Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (9) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Pre-weaning growth performances of Fogera calves at Metekel cattle improvement and multiplication ranch, North West Ethiopia

Melaku Menale, Zeleke Mekuriaw*, Getinet Mekuriaw* and Mengistie Taye*

Woreta College of Agriculture, P.O.Box 06, Wereta, Ethiopia
* Bahir Dar University, Department of Animal Production and Technology, P.O.Box 79, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia


This paper reports the birth weight, weaning weight and average daily body weight gain, and the non-genetic factors affecting these traits of Fogera cattle at Metekel cattle breeding and improvement ranch. Data collected from 1999 to 2008 were analysed using general linear model procedures. The fixed effects considered were sex of calf, season of birth, parity of dam and year of birth.

The overall least square mean birth weight, weaning weight and average daily body weight gain obtained were 20.7▒0.11 kg, 88.6▒1.3 kg and 2973.63 gram, respectively. Birth weight was affected by all fixed effects considered except parity of dam. Similarly, weaning weight was influenced by season of calving, parity of dam and year of birth while sex of calf had no significant effect. Average pre-weaning daily body weight gain was influenced by year of birth and parity of dam but not affected by sex of calf and season of birth. The current study revealed that Fogera calves had lower birth and weaning weights compared to the previous works on the same breed which could be due to both genetic (inbreeding) and non-genetic factors and weak managerial procedures. Therefore, revising the selection program (use of genetic parameter estimates, breeding values) and improving the management levels would help the ranch achieve its objective. Strict herd management practices need to be forwarded. 

Key words: average daily weight gain, birth weight, Fogera cattle, weaning weight


Growth performance is very determinant parameter for beef and dual purpose cattle. It is primarily expressed and described by body weight and growth rate. Body weight changes of cattle are dependent on genetic and environmental factors. One of the major environmental factors that control cattle growth is feed to which the availability itself depends on climatic conditions. High growth rate is a very important parameter for beef enterprises. Mekonnen and Goshu (1996) reported that traits such as birth and weaning weight as well as growth and survival to weaning have important implications on herd productivity, management system, adaptability and breeding policy to be followed.  

The Fogera breed (a Zebu x Sanga breed) is one of the 27 identified breeds of cattle in the country found distributed in a plain around Lake Tana, northwestern Ethiopia. It has been mentioned that Fogera cattle has important traits as milk production, meat production and traction as compared to other highland breeds of the country, probably because of its larger body size. In addition, it has the ability to survive and produce well in marshy areas and with worm burden (Alberro and Hailemariam 1982; Mekonen and Goshu 1996; Gebeyehu et al 2004).  

This paper reports the birth and weaning weights of Fogera cattle as affected by different non-genetic factors under station management system in Metekel cattle breeding and multiplication ranch.

Materials and methods

Description of the study area

Metekel cattle breeding and improvement ranch is found in Agew-Awi zone of the Amhara national regional state, Ethiopia. Metekel is located at 10║55┤ North latitude and 36║26┤ East longitude. It has an elevation ranging between 1500 and 1680 masl and it is rimmed by hills reaching up to 2000 m above sea level high (MOA 1988). 

The climate of the area can be classified as sub-humid, characterized by contrasting very wet and very dry seasons. Metekel has a bi-modal distribution of rainfall receiving the highest amount of precipitation from May to October (Kiremt) while the short rainy season (Belg) is between February and April. The dry season is from November to January. The mean annual rainfall is 1615 mm. Average temperature ranges from 12 to 27║C, with monthly mean minimum and maximum occurring in December (7.9║C) and in April (31.2║C), respectively (ENMA unpublished). 

The soil at the ranch can be broadly classified as red, brownish-red and dark brown, derived from basaltic rocks and characterized by moderate drainage. The vegetation is mostly composed of perennial grasses. Few scattered trees (5%) are also present. The range condition varies from poor to fair due different environmental and human factors. According to MOA (1988) the vegetation is divided in to three groups as less desirable, desirable and undesirable, based on their nutritional importance to the cattle. The less desirable species prevail in the pasture and their proportion is around 35%. They are mainly represented by Digitaria abyssinica, Cynodon dactylon, Sporobolus natalensis, Setaria pumila, Kullinga odorata, and Digitaria ternata. Among the desirable species (25%), the most representative ones are Paspalum orbiculare, Setaria sphacelata and Hyperrhenia species. Undesirable species which accounts to 30% are Coreopsis species, Borreria species, Guizotia scabra. Scattered bushes not grazed by animals such as Argyrolobium species, Clemtis hirsuta, Leonotis species are also found (MOA 1988). 

