Livestock Research for Rural Development 26 (10) 2014 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Productive and reproductive performance of dairy cattle and their crossbreds in Bhutan

J Wangdi, Mindu1, P Bhujel1, Karma1 and S Wangchuk1

RNR-RDC, Jakar, Bumthang
jmewangdi@yahoo.com
1 RNR-RDC, Jakar, Bumthang

Abstract

The study was conducted to establish baseline information pertaining to productive and reproductive performance of dairy breeds and their crossbred in Bhutan. The data from 1340 animals reared by 782 farmers from 14 districts were collected through interview using a structured questionnaire. To corroborate the survey findings on the daily milk yield, actual daily milk yield of 733 animals were also measured using a spring weighing balance with 10g precision. The respondents were composed of members and non-members of the dairy farmers’ groups and the cattle migratory herders. The overall mean lactation record, age at first services, gestation period, heat interval, services per conception, calving interval and days open for the dairy breeds and their crossbred in Bhutan were 303 (SE=2.4) days, 25.3 (SE=0.16) months, 279 (SE=0.31) days, 21.0 days (SE=0.04), 1.33 nos. (SE=0.02), 488 days (SE=2.7) and 149 days (SE=2.58), respectively. The data were registered from a population, at various stages of lactation, lactation number, age and locations covering different agro-ecological zones.

The mean daily milk yields reported by the respondents for once milking for the summer and winter months were 1.54 Kg, 4.23 Kg, 1.62 Kg, 5.07 Kg, 3.49 Kg and 1.08 Kg, 3.03 Kg, 1.08 Kg, 3.58 Kg and 2.07 Kg for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx, respectively. The mean daily milk yield reported for twice milking (morning plus evening) for the summer and winter months were 2.04 Kg, 6.15 Kg, 2.08 Kg, 7.10 Kg, 5.08 Kg and 1.41 Kg, 4.49 Kg, 1.48 Kg, 4.61 Kg and 3.08 Kg for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx respectively. The mean daily milk yield smeasured in the summer months were 1.43 Kg, 3.74 Kg, 1.48 Kg, 4.80 Kg and 3.60 Kg (once milking) and 1.86 Kg, 5.52 Kg, 2.10 Kg, 6.21 Kg and 5.90 Kg (twice milking) for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx, respectively. The total daily milk yield increased by about 30 %, if animals were milked twice in a day. There was no differences on corroborating survey findings with the actual measurement of daily milk yield, indicating reliability of the survey findings. In general, the productive and reproductive performance of dairy breeds and their crossbred in Bhutan were relatively poor. The enhancement of farmers’ skills and knowledge through education on improved cattle management practices, importance of complete milking and adopting twice milking of animals in a day could contribute to economic viability and sustainability of dairy farms in the country.

Keywords: daily milk yield, local cattle, siri, twice milking


Introduction

Livestock is an important sub-sector of agriculture. It plays important role to human health and poverty alleviation in Bhutan. The cattle production is an important part of livestock that plays multi-purpose role – where cows provide milk, meat, clothing, fertilizer, fuel, draft power and also as a means of economic upliftment from the sale of excess milk and milk products. The government has given a highest development priority to the dairy sector since first five year plan until today by ensuring enabling policy supports and allocating substantial resources, considering its importance to rural populace. The annual linear growth of dairy industry if assessed in terms of milk production are commendable. However, much more is yet to be done to boost dairy industry in the country to attain self-sufficiency in dairy products. This could only be achieved through exploitation of full genetic potential of the existing dairy animal resources, for which it is essential to understand the productive and reproductive performance of the dairy breeds and their crossbred in the country.

The reproductive performance of the herd or animal is a key indicator of sustainability of a dairy farming system. However, assessment of productive and reproductive performance depends on composite parameters to assess overall performance evaluation (Islam et al 2006). The important parameters that determine cattle reproductive and productive efficiency are age at first service, age at first calving, birth weight, total milk yield, average milk yield per day, calving to first service interval and calving interval (Dematawawa and Beger 1998). They also reported that these parameters are important in terms of economics of dairy management. Similarly, Mukasa-Mugerwa (1989) reported that the most important parameters to measure the farm economy are calving interval, age at puberty, service per conception, gestation length and birth weight of fetus, and among which calving interval is considered as probably the best index of a cattle herd's to measure reproductive efficiency. Biologically, potential for milk production also depends on age at puberty, early first calving, number of parity and shorter calving interval (Islam et al, 2006).

