Dairy farmers most typically begin breeding and artificially inseminating heifers around the age of thirteen months. Male calves are either used later as a breeding bull or for veal or beef production. It is estimated that the gestation period of a cow is approximately nine months. Newborn calves are separated from their mothers very quickly, usually within three days, since the bond between mother and child is strengthened over time and delays lead to heavy stress on both cow and calf.
Biologically cows are bred for producing large quantities of milk, which is used for the production of dairy products. They are generally from the species Bos taurus. To maintain lactation, dairy cows must be bred and have calves. The replacement cows will refer to female calves bred for milking. If a replacement cow does not produce a decent amount of milk, the cow can be sold for meat.
Management and Principles of Breeding Dairy Cattle
Breeding infants for the purpose of changing the genetic merit of future generations and increasing economic efficiency is a process of selecting and mating individuals in accordance with breeding objectives. As an example, a breeding goal could be aimed at improving health, milk production, and fertility. Selection would then be made for individuals who, genetically, will earn greater profits either by improving production or by reducing costs.
#1. Breed Selection
The goal of any breeding program is to improve the production of livestock. Genetically, this is accomplished by fixing progressively more desirable genes and removing as many undesirable genes as possible. When the farmer achieves these objectives, he will have a herd of high-performing animals with good phenotypes and high breeding potential.
The beginning of any breeding program is the selection of the species from which to breed. As a result, these animals become the foundation stock; the criteria by which these animals are selected may differ according to the type of animal the farmer ultimately desires to have in his herd.
It is essential to pay close attention to the breed of cows being raised for milk production in order to ensure maximum milk production. This requires some planning, close observation and recording on matings as well as the recording of daily milk production of all cows in the herd. There is a suitable recording sheet included in this publication for capturing animal reproduction.
A number of factors are responsible for the significant improvement in dairy cattle production over the past century. The recording of phenotypic records is one of the most important. It is on the basis of these phenotypic records that the industry estimates genetic worth. A significant contribution to genetic improving in this species has been the improvement of methods of genetic evaluation for dairy cattle.
Some of the qualities that a farmer might look for in different kinds of cattle include:
For Beef Cattle
- Live mass gain
- Food conversion
- Birth weight
- Carcass grades
For Dairy Cattle
- Udder shape
- Good feet and legs
- Milk yield
- Total solids
- Speed of milking
The ideal dairy cow is one with a high milk yield, smoother udder, good milk solids, healthy feet and legs, good resistance to diseases, and a long productive life in the herd. When breeding, there are four important factors to consider:
- Selecting the best bull
- Organising the Mating
- Selecting the best cows
- Achieving the best breeding efficiency: Signs of Oestrus
Selecting the Bull
Many small farms have bulls available that are likely to be unsuitable for upgrading your present dairy cows for breeding. Therefore, selling all your existing bulls is the safest and most efficient way to obtain a breeding bull. Once they have been removed, you can use a perfect milking bull from a good, reputable private, school, church, or government breeding farm.
If you cannot find a purebred, then find one with half dairy blood. As a result, you are assured of the superiority of the milk production of his daughters versus any animals you already have, or any bulls that are available in your area. In addition, this bull should be able to produce two offspring from any of your cows of maturity before being sold, and he should be sold or traded to another farmer after three years to ensure he does not mate his daughters.
The resulting effects of keeping him longer maybe that he sires offspring from his daughters that are defective in certain ways and therefore unfit for production. If you are able to choose from the official bull breeds on the farms, you should alternate the breed each time you buy a new bull since the small herds of bulls on Island countries may be too closely related for you to choose unrelated bulls of the same breed every time.
The characteristic of dairy breeding bulls is that they also throw very high-quality beef breed calves. In addition to increased milk production from the daughters, dairy breeding bulls also possess an increase in the carcass value of the cattle you sell for beef.
- castrate all other bulls you have.
- prevent outside bulls from coming onto your farm and mating with your cows.
- not allow the bull to mate with his daughters and replace him after about three years.
- select a good bull from a known source.
- make sure he is sound, not lame and can serve properly.
- select a replacement bull of a different breed.
Selecting the Cow
All cows produce milk. This is usually too little to sell or collect, though it may be enough for family consumption. Smallholder beef herds, found here and elsewhere, are often dairy bred or cross-bred from cattle that were brought to localities by church missions. It is recommended they be selected as the nucleus of a cattle herd, as they are capable of producing more milk than average cattle do.
The first option for making milk with this breed of cattle is either to either feed them better and use them as the beginning of a dairy herd or to keep them until they are replaced by better milk-producing heifers or cows. Then you should sell these older, starting animals. It is popular to describe the triangle-shaped dairy cow as a breed from which to select if you have enough dairy heifers to choose from.
In order to begin with, you should select heifers and cows that are calm in temperament and that exhibit strong dairy bloodlines. If none are on hand, select more stable local animals with a history of successful breeding and crossbred to improve their breeding.
Signs of Oestrus
The cattle are usually gentle and easy to handle, so you can take the cow to the bull and he will be able to mate her if she looks at him. It will tell you when she is ready either when she displays:
- Discharge of clear mucus coming from the vulva,
- Mounting or mounted by other cows,
- Bellowing and perhaps walking up and down a fence line,
- the tail may be slightly raised if she is running with other cows and the hair near the base of the tail may be roughened and standing upright.
- if she is milking, her milk production may suddenly fall a little.
The cattle may not show these oestrus signs as strongly as the cattle. Therefore, it is recommended to keep the heifers and cows separate and introduce each year the bull to the heifer paddock as soon as they are old enough to mate. Record any matings that occur. Most often, the presence of a bull will cause them to become oestrus if they are old and large enough but have not been showing signs of oestrus. So, if your fencing is adequate, it is useful to keep your heifers near the bull.
#2. Mating system
Your cattle can be numbed with the bull all year round. This will simplify your management. However, your cows will produce calves all year round and some will calve during the poorest moments, and so might not milk well if not fed a concentration of the feed.
When you are on the farm constantly or have a reliable neighbor who is interested in observing the cows and detecting oestrus, it is best to confine the bull to a smaller bull paddock and monitor the cows for signs of oestrus. When cows are observed in oestrus, they can be taken to the bull to observe matings and to record them.
The advantages of this breeding system are:
- You can take good care of the bull and keep him from becoming injured in the field. He is also quieter and easier to handle,
- cows returning to the bull over several months without pregnancy will let you know there is a problem in the herd.
- you can quickly identify cows or heifers which have reproductive problems.
- you can keep accurate records,
- if she fails to conceive the first time, you can anticipate her next mating date and be prepared to rejoin her.