP = Large scale dairy production; n = Number of farms


Lactating and dry cows were housed together.  Male and female calves and heifers were also housed together whereas breeding bulls were kept in separate place in the corners of the same barn. None of the producers in all the systems had separate calving pen. The general farm hygiene in 60.6 % and 66.7% of farms from SSDP and LSDP respectively was good. But most of the dairy farms from MSDP had fallen under satisfactory (52.4%) or poor (23.8). This was due to lack of sufficient space in the compound. These groups were neither well developed, having their own large farm size with grazing field, nor remained smaller with few manageable dairy herds.

 

A major problem in dairy herds regarding housing is the lack of sufficient space for age and physiological status groups of animals (Martin 1973). The need to group cows, based on their physiological status of production or reproduction was reported as mandatory, especially in large herds. Some of the most important reproductive problems were associated with the design of facilities and management of the environment (Radostitis et al 1994).

 

The management and labor forces in SSDP and MSDP systems were largely from family whereas in LSDP, the management and labor forces were professional or non-professional employees. 

 

Keeping of production and reproduction records was practiced in 54.6, 71.4 and 66.7% of farms from SSDP, MSDP and LSDP systems, respectively. In SSDP systems, farm owners, though did not have proper recording systems, keep artificial insemination (AI) recording card and receipts and closely follow up productive and reproductive efficiency of their cows.  Except one farm from LSDP, the recording system was not well developed. A number of farms, even if they have got the recording systems, kept only milk production records to follow up their financial aspects. They fail to realize the importance of reproductive efficiency for milk production. In general, the development and use of simple and understandable recording systems in all the production systems is of paramount importance.

 

Financial requirements, feed shortage and health problems were stated as the major reason for culling of dairy animals in SSDP and MSDP systems, whereas in LSDP the major reason stated was low milk production followed by health problems. In general, in all farms of every system, it is common to maintain unproductive animals, especially animals with poor reproductive performance. These could probably be due to lack of external source of replacement animals to maintain or expand herd size.

 

Breeding practices, methods used for heat detection and basic understanding of estrus are summarized in (Table 4).


Table 4.  Proportions of farms using different methods of breeding, heat detection and basic understanding of estrus signs

Breeding variables, % farms

Production systems1

SSDP (n=33)

MSDP (n=21)

LSSDP (n=3)

Method of breeding

 

 

 

 

Using only AI

69.7

76.2

33.3

 

Using both bull and AI

30.3

23.7

66.7

Method of heat detection

 

 

 

 

Observation by farmer or farm attendants

78.8

66.7

100

 

Using bull

9.1

28.6

0.0

 

Using teaser bull

0.0

0.0

33.3

 

Do nothing

9.1

4.8

0.0

Basic understanding of estrus 2

 

 

 

 

Excellent

33.3

28.6

66.7

 

Satisfactory

45.5

57.2

33.3

 

Poor

21.2

14.3

0.0

1 SSDP = Small scale dairy production; MSDP = Medium scale dairy production; LSDP = Large scale dairy production               

2 Excellent: for those who lists more than 75% of heat signs including standing heat

Satisfactory: for those who lists 50% to 75% of heat signs; Poor: for those who listed less than 50% of heat signs; n = Number of farms


Most of the farms from LSDP use both AI and natural mating. On the other hand, most of the dairy farms (69.7% and 76.2% from SSDP and MSDP, respectively) use only AI. The main reason for depending on AI alone was lack of space and shortage of feed to keep bulls. Across all the systems, detection of heat was monitored by observing female animals twice a day. With the exception of LSDP, the rest did not have specific time for heat detection. Only one farm from LSDP had teaser bull to detect animals in heat. Basic understanding of estrus was evaluated, and most of the farms from SSDP and MSDP were evaluated as satisfactory with appreciable number being poor. As professionals were engaged in managing most of the farms from LSDP, their understanding about estrus was excellent. Basic understanding of the estrous cycle and behaviors were reported as important factor if dairy business had to remain profitable (Roberts 1986; Arthur et al 1989; Mukasa-Mugrewa 1989). The greatest limiting factor to successful fertilization and reproductive performance is also associated with detection of estrus (Peters 1984; Mukasa-Mugerwa 1989; Radostitis et al 1994). To detect heats accurately the dairyman must have a basic understanding of the estrous cycle of the cow. The estrous cycle is a period of time when orderly changes occur in the cow's reproductive organs, hormone levels and sexual behavior (Radostitis et al 1994). A number of similar findings on the husbandry and management aspects of dairy production systems of Ethiopia were reported (Kiwuwa et al 1983; Mukasa-Mugerwa 1989; Yoseph 1999).

 

Feed resources and feeding systems

 

In the study area, dairy animals were fed a variety of feed materials (Table 5) depending largely on the availability. The feed resources were categorized in to six classes: Foraging/grazing, hay, green feeds, crop residues, concentrate and non-conventional feeds including chat (Catha edulis).