Nonetheless, in Bhutan such detail or comprehensive baseline information are not available, nor studies are being pursued to understand and establish information pertaining to important productive and reproductive performance of the existing dairy breeds and their crossbred. Thus, a need was felt to understand and document the important parameters pertaining to productive and reproductive performance of dairy breeds and their crossbred in Bhutan. These information could serves as the basis for the exploitation of genetic potential to further dairy industry development in the country and might also be useful for the policy makers in the process of planning and making accurate decisions pertaining to dairy development. According this study was conducted to understand and document detail baseline information on the productive and reproductive performance parameters of the dairy cattle and their crossbred at the national level.


Materials and Methods

The data were gathered from 782 farmers from 14 districts - Bumthang, Zemgang, Sarpang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Tashigang, Haa, Paro, Tsirang, lhuentse, Thimphu, Trongsa, Samtse, Wangdue Phodrang and Gasa. The respondents comprises of individual farmers (non-group members), member of the dairy farmers’ groups, and the cattle migratory herders, all owning livestock.

The reproductive and productive performance parameters, i.e. age at first breeding, age at first calving, open days, calving interval, gestation length, service per conception, heat cycle, average daily milk production, lactation period were collected from 1340 animals reared by 782 farmers selected purposively. To corroborate the survey findings a daily milk yield of 733 animals – comprising of different dairy breeds and crossbred – Jersey cross (Jx), Mithun cross (Mx), Brown Swiss cross (BSx), Pure Jersey (PJ), Holstein Friesian cross (HFx), Local Cattle (LC) were measured using a weighing spring balance with 10g precision. The lactation yield was also estimated based on the data generated in this study for different dairy breeds and crossbred. The body weight in this study was estimated using Schaffer’s formula = L*HG*HG/660, where L= Length, HG =Hearth girth. The length and heart girth of the female cows were measured using a Rondo tape for this study.

The data were collected by Extension Agents (EAs), Research Assistant (RAs) and staffs from the central and regional offices of the Department of Livestock (DoL) through survey using a structured questionnaire. The questionnaire was pre-tested with the farmers of Buthang district prior to the commencement of actual data collection. Accordingly, necessary modifications were made to the questionnaire. The enumerators were also familiarized with the objectives of the study and different terminologies used in the questionnaire.

Data analysis

The data were entered and organized in the excel spread sheet and then they were analysed using descriptive statistics and GLM-Multivariate (SPSS, version 21).


Result and discussion

Respondents and total household members

A total of 782 livestock farmers were interviewed. Of the total respondents, 54.8 % and 45.2% were farmers’ group members and non-farmers’ group respectively. The female (51.2%) respondent was higher than male (45.2%) respondent, with total family size of 7.39 3.86 per household. In this study, majority (67.5%) of respondents were the head of family member.

Source of livelihood

Cattle production plays important role in improving the livelihood of farmers in Bhutan. It provides food, draught, fertilizer, cloths and also serves as a source of cash income. However, it was observed that only 28.8% of the respondent in this study are fully dependent on cattle production as a source of livelihood, and for the rest 71.2% of respondents reported to rear cattle as the secondary activities – either to supplement as food, manure, fuel and for the draft purpose.

Land holdings

The mean total land holding per respondent was 3.20 acres. The mean land holdings by land categories were 1.95 acres, 0.58 acres 0.19 acres, 0.38 acres and 0.10 acres of dry land, tsamdro (natural grassland), improve pasture, orchard and kitchen garden, respectively. Of the total land holdings, mean land of about 0.19 acres (5.94 %) were allotted to the livestock for improve pasture. The tsamdro holding ranges from 0.5 acre to 4000 acres per household, with the largest holding recorded amongst the yak herders or elite members in the northern alpine region of the country. The improved pasture holding ranges between 0.05 acres to about 15 acres. The improved pasture holdings was observed to be dependent on the land holdings area and the dependency of the livelihoods. The respondent holding larger areas and the dependency on cattle production for livelihoods had larger areas of improved pasture and vis-a’-viz.

