Keep­ing ser­vice dates for your cows as a man­age­ment tool

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

I OF­TEN dis­cuss with small­holder farm­ers on the im­por­tance of keep­ing and us­ing records for their beef pro­duc­tion en­ter­prises.

Record keep­ing is one ne­glected as­pect by most com­mu­nal small­holder farm­ers.

You can hardly find a farmer who will pro­duce records for his/ her beef pro­duc­tion en­ter­prise and worse still demon­strate that the records are be­ing used for the man­age­ment of the en­ter­prise.

Most farm­ers hardly record any­thing down but that is not to say they are not aware of what hap­pens to their herd.

They are fully aware but they are not able to give you con­cise de­tails of what tran­spired espe­cially in terms of quan­ti­ties and ex­act time.

He/ she may be aware that animals were dosed but may not give you de­tails as to the name of the chem­i­cal, the date of dos­ing and the quan­ti­ties used. Farm­ers rely mostly on records kept in their mem­ory and this presents chal­lenges as im­por­tant de­tails tend to be for­got­ten with time.

This week we want to dis­cuss the im­por­tance of keep­ing ser­vice records as a man­age­ment tool in your herd.

Ser­vice record refers to records re­lat­ing to when your cow or heifer was given to the bull for mat­ing.

This is one record which is al­ways hazy with farm­ers. All the farmer tells you is that my cow was ser­viced in win­ter or sum­mer or any such vague de­scrip­tion. Such a de­scrip­tion of the time does not give one a pre­cise time of oc­cur­rence and hence it may not be us­able in­for­ma­tion at all.

Know­ing ser­vice dates for your cows or heifers is a very im­por­tant man­age­ment tool for a farmer be­cause it helps you to plan and pre­pare for the calv­ing from that cow or heifer.

Firstly, if you record the date when your cow was ser­viced you can quickly no­tice if there is a prob­lem such as a cow which re­peat­edly comes on heat.

In­stead of wait­ing for al­most two years to re­alise that you have a cow that keeps com­ing back on heat even af­ter tak­ing a bull, you can ac­tu­ally no­tice it much ear­lier and take ac­tion.

Sec­ondly, if you are able to record ex­actly when it was ser­viced it means you can also record with ac­cu­racy which bull ser­viced it.

This is im­por­tant in track­ing the ge­netic lin­eage of your animals espe­cially in a com­mu­nal set up where cows are ser­viced by bulls from neigh­bour­ing herds.

Above all the most im­por­tant rea­son for not­ing the date of mat­ing for your cows espe­cially in a com­mu­nal set up is to pre­pare for calv­ing. Pre­par­ing for calv­ing in a com­mu­nal herd sim­ply means mak­ing sure by the ex­pected dates of calv­ing down your cows are kept close where mon­i­tor­ing can be done and su­per­vi­sion car­ried out when calv­ing.

This is very im­por­tant and most small­holder farm­ers are found want­ing re­gard­ing this im­por­tant man­age­ment prac­tice.

Un­su­per­vised calv­ing in­creases calf mor­tal­ity rates in your herd. Firstly if it’s a heifer which is calv­ing down you need to su­per­vise for a num­ber of rea­sons which in­clude to be sure there is no dys­to­cia prob­lem. There are higher chances of dys­to­cia cases on heifers than on cows espe­cially when big­ger bulls are used against smaller framed heifers.

Also you want to ob­serve and make sure its moth­er­ing in­stincts are prop­erly func­tion­ing and it is be­hav­ing and do­ing what is ex­pected of a cow which is de­liv­er­ing. Some heifers, in­clud­ing cows may ac­tu­ally try and de­liver in a stand­ing po­si­tion espe­cially when the calf is now half way out. You see the cow stand­ing up and turn­ing round and round and wig­gling its be­hind try­ing to check what is hap­pen­ing there.

A calf may be dropped and in­jured in the process and your timely in­ter­ven­tion may help.

In some cases the cow or heifer may de­liver the calf, stand up and walk away to join the rest of the herd, leav­ing the calf be­hind.

This may kill the calf be­cause the dam usu­ally has to lick the calf soon af­ter birth. This helps cre­ate a bond be­tween the calf and the dam but also it helps to open up places that may be blocked such as nostrils and there­fore, en­able the calf to breath. So if you kept ac­cu­rate dates of when your cow was ser­viced and there­fore when it is due for de­liv­ery you could then make sure it is grazed close by dur­ing the ex­pected dates of de­liv­ery. You will then be able to mon­i­tor and pro­vide timely in­ter­ven­tion and pre­vent the death of your calf. Your newly born calf is pro­tected from preda­tors in the bush and crit­i­cal is­sues such as en­sur­ing that it gets the colostrum are su­per­vised.

How­ever, most com­mu­nal farm­ers do not track the ex­act days of de­liv­ery and are only pleas­antly sur­prised to see a cow which has been away for five days com­ing back to the kraal with a calf on foot. What if the cow could not pro­duce milk be­cause the teats are blocked? The calf could have eas­ily starved to death in those five days. Ob­serv­ing your cows dur­ing de­liv­ery will also en­sure that in cases of dys­to­cia, help is ren­dered timely and both the calf and dam are saved from death.

It also helps you to doc­u­ment which cows have poor moth­er­ing abil­ity espe­cially dur­ing the ac­tual process of de­liv­ery and im­me­di­ately post de­liv­ery and hence help you to pay ex­tra at­ten­tion dur­ing sub­se­quent de­liv­er­ies or cull it.

Uyabonga um­n­takaMaKhu­malo.

Feed­back mazike­lana@gmail.com/ cell 0772851275.

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