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Dairy Farming
Dairy Breeds

The term dairy breed is used to differentiate those cattle that are bred primarily to produce milk against those that are used for meat production.  Dairy cattle may be defined as a particular group of animals developed in a certain area for a definite purpose and having the same general characteristics such as colour, conformation and quality of product i.e. milk.  A purebred dairy cow is one whose ancestry traces back to the same breed.   A registered dairy cow is a purebred that has been registered by a particular breed association.  There are six major dairy breeds found in Botswana.

Dairy Farm Workforce

A reliable workforce is essential to a successful dairy enterprise.  Dairy farm labour is required in looking after the dairy cattle, cleaning the milking parlour and in production of fodder in the field.  The farm labour force should be skilled in their undertakings, motivated, dedicated and as much as possible satisfied. Notwithstanding that the farmer should consider his needs first.  If the main responsibility of the employee is milking he or she should be calm, reliable, sober minded, healthy and have a passion for animals. Training or re-training a farm worker is very important.

Reproductive Cycle

A dairy farmer should aim to have a cow calve every year.  If a cow fails to calve every year losses due to decreased or no milk during the longer calving intervals from the culling of infertile cows and from lack of herd replacement.  Reasons for low fertility are:

  • Anatomical or physiological malfunctioning of the cow.
  • Reproductive diseases.
  • Failure of correct heat detection and other failures in reproductive management.         
  • Infertility and malfunctioning of the bull.
Bull Management
When selecting dairy cattle to be used for certain mating in a breeding program a breeder usually rates a bull on the basis of milk production of the dam of the bull type and pedigree.  In determining the overall value of the animal the importance attached to each trait depends on the breeders experience and what he is trying to accomplish.  The only accurate method of identifying superior bulls is by progeny testing. 
Care of the calf

Some of the major reasons for mortalities in very young calves are disorders of the intestinal tract and the respiratory tract.  The casual organisms responsible for these conditions are pathogens (organisms causing disease) bacteria and viruses.  Such mortalities can largely be prevented through natural immunisation of the calves by consumption of colostrum. 

The offspring of cattle and other livestock gain immunity through ingestion of the first mothers milk immediately after birth.  The antibodies are taken orally and are transmitted from the calves’ digestive tract to its bloodstream via the lymphatic vessels.  This transmission of the immunoglobulin takes place through the intestinal wall and is closely related to the prevailing acidity.

Factors Influencing Milk Production

The heritability of milk production is around 30% i.e. one third, whilst 70% i.e. two thirds is attributed to environment.  The extend to which the genetic production potential depends on the ability of the dairy farmer to control environment factors to the advantage of the cow by creating a conducive environment for a cow to reach its potential.

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