Cattle production system

The cattle production system as such in Bhutan is complex. For instance, the rural individual household adopts combination of two systems of cattle production - open and sedentary or migratory livestock production practices, and or farmers’ adopting migratory system of cattle production also rear less number of high yielding or improved cattle back home. It was observed that 74.8 % of the respondent adopted open grazing in the forest in combination with sedentary practices, where animals are housed during the night and let loose to graze during daytime. The rest 16.2 % and 3.7 % of the respondent adopted stall feeding (with tethering in and around their field) and migration livestock production system, respectively. More and more people are found gearing towards stall feeding system.

Cattle breed and livestock holdings

There are different dairy breeds and their crossbred reared in the country. The dairy breeds and their crossbred reared are Jaba, Mithun (pure and cross), LC (Thrabam/Nublang), Brown Swiss (pure and cross), Jersey Pure, Jersey Cross and some Holstein Friesian x (reported to be Jersey x HF) was also observed. In this study the household in average owns 3.88 head of cattle, comprising of 29.6 % male and 70.5 % female of the total livestock population. The proportion of mean livestock holdings per respondent by categories are 24.1 %, 16.7 %, 1.46%, 13.6%, 3.8%, 4.55%, 13.1%, 10.1 %, and 12.0 % of milch cows, dry cows, breeding bull, bullock, scrub bull, pregnant heifer, empty heifer, male calf and female calf, respectively.

Breed preference

Majority (86.4%) of the respondent preferred Jersey cattle, followed by BSx (6.3%), Mx (4.8%) and LC (2.5%). The reasons reported by the respondents were of its high productivity as compared to other dairy cows and crossbred. Although, the preference for the Mx and LC are comparatively low, their positive attributes of easy management, high fat content in milk, sure-footedness to adapt in difficulty terrains, powerful draught animal and high resistant to diseases (hardy) were recognized, as compared to the exotic animals by most respondents in this study.

Breeding services

In general, breeding services are rendered through artificial insemination (AI) or breeding bull. The government provide supports on breeding program by supplying breeding bull to remote areas, and through establishment of AI Centre, mostly in and around accessible areas. It was observed that 41.7% of the respondent have access to AI services, 25.7% to breeding bull, 22% to both AI and Breeding bull services, and 10.6% of the respondent do not have access to either of the breeding services rendered. Those not having access to both AI and breeding bull services are mostly from far flung villages, without road access and scatter settlements. Most respondent (45.9%) preferred to have both services owing to choice they can make in failure of either of the services. It was interesting to note a statement made by some respondents in this study that the conception rate or success of AI was reported to increase if the heifers are bred for the first time by breeding bull, and the successive services are availed through AI. The respondent preferring AI services (34.8%) attributed to good or superior progeny born, high productivity and easy management for not requiring to maintain breeding bull. Whereas, 19.3 % of the respondent, mostly from far flung villages preferred to have breeding bull services owing to a high conception rate and distance dream of instituting AI facilities.

Housing

The housing is provided to protect animals from extreme weather (rain, cold) and to protect from wild life predation. It was observed that 78 % of the total respondents provided shelter to their animals. The rest 22 % of respondent did not provide shelters to their animals. The shelter types provided to animal differs - where 37.6% of the respondent had permanent structure, 39.9% semi-permanent and 22.5 % make-shift type in this study. Most respondent used locally available materials (bamboo, planks etc.) for the construction to reduce cost. However, with government supports more farmers are now opting for the development of permanent dairy shed using cement and CGI sheet.

Milking frequency and practices

The cows after calving are milked on daily basis. However, the milking frequency reported differs based on the stages of lactation. In this study, 69.3 % respondent had reported to milk their cows twice, and the rest (30.7%) milked their animals only once. It was observed that majority (62.2%) of the respondent do not practice complete milking. It was reported that in the early lactation stage 1-2 teats are not milked purposively, leaving for the calf to suckle for the growth and health. The farmers gradually switch over to complete milking considering calf’s growth and health conditions (after about 2-3 months of calving). The average time required for milking cow starting udder preparation until complete milking was about 8.513.36 minutes.

Feed Resources

Figures 1 and 2 show major feed resources for dairy cattle during summer and winter seasons. Forest grazing constitute the major feed resources for the cattle both during winter (52.2%) and summer (69.7%) months. It was followed by improved pasture (48.4%) and hay/silage (45.8 %) in summer and winter seasons respectively. Other feed resources fed year round are crop residues, alcohol residues, other local materials and kitchen waste. The animals are also fed with concentrate feeds. In this study 61.2% of the respondent fed their animals with concentrate feeds. Of the total respondents feeding feed concentrate - 55.9% of the respondent fed their animals year round, and 30.8% and 13.3% of respondent fed concentrate only during winter and summer seasons respectively. In general only milch cows, calves and breeding bulls are fed concentrate feed. It was reported that all animals have free access to drinking water all times.

