The Sunday News
AFTER reading and seeing pictures of one proud farmer sharing details of his newly-born calves and his mention of herd fertility management, I figured it could be useful to share with readers on a few tips of increasing fertility of the herd.
Fertility of the herd simply refers to the ability of your cows and heifers to give you calves in any given year. This is one area in which most smallholder livestock farmers do not pay a lot of attention. It is very common to find a cow that is kept for more than three years without even dropping a calf.
Needless to say, this passenger cow is a liability to the farmer. One way of improving the fertility of your herd is through giving your bulling heifers to bull for a short period of say 30 days.
The bull will concentrate on the more fertile ones and leave the less fertile. You may then consider culling those that did not conceive. This is practical to farmers with animals in a paddock system where the breeding season is controlled.
You can give a longer bulling period to your cows and cull any cow which does not give you a calf. It is also a good management practice to sell older cows. At least after seven lactations you can safely dispose of your cow. It has done the job! I know there are farmers who can go up to 12 lactations with a cow especially the kind that does not miss a year.
To have a herd with good fertility it is also important to have strict culling policy. Cull the poor performers such as those that produce sickly calves, poor conformation, poor temperament and all other production traits.
This should be supported by properly kept records. It is from the records that problem calvings, downer cows or retained placentas can be noted and eliminated.
Bull availability is also another factor in driving fertility of your herd. It is not a good management decision to rely on a communal bull from a neighbour. The bull could be overloaded by the number of cows around and some cows may go without being serviced. A bull is half your herd, invest in one. Do not just use a bull but for effective fertility improvement a farmer needs to use a sire with high fertility.
Another important issue is to provide mineral supplements for your cows. The goal of dry cow mineral nutrition is to have cows in the correct calcium and trace mineral status at calving, so that problems such as dystocia, milk fever and retained placenta are minimised. Mineral provision can easily be done through mineral licks that are available in the market.
In addition to mineral provision, general animal nutrition should be addressed such that your cows are in a good to fair body condition score at calving and a few weeks after calving. Cows that lose body condition after calving will not cycle again in time and hence prolonging the intercalving period.
Another important management practice that can help improve fertility of your herd is vaccinating against reproductive diseases and other diseases.
This is something that is not easily practised by most communal farmers. Vaccinations against such diseases as contagious abortion and leptospirosis are important.
Again it is a good practice to attend early to any infection especially reproductive problems such as uterine infections and cystic ovaries. Delayed treated meant makes a cow delay to prime its reproductive system for production.
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