Management practices
Breed of cattle

Pure bred Fogera and their crosses with Holstein Friesian cattle are maintained in the ranch. Fogera cattle are considered as a definite breed, having its own characteristics. The breed originates from the area around Lake Tana in Fogera plains, where their population was estimated to be around 800,000 in 1980 (Alberro and Hailemariam 1982) and 15,000 heads in 2000 (Gebeyehu et al 2004). Phenotypicaly, they are characterised as large size and tall animals with long legs. Their identifiable coat color being white with black spots or pure white, have small horns, very large dew-lap, pendulous naval flap and preputial sheath, and they are docile. The hump is small and cervical or cervico-thoracic in position representing the sanga influence. These cattle are as intermediate zebu-sanga type, the so-called zanga (Alberro and Haile-Mariam 1982) 

Cattle breeding and management

The breeding program has two components, selection and crossbreeding. Replacement bull calves and female calves were selected based on their physical characteristics, growth performance and health status.  

Cattle were herded based on breed, sex and age groups. During the day time animals graze on natural pasture. The main sources of water are year-round rivers; namely Ardi and Dura bounding the ranch and also tap-water for lactating Fogera cows, crossbred stock and sick animals. 

As to the herd health management, there was vaccination against blackleg, pasturellosis, and anthrax in every 6 to 8 months and once per year for contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia (CBPP). Deworming was practiced twice a year, at the beginning and end of the rainy season. To control external parasites, cattle were sprayed once every two weeks when infestation was high, usually during March to October and once in a month in November to February, when infestation was low.  

Data source and management

Data collected from 1999 to 2008 at Metekel cattle breeding ranch was used for the study. The data were extracted and compiled from records kept on each individual animal record and field books. Records had date of entry, calving date, identification number, sex of animal, date and reason of exit, weight records with calving date, calf number, dam and sire number, birth and weaning weight and date, service date and calving date. Data were entered and managed using Excel spread sheet. 

Calves born were registered, tagged and weighed on the day of birth. The identification number of calves, sires and dams, sex, weight and description of hair-coat color were all recorded in the field record book. Information was then transferred to individual cow’s record card and a new card was prepared for each calf. Weaning age was around eight months. Birth and weaning weights were taken from the cow’s and calf’s individual recording cards and field books. Average daily body weight gain was calculated by subtracting birth weight from weaning weight and dividing by weaning age. 

Statistical analysis

The General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of statistical analysis system (SAS 2003) was used to analyse the data.  

The model used to analyse the data was,  

Yijkl = μ+Pi+Rj+Sk+Zl+eijkl 

Where: Yijkl = the observation on birth weight, weaning weight and ADG

μ = over all mean

Pi = effect of ith parity of dam (i = 1, 2, …, ≥7)

Rj = effect of jth sex of calf (j = Male, Female)

Sk = effect of kth birth season (k = Main rain, Dry, Short rain)

Zl = effect of lth birth year (l = 1999, 2000, …, 2008)

eijkl = random error

Result and discussion

Birth weight

The overall least squares means of birth weight, weaning weight and average daily gain of Fogera calves are presented in Table 1. The mean birth weight of Fogera calves obtained in the present study (20.70.11 kg) is less than previous reports on the same breed (Asheber 1992; Addisu 1999; Giday 2001; Addisu et al 2010). It is also less than the values reported for Boran calves (Trail et al 1985; Kassa and Arnason 1986; Mekonnen 1987; Yohannes et al 2001; Amsalu 2003) and Ogaden calves (Getinet et al 2009). However, the observed value is greater than the birth weight reported for Horro breed (Kebede and Galal 1982). 

Birth weight was found to be affected by sex of calf, season of birth and year of birth while parity of dam exerted non significant effect (Table1). Male calves were heavier than their female counterparts (21.3▒0.08 kg vs. 20.5▒0.08 kg). This is consistent with the reports for Boran breed (Kassa and Arnason 1986; Amsalu 2003) and for Fogera breed (Asheber 1992; Addisu 1999; Giday 2001). However, Kebede and Galal (1982), Maarof and Arafat (1987) and Wilson and Traole (1988), reported that sex of the calf had little or non-significant effect on birth weight.


Calves born during the dry season were heavier than those born during the short rainy season. This might be because dams calved in the dry season would have better nutrition during the previous season therefore be in a batter body condition during calving. Similarly, Giday (2001) observed that Fogera calves born in dry season to be heavier than those born in the main rainy season. The effect of season is also reported by other scholars in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa (Naryanswamy et al 1984; Asheber 1992; Tawah 1992; Addisu 1999; Giday 2001). However, others (Kiwuwa et al 1983; Mekonnen 1987; Amsalu 2003; Getinet et al 2009; Addisu et al 2010) reported non-significant effect of season on birth weight of calves. 

The lack of parity influence on birth weight of Fogera calves, agrees with the findings of Trial and Gregory (1982) and Addisu et al (2010). On the contrary, Asheber (1992), Addisu (1999), Giday (2001) and Getinet et al (2009) found out that parity had a significant influence on birth weight.  