Figure 1. Major feed resources for the summer season Figure 2. Feed resources for the winter season
Mortality

Fig. 3 illustrates the mean mortality of cattle among the different dairy breeds and their crossbred. The mean mortality of 0.66 head of cattle/respondent/annum was recorded. The highest mortality was observed in calf’s category of 0.25 head/respondent/annum. There was a significant differences (p<0.05) in the mortality amongst the different dairy breeds and crossbred in the country. A highest mortality was observed in PJ (61.1%), followed by Jx (20%), BSx (8.89%), LC (3.3%), Mx (3.3%), Jaba (3.3%) and lowest was observed in buffalo (2.22%). The reasons could be attributed to poor management of exotic animals- mainly not fulfilling their hygienic and daily feed/nutrition requirements standard.

Figure 3. Rate of mortality among differentbreedsand crossbreeds

Table 1 shows the seasonal mortality (%) of different dairy breeds and the major causes of mortality. The percent mortality was observed highest during the winter (45.9%) followed by summer (37%), autumn (11.2%) and spring seasons (5.92%). The causes of mortality are elaborated as reported by the respondents in the table below:

Table 1. Seasonal mortality of cattle and the major causes

Seasons

Mortality (%)

Major causes of mortality

Summer

37.0

disease, wildlife predation, bloat, ectoparasites, dystocia, parasite infestation, diarrhea

Winter

45.9

predation, feed shortage, extreme cold, weakness

Spring

5.92

plant poisoning, disease , weakness

Autumn

11.2

disease, wildlife predation

Year round

death due to old age, accidental death, abortion and still births

Total

100

 
Reproduction and production performance

Table 2 presents the productive and reproductive performance parameters of different dairy breeds and their crossbred in Bhutan. The overall mean lactation records, age at first services, gestation period, heat interval, services per conception, calving intervals and days open recorded were 303 days (SE=2.4), 25.0 months (SE=0.16), 279 days (SE=0.31), 21.0 days (SE=0.04), 1.33 nos. (SE=0.02), 488 (SE=2.7) days and 149 days (SE=2.58), respectively. This was estimated from a population at various stages of lactation, lactation number, age and locations covering different agro-ecological zones, therefore should fairly represent the performance parameters of different dairy breeds and their crossbred in Bhutan. Alam and Gosh (1994) reported that the productive and reproductive performance of indigenous crossbred cows with high yielding exotic may differ among different geographical areas. The details of performance parameters are described in their respective section below.

Table 2. Mean productive and reproductive performance of dairy breeds and their crossbred

Parameters


LC

Jx

Mx

PJ

BSx

Total

Lactation Record (days)

N

286

561

77

93

33

1050

Mean

309

304

294

290

306

303

Age at First Service (months)

N

345

687

85

172

39

1325

Mean

27.1

24.2

28.2

24.1

25.9

25.3

Gestation Period (days)

N

345

699

85

172

39

1339

Mean

277

281

279

280

276

279

Heat Interval (days)

N

345

699

85

172

39

1340

Mean

21.0

21.0

21.0

21.0

21.5

21.1

Service per conception (no)

N

345

697

85

172

39

1338

Mean

1.22

1.32

1.47

1.51

1.15

1.33

Calving Interval (days)

N

345

699

85

172

39

1340

Mean

494

491

499

457

494

488

Days open (days)

N

326

676

85

172

39

1298

Mean

159

149

166

130

116

149

Age at First Service (AFS)

There were significant differences (p<0.05) in AFS among different dairy breeds and their crossbred. The mean age at first service recorded were 27.1, 24.2, 28.2, 24.1, and 25.9 months for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx, respectively. With this, the age at first calving (AFC) was estimated to about 33, 35, 36 and 37 months for the Jersey, Brown Swiss, LC and Mithun respectively. The average age at first service and age at first calving were 722.24 days (SE=36.4) and 1035.21 days (SE=12.59 for Jersey in Ethopia (Habtamu Lemma et al 2010). Meyer et al (2005) reported that the standard AFC for the temperate dairy breeds should be approximately 24 months in their native conditions. The mean estimated AFC observed in this study was too late as compared to findings of the Meyer et al (2005). In previous studies it has been shown that well-nourished temperate heifer has the potential to reach the specific weight (2/3 body weight) at 10-12 months, and conceived at 14-15 months of age (Hafez and Hafez 2000; Ibrahim and Zemmelink 2000).This large differences could have resulted from the low level of management and poor feeding of calves and heifers at the earlier stages, which consequently had reduced growth rate and delayed puberty. Hafez and Hafez (2000) reported that high plan of nutrition could hasten puberty by increasing the growth rate of heifers. It is imperative that the feeding and management of calves and heifers must be improved to achieve low AFS and the best future productions.