Table 5.  Major feeding systems practiced and proportional utilization of feed resources in dairy farms in Dire-Dawa administrative region

Variables

Production systems1

SSDP (n=33)

MSDP (n=21)

LSDP (n=3)

Feeding systems, % farms

 

 

 

 

Extensive

9.1

23.8

0.0

 

Intensive

72.7

38.1

100

 

Semi intensive

18.2

38.10

0.00

Main feed types, % farms

 

 

 

 

Grazing/ Foraging

27.3

61.9

0.0

 

Hay

78.8

81.0

100

 

Green feed (legumes, grass, legume trees)

39.4

33.3

66.7

 

Crop residue (Sorghum and maize stover, wheat straw)

66.7

66.7

66.7

 

Concentrate (Grains, oil seed cakes, wheat bran, commercial mix, brewery spent grain and molasses)

97.0

95.2

100

 

Mineral supplement (Common salt)

100

95.2

100

 

Non conventional feeds (Attella: local brewery and liquor residue, chat, vegetable and fruit waste, leftover food)

84.9

33.3

0.0

Source of water, %

 

 

 

 

River

0

0

0

 

Well

6.1

9.5

33.3

 

Tap water

90.9

90.5

66.7

 

Tap and well water

3.0

0.0

0.0

Frequency of watering, %

 

 

 

 

One time a day

0.0

4.8

0.0

 

Two times a day

18.2

23.8

0.0

 

Three times a day

39.4

23.8

0.0

 

Ad libitum

42.4

47.6

100

1 SSDP = Small scale dairy production; MSDP = Medium scale dairy production;        
  LSDP = Large scale dairy production; n = Number of farms


None of farms used commercial mineral leaks except common salt, which was usually added to supplements. Grazing in the wet season on public open fields and road sides, and foraging in the dry season on a road and in a village waste disposal and marketing areas was practiced by 27 % of farms from SSDP and 62% of farms from MSDP. None of the LSDP practiced grazing or foraging. Similarly, studies conducted on urban and peri-urban dairy production in central Ethiopia have reported semi zero roadside and public open field grazing as a source of feed (Stall and Shapiro 1996; Yoseph 1999). In accordance to percent of farms utilizing them, the main sources of feed for SSDP were concentrate (97%), non-conventional feeds (85%), hay (79%) and crop residues (66.7%) (Table 5). The proportion of farms from MSDP systems that used concentrate, hay, and crop residue were 95, 8 and 67%, respectively. The main sources of feed for LSDP were hay and concentrate.

 

Smallholder producers did depend to a larger extent on concentrate and non-conventional feeds. The non-conventional feeds used by smallholder dairy producers include the traditional brewery and local liquor residue (attella), chat, vegetables and fruit wastes, and leftover foods. In general, SSDP were using whatever feed they have access to, whereas, the MSDP and the LSDP did depend to a larger extent on hay, crop residue and concentrate. There was a heavy reliance on mill by-product and commercially prepared concentrate. Wheat bran was used by most of the farms. The commonest crop residues used in the area were sorghum and maize stover and wheat straw.

 

In the study area, three types of feeding systems were practiced. These were completely intensive (with common and individual stall feeding), semi-intensive and extensive. Two types of pre-weaning calf feeding systems were also identified. Across all the production systems, 94 % of calves were bucket fed and only 6% of calves were allowed to suckle. The frequency of feeding in both cases was twice a day. Colostrum feeding was a common practice. Almost all farms practice supplementary feeding to the calves starting from the age of three weeks.

 

In all farms in LSDP systems, heifers and female calves after weaning were fed together in a barn. They were fed with hay, crop residues and concentrate. In both SSDP and MSDP, heifers and female calves were fed together with the rest of the herd. None of farms fed their heifers separately. There has been substantial evidence that dietary supplementation of heifers during their growth will reduce the interval from birth to first calving (Azage 1989), probably because heifers that grow faster will cycle earlier and allow easier estrus detection.

 

Almost in all farms from LSDP, milking cows were fed uniformly. Lactating cows were offered about three kilograms of concentrate twice a day while milking. However, in SSDP and MSDP lactating cows were offered with concentrate and other feed staffs such as attella and hay. None of the farms were feeding their dairy cows based on their physiological status. Feeding systems for lactating and non-lactating cows should be based on their physiological status, as the feed requirement varies with the status they are in. For instance, cows in their first lactation require more feeds for body growth in addition to their lactation needs. In general, factors associated with a negative energy balance have been suggested as causes of reproductive failure. High yielding and cows in the early lactation require high-energy diet. However, excessive energy intakes during late lactation and dry periods can lead to "fat cow" problems. Cows that are over-conditioned have a higher incidence of retained placenta, more uterine infections and more cystic ovaries. They also have more metabolic disorders, which again can result in poor reproductive performance (McClure 1970). Body condition scoring is, therefore, recommended to assess the nutritional status of dairy cows during the reproduction cycle (Radostits et al 1994).