The effect of year of birth is in agreement with the report of Addisu (1999), Giday (2001), Amsalu (2003) and Getinet et al (2009). Calves born in the year 2000 and 2001 had higher birth weight than calves born during the rest of years, while the lowest birth weight was reported in 2008. In general, birth weight declines as year advances might be because the deterioration of the grazing lands due to over grazing, and though no objective data is available, it might be due to inbreeding effect as year advances. The variation of body weight of calves over the years might also be related to the nutritional status of their dams as affected by rainfall pattern and thus with the feed availability as reported by Asheber (1992), Mekonnen et al (1993) and Addisu (1999). In general variability in birth weight across years implies inconsistency of management level of the farm and variability of natural pasture between years.   

Table1. Least squares means and standard errors (LSM▒SE) of growth performance of Fogera cattle from birth to weaning ages


Birth weight, kg

Weaning weight, kg

ADG, gram














Sex of calf





















Season of birth







Main rain














Short rain







Parity of dam
























































Year of birth













































































CV (%)







N = Number of observations; ADG = Average daily weight gain from birth to weaning age; **P<0.01; * P<0.05; NS = Non-significant (P>0.05) 

Weaning weight

The overall least squares mean weaning weight of Fogera calves obtained in the present study (88.6▒1.3 kg) is comparable with the weaning weights reported for Ogaden calves by Getinet et al (2009) and much more than the values estimated by Yohannes et al (2001) for the Boran breed. However, researchers in previous studies on Fogera calves (Asheber 1992; Addisu 1999; Giday 2001) obtained much higher figures. The reduced weaning weight estimation value of this study from the previous works of the same breed might be due to the decline management in the ranch.  

Analysis of variance showed that weaning weight was affected by season of calving and parity of dam and year of calving while sex of calf had no significant effect (Table 1).  

The lack of sex of calf effect on weaning weight is in agreement with that of Asheber (1992), Adissu (1999) and Giday (2001) working on the same breed. The significant difference at birth between the two sexes was eliminated at weaning might be due to preferential care and management offered to female calves. However, studies (Mekonnen 1987; Rege et al 1994; Getinet et al 2009) reported a significant effect of sex on weaning weight of calves. 

Calves born in the short rainy season were heavier than those born in the main rainy season (90.2 kg vs. 86.7 kg), which might be due to the fact that dams calved during the short rainy season would get better available forage in the main rainy season thus produce better milk for the calves while those calved in the main rainy season immediately gets in the dry season. This result is in agreement with reports of Trial et al (1985), Mekonnen (1987), Asheber (1992) and Adissu (1999). However, Getinet et al (2009) found non significant effect of season on weaning weight. 

Parity of dam influence on weaning weight could be related to milking and mothering ability of the dams. The lowest weaning weights were recorded for calves from first calvers and from the last calvers. Less milk production by younger and older cows can bring a calf with lower weaning weight. The lower weaning weight from first parity younger cows might be due to the higher nutritional requirement of the dam for their own growth, lactation and body maintenance that inturn may not be fulfilled only by grazing. On the other hand, older cows, due to their reduced ability to cope up with nutritional and other stress factors associated with aging, their milk production is reduced which may tend to produce lighter weaner calves at weaning. The effect of parity in the study is similar with earlier reports (Asheber 1992; Rege et al 1994; Addisu 1999; Giday 2001; Getinet et al 2009).  

Year of birth of the calves effect is consistent with the result obtained in the same breed of cattle (Asheber 1992; Addisu 1999; Giday 2001). The highest value was recorded in the year 2000 and the lowest was in 2006. This variation might be due to the difference of overall management such as differences in feeding due to variation of rainfall, disease control and any other factors. Other scholars, (Mekonnen 1987; Asheber 1992; Adissu 1999; Giday 2001; Getinet et al 2009) have also reported a similar effect of year of birth on weaning weight. 

Average daily weight gain (ADG)

The average daily body weight gain obtained in the current study was 2973.63 g (Table 1). The result is lower than the result obtained for the same breed by Adissu (1999) and Giday (2001). But it was higher than what has been reported for Friesian cattle breed in the hot humid forest zone by Osel et al (1991). In the present study, there was no influence of sex and season on ADG. Similar result was found by Getinet et al (2009) while significant influence was reported by Adissu (1999).

Figure 1. Average daily body weight gain (gram) of Fogera calves over years (1999-2006)

Parity had an effect on average daily body weight gain. The calves born from the seventh parity dams performed lower. This might be due to the old age of the dams that leads to reduction in milk yield and that affects the birth weight and subsquent growth of the calf. This result is in agreement with finding of Getinet et al (2009).  

Year of birth affected average daily body weight gain of Fogera calves. The highest ADG was attained in 2000 (324▒5.06 g) and the least in 2006 (256▒7.44 g). The general trend (Figure 1) is that average daily body weight gain decreased with the advance of birth year. This might be due to the deterioration in the general management of cattle and the variations in climatic conditions and management situations of the ranch. Other researchers (Getinet et al 2009) reported a similar result.

Conclusions and recommendations


The authors would like to thank the Amhara Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development for financing the research. Metekel cattle breeding and multiplication ranch and the staffs are duly acknowledged.  


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Received 24 June 2011; Accepted 26 July 2011; Published 1 September 2011

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