Services per conception (SPC)

The mean number of services or insemination required per conception is a simple method of assessing fertility (Payne 1970). The overall mean number of SPC recorded was 1.33 (SE=0.02) in this study (Table 2). Of the total 1338 animals, 65 % were reported to be conceived at first service or insemination and the rest were reported to require two or more services to conceive. The mean of the number of SPC required were 1.22, 1.32, 1.47, 1.51, and 1.15 for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx, respectively. There was no significant differences in the number of SPC among different dairy breeds and their crossbred. Islam et al (2004) similarly in their study did not find differences in number of services required to conceive among different breeds. However, mean number of SPC required differs among the dairy breeds and crossbred in this study. The highest mean number of SPC was recorded for the PJ followed by Mx, Jx, LC and BSx. This differences could have been resulted from the different level of dairy cows’ management and type of breeding services availed or available in a specific location. Farmers reported that the animal served by the breeding bulls have high conception rate, and it requires less number of services to make animal conceived. Most LC and Mx are bred by breeding bulls, thus the number of SPC required was lower as compared to Jersey and Brown Swiss cattle. The overall mean of the number of services per conception recorded for the jersey cattle in Ethiopia was 1.79 (SE=0.06). Nonetheless, the findings of the overall mean number of SPC observed in this study could be rated good or economically viable if considered independently in comparison to the findings of Azizunnesa (2002) and Habtamu Lemma et al (2010). Islam et al (2004) reported that the SPC is influenced by the quality of semen used in AI, improper detection of heat, failure to inseminate at appropriate time and skill of the inseminator and level of fertility, which could be influenced by diseases, semen handling techniques and other environmental factors.

Gestation period

The overall mean gestation period observed was 279 days (SE=0.31). The mean gestation period recorded were 277 days, 281 days, 279 days, 280 days, and 276 days for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx, respectively. There was no significant differences in the gestation period; however, a slight variation was observed among the different dairy breeds and crossbred. This variation may be attributed to the maternal – i.e., age, nutritional status and body conditions of the dam and the fetal factors- i.e., sex of the fetus, twinning and hormonal functions of the fetus (Islam et al 2006).

Days open

Days open is routinely used to assess the reproductive performance and to make economic decision in dairy herds (Bahonar et al 2009). The overall mean of days open recorded was 149 (SE=2.58) days in this study. There were significant difference (p<0.05) in days open among the different dairy cows and their crossbred. The mean days open recorded were 159 days, 149 days, 166 days, and 116 days for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx respectively. Days open observed was shortest for the Brown Swiss cows, followed by PJ, Jx, LC and Mx. This difference might have been influenced by different management practices adopted, different nutrition, body condition, age, genetics and presence of the calf.

Calving interval (CI)

The mean CI recorded were 494, 491, 499, 457and 494 days for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx, respectively. In this study, the CI recorded for the LC and Mx falls within the range reported by Phangchung and Roden (1996) of 14 to 20 months for yangkum, siri and Jatsham. However, the CI in this study was observed much longer than the report of other authors, which clearly reflects evidence of poor reproduction performance of dairy cattle in Bhutan. The longer duration of CI observed in different dairy breeds and crossbred in Bhutan might be due to different environment, poor feeding and production management, and it might also be attributed to poor recordings, irregularity and non-observation of estrus. Roberts (1986) reported that the CI of a well-managed dairy herd should be between 12-13 months. Similarly, Esslemont (1993) reported that the CI is an important index of cow reproductive performance and CI of 365 days is desirable for efficient production. The mean calving interval of 450.09 days (SE=6.60) for Jersey was observed in Ethiopia and, reported to be affected by the year of last calving, cattle source and parity of dam (Habtamu-Lemma et al 2010). The standard CI recommended for dairy cattle under tropical conditions was 430 days (Swai et al 2014).