 

Common dairy cattle health problems

 

According to respondents, common dairy cattle health problems were mastitis, reproductive disorders, calf scour and pneumonia, and emaciation or poor body condition (Table 6).


Table 6. Common dairy cattle health problems encountered and main prophylactic measures practiced as reported by respondents

Common health problems, % farms

SSDP (n=33)

MSDP(n=21)

LSDP(n=3)

Health problems

 

 

 

 

Reproductive disorders

24.3

66.7

100

 

Mastitis

15.2

47.6

100

 

Calf scour

15.2

47.6

100

 

Pneumonia

21.2

23.8

66.7

 

Emaciation

18.2

52.4

66.7

 

Bloat

18.2

19.1

33.3

 

Hoof and leg problems

12.1

19.1

0.00

 

Skin disease

12.1

19.05

0.00

 

External parasites

12.1

28.6

0.00

Prophylactic measures, (%  farms

 

 

 

 

Vaccination

90.9

95.2

100

 

Deworming

39.4

76.2

66.7

 

Spraying

36.4

71.4

100

1 SSDP = Small scale dairy production; MSDP = Medium scale dairy production;        LSDP = Large scale dairy production;     n = Number of farms


All farms (100%) from LSDP had reported mastitis, calf score and reproductive disorders as major health problems. In SSDP, none of the above health problems were of major concern. In SSDP only 24%, 21% and 15% of farms had reported that they encountered reproductive disorders, pneumonia in calves and mastitis, respectively. In MSDP, 67% of farms had reported that they encountered reproductive health disorders followed by emaciation or poor body condition (52%) and calf scour (48%). As a prophylactic measure most of the farms (91, 95 and 100% from SSDP, MSDP and LSDP, respectively) practiced vaccination. The common vaccines were against blackleg, anthrax, pasteurellosis and foot and mouth disease whenever an outbreak is suspected.

 

Reproductive disorders

 

Across all production systems 30.8% (n=217) of dairy cows showed one or more concurrent reproductive disorders during parturition and postpartum for the last (Figure 2).


Figure 2.  Proportion of crossbred cows with reproductive abnormalities in Dire-Dawa administrative region


There was no significant difference (p > 0.05) among the production systems. The most important reproductive health problems were retention of placenta (19.4%) and anoestrus (17.1%) followed by uterine infections (15.2%) (Figure 3).


 

Figure 3.  Proportions of major reproductive health problems across all production systems
in Dire-Dawa administrative region


Two or more concurrent disorders were seen in 18.8% of dairy cows. The result indicated that there was no association between production systems and the occurrence of reproductive health problems (p > 0.05). Across all production systems cows were affected similarly.

 

Percentages of reproductive disorders were within reported ranges for taurine cows (Erb et al 1981; Coleman et al 1985; Yoseph et al 2005). Similar findings were reported in the study conducted in Central Highlands and West Shewa Zone of Ethiopia where the proportion of cows with reproductive disorders were 38.9% (Yoseph et al 2005). The same authors had reported retained placenta (14.7%) and uterine infections (15.5%) as the most important postpartum reproductive health problems especially in LSDP system. Nevertheless, some studies suggest that the rate of dystocia, retained placenta and postpartum uterine infection should be less than 10% (Weaver and Goodgur 1987).

 

Several factors are implicated as predisposing to reproductive tract infection. Prior to occurrence of retained placenta, stillbirth and dystocia (Yoseph et al 2005) result in a greater incidence of reproductive tract infections. Though there are no studies conducted on brucellosis in Dire-Dawa, farms from MSDP that had screening test for brucellosis have identified positive cows. Presumably, the relatively high percentages of retained placenta and uterine infection in all production systems could be due to brucellosis.

 

Elsewhere in Ethiopia, the prevalence rate of brucellosis was known to be high ranging from 22% to 38% (Muctar 1993; Tariku 1994). The incidence of retained placenta is often high in Brucella infected herds, following dystocia and in cows suffering from certain nutritional and mineral (especially selenium) deficiency (Grunert 1984).

 

In most cows in this study abnormalities at parturition are followed by postpartum reproductive disorders. Presumably this was due to the lack of prompt management and veterinary care for cows that had clinical problems at parturition; hence the animals were predisposed to most of adverse effects of these conditions. Therefore, owing to the significance of the problems, this investigation calls upon an in depth study of reproductive health problems in dairy cattle so as to differentiate the main etiological agents.

 

Conclusions

 

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Received 22 February 2007; Accepted 2 April 2007; Published 4 April 2008

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