Tips on how to im­prove fer­til­ity of your herd

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

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.

Uyabonga um­n­takaMaKhu­malo.

Feed­back mazike­lana@gmail.com 0772851275.

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