Lactation record

The overall mean lactation record of 303 days (2.4 SE) was recorded for the dairy breeds and their crossbred in Bhutan. The mean lactation record was 309, 303.6, 294.3, 289.8 and 306.3 for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx, respectively. There was no significant differences in the lactation record among the different dairy breeds and their crossbred. The estimated mean lactation length reported were 284, 288 and 308 days (Phangchung and Roden 1996) for the Siri, Jatsham and Yangkum, respectively. With this findings on the lactation record of 303 days, it may not be necessary to adjust the lactation record to 305-days on estimating the lactation yield of the animal.

Body weight

Table 3 shows the mean weights of different dairy breeds and their crossbred. The overall mean body weight for the dairy breeds and their crossbred was estimated at 328 Kg. The mean weight estimated were 298, 353, 333, 278, and 388 Kg for the LC, Brown Swiss, Jersey, Yak and Nublang, respectively. The mean body weight of LC falls within the range of about 212-307 kg reported for siri cattle (Phangchung and Roden 1996). The mean weight of siri cattle reared under the government farm, National Nublang Breeding Farm, Tashiyangphu falls within the reported range of 318-408 kg for the siri cattle (females) at maturity (Payne 1970).

The mean withers height were 109, 147, 128, 112 and 135 cm for the LC, Brown Swiss, Jx, yak and Nublang respectively. The mean wither height of LC (female) falls within the range of 107-127 cm reported by Payne (1970). The mean wither height recorded for Nublang was 135 cm, higher than the report of 121 2.1 cm (Phangchung and Roden 1996). The differences observed could be attributed to adoption of different measurement methods, different management practices and locations of the study.

Table 3. The mean estimated body weights (Kg) of different dairy breeds.


No

Heart Girth (cm)

Length (cm)

Height (cm)

Weight (Kg)

LC

97

151

139

109

298

Brown Swiss

80

157

153

147

353

Jersey

35

161

145

128

333

Yak

16

157

121

112

278

Nublang

25

171

145

135

388

Total

253

157

145

126

328

Daily milk yield

Table 4 shows the mean daily milk yield reported by farmers for different dairy breeds and their crossbred milked once in a day. The average daily milk yield among different dairy breeds and their crossbred significantly differ (p<0.05). The daily milk yield reported by the respondents for once milking for summer and winter months were 1.54 Kg, 4.23 Kg, 1.62 Kg, 5.07 Kg, 3.49 Kg and 1.08 Kg, 3.03 Kg, 1.08 Kg, 3.58 Kg and 2.07 Kg for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx respectively. PJ produces the highest daily milk yield, followed by Jx, BSx, Mx and LC.

Table 4. Mean daily milk yield (Kg) reported by farmers for different dairy breeds milked once


Summer

Winter


N

Mean

N

Mean

LC

307

1.54

228

1.08

Jx

563

4.23

629

3.03

Mx

78

1.62

79

1.08

PJ

165

5.07

159

3.58

BSx

35

3.49

33

2.07

Total

1148

3.43

1128

2.55

The daily milk yield reported by the respondents for the twice milking (morning plus evening) during summer and winter months were 2.04 Kg, 6.15 Kg, 2.08 Kg, 7.10 Kg, 5.08 Kg and 1.41 Kg, 4.49 Kg, 1.48 Kg, 4.61 Kg and 3.08 Kg for the LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and BSx respectively (Table. 5). The average daily milk measured and recorded for the summer months were 1.43 Kg, 3.74 Kg, 1.48 Kg, 4.80 Kg and 3.60 Kg (once milking) and 1.86 Kg, 5.52 Kg, 2.10 Kg, 6.21 Kg and 5.90 Kg (twice milking) for LC, Jx, Mx, PJ and Brown Swiss respectively (Table 6). The mean daily milk yield performance of LC in study was found lower than the findings of Phangchung and Roden (1996), which was reported 2.5 + 0.11 kg from the sample of 5 Siri cows. The differences in milk yield among different dairy breeds and their crossbred could be attributed to the high genetic potential and different level of management provided by farmers to improve or exotic dairy cows. A significant differences was not observed for daily milk yield on corroborating the survey findings with that of actual measurement. It implies that we could rely on the information provided by farmers without a doubt and respect the knowledge of these farmers. The total daily milk yield increases by about 30 %, if animals are milked twice in a day.

Table 5 . Mean daily milk yield (Kg) reported by farmers for different breeds milked twice daily


Summer

Winter

 

N

Mean

N

Mean

LC

307

2.04

228

1.41

Jx

563

6.15

629

4.49

Mx

78

2.08

79

1.48

PJ

165

7.10

159

4.61

BSx

35

5.08

33

3.08

Total

1148

4.88

1128

3.63


Table 6 . Mean daily milk yield (Kg) measured for the different breeds

Dairy cows

Summer (once milking)

Summer (Twice milking)

N

Mean

N

Mean

LC

160

1.43

160

1.86

Jx

477

3.74

477

5.52

Mx

35

1.48

35

2.10

PJ

46

4.80

46

6.21

BSx

15

3.60

15

5.90

Total

733

3.19

733

4.61

Estimation of lactation yield (Kg) and annual milk production (MT)

The mean lactation yield estimated was 1563 Kg, 1461 Kg, 1130 Kg, 485 kg and 494 Kg for the PJ, Jx, Brown Swiss, Mithun cross and LC. The mean lactation yield for LC falls within the range reported by Phangchung and Roden (1996) of 454-1361 kg in the Siri breed.

Table 7. Estimated average lactation yield (Kg) and total annual milk production (MT) in Bhutan

Breed

No. of milch cows

Lactation Yield

Total annual milk production

PJ

463

1563

724

Jx

16335

1461

23869

BSx

1272

1130

1437

Mx

8932

485

4339

LC

33333

494

16484

Total

60335

1027

46855

The total annual milk production estimated based on number of milking cows (Department of Livestock [DoL] 2013) and corresponding productive parameters derived in this study was 46855.78 MT (Table 7). In comparison to the estimates the annual milk production reported (29624.99 MT) in the annual livestock census and production (DoL 2012) was observed too low, indicating of under reporting. The differences in the total milk yield could also might have resulted from different timing of data collections. Further, this estimates exclude milk produced by yak, their crossbred and buffalo. The major portion of milk is contributed by Jx (51 %), followed by LC (35 %), Mx (9 %), Brown Swiss (3%), and PJ (2 %) (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Milk contribution by different dairy cattle breeds and their crossbreds
Economic viability of farm

Profitability and eventually sustainability of dairy smallholdings are to the larger extent determined by reproductive performance (Peters and Ball 1995). The farm with 13-15 months calving interval, 24 months for age at puberty, 1.33 services per conception and 5 kg milk per day per cow is considered economically profitable in Bangladesh (Azizunnesa 2002). Similarly, Islam et al (2006) reported that for better management index at farm level average age at first calving should be optimally around 2 years with average interval between two calvings should ideally not exceed 13 to 14 months. In comparison to the report of Azizunnesa (2002), none of the farms Bhutan are economically viable at present (Table 8). However, considering the different livestock production systems, where majority of the feed resources are met from the open forest grazing, the economic viability index adopted may not be applicable in Bhutanese context, however, a move in establishing such index may be of worth attempting it. The economic viability of farms could be attained in Bhutan at the shorter time period raising Jersey breed under improved management system and also by focusing on improving of the important economic performance parameters.

Table 8: Data on reproduction and production parameters obtained for different dairy breeds and their crossbreds

Breeds

Calving Interval (months)

Age at puberty (months)

SPC (no)

Daily milk yield (Kg)

LC

16.5

27.1

1.22

1.86

Jx

16.4

24.2

1.32

5.52

Mx

16.6

28.2

1.47

2.10

PJ

15.2

24.0

1.51

6.21

BSx

16.5

25.9

1.15

5.90

Total

16.3

25.3

1.33

4.61

Future of cattle farming and government investment required

Cattle production though not a major source of livelihood for most of the respondents, it was reported that 97.6% of the total respondent will continue with it, mainly because of its importance in agriculture system (manure, draft) and as a source of food. The remaining respondent (2.4%) reported to do-away with cattle production owing to labor and pasture shortages.

Some of the government support required or solicited by the farmers for boosting and sustaining dairy farming are to:


Conclusions and recommendations


Acknowledgements

The EAs and farmers’ respondents of the sample districts of this study; the DLOs of the sample districts for their kind assistance; the PDs of different national commodity and RLDCs for their kind support.


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Received 15 May 2014; Accepted 8 September 2014; Published 3 October 2014

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