Reproduction in farm animals 

Reproduction in farm animals. Reproduction is the process by which off-springs are produced.

All farm animals multiply by means of sexual reproduction. It begins with fertilization which is the fusion of male and female gametes to form a zygote.

Fertilization takes place internally in the body of the female. The embryo(zygote) formed develops inside body of the mother, fed and protected until the end of the gestation period.

In poultry, the process is different in that eggs are fertilized internally but laid and development of the chick takes place outside during incubation


SO WHAT IS MATING? Mating is also called coitus or copulation
Mating is the act in which the private part of the male is inserted into the private part of the female, leading to depositing of spermatozoa in order to cause reproduction to take place in farm animals

(iii) Mating in farm animal may lead to fertilization
reproduction through mating is under the influence of hormone
(v) Mating is necessary before farm animals can reproduce sexually

(vi) For mating to occur, the female animal must be in a heat period
(vii) The male organ must be erect before mating can occur in the reproduction process
(viii) It takes place when the male mounts the female for sexual copulation

(ix)mating of farm animals  leads to the occurrence of depositing of seminal fluid containing spermatozoa which are deposited in the female opening


(a) Natural mating: This occurs when a male, after identifying a female on heat period will mount on the female for mating the animal. Examples of natural mating are

(i) Flock mating: both male and female animals are allowed to move together and mate freely
(ii) Pen Mating: Very few males are kept together with a limited number of females so that they can mate any time the female animals is on heat period, e.g four males together with twelve females

(iii) Stud or Hand mating: The males are kept separately to be mated with individual females when on heat period. After mating, the male is taken away from artificial mating:

This is called artificial insemination which involves the act of injecting spermatozoa artificially into the female animal during the heat period.

The reproductive cells are collected from a male animal with desirable characteristics. Such spermatozoa are stored at 196oC under liquid nitrogen until it is used


(i) It is cheaper to import sperms than to import the male animal
(ii) Sperms collected can be used to fertilize many female animals of various sizes

(iii) It is more economical as it reduces the cost of feeding and managing male animals
(iv) Sperms can be used over a long time even after the death of the male animal

The breeding of animals is under human control, and the breeders decide which individuals shall produce the next generation. The breeder makes a choice.

The breeding of animals is based upon the fact that certain qualities are genetic, hence valuable qualities are passed on from parents to offspring.

The qualities can be maintained or improved in the next generation.
you can read crop improvement process here
The performance of an animal is influenced by two major factors;

Genetic Potential in reproduction using artificial insemination

the following are some of the reasons why artificial insemination is carried out
Feeding, Health, care and the ecological conditions.

The genetic potential of an animal is inherited from its parents.

In selection and breeding animals with superior characteristics are selected and allowed to mate.

In the process, they transmit the superior characteristics to their offspring.

When this is done over a long period of time, it results in livestock improvement.

Reproduction and Reproductive Systems of farm animals

Reproduction is the process by which off-springs are produced. All farm animals multiply by means of sexual reproduction.

It begins with fertilization which is the fusion of male and female gametes to form a zygote. Fertilization takes place internally in the body of the female.

The embryo(zygote) formed develops inside the body of the mother, fed and protected until the end of the gestation period.

In poultry, the process is different in that eggs are fertilized internally but laid and the development of the chick takes place outside during incubation.

In both males and females, certain organs are specialized for the process of reproduction.

Some of these organs secret fluids which are necessary for the movement and survival of the gametes(reproductive cells.)

Male Reproductive System (Bull)

The male reproductive organs produce the male gametes, the spermatozoa.
These are introduced into the female reproductive system, where they fuse with the sperm to form a zygote.

The reproductive system(bull) is composed of the following parts;
i). Testes
ii). Epidermis
iii). Sperm ducts
iv). Accessory glands(Seminal vesicles and prostrate glands)

The testes:

There are two testes hanging loosely between the hind legs.

Enclosed by loose skin (scrotum)scrotum regulate the temperature of the testes for optimum production of sperms.

Produce spermatozoa(sperms)which are stored in a coiled tube called the epidermis.

Epidermis: Storage of spermatozoa.

Sperm ducts: for reproduction to take place, the following reproductive system must be functioning effectively

Conveys sperm from the testis and urine through the male organ

sphincter muscles contract to allow each to pass separately.

Seminal vesicles produce a fluid called seminal. Seminal carries sperm out of male organs in fluid form.
Seminal fluid contains nutrients to the spermatozoa.

Prostate gland -produces fluid that neutralizes the acidic effects of urine in the urethra preventing death of sperms.

Accessory glands: Include seminal vesicles Cowper\’s gland and prostate gland. Urethra: Conveys urine and spermatozoa. One sperm fertilizes ovum

the male reproductive organ

Surrounded by a sheath which is an extension of skin.

It introduces sperms into the female opening of a cow .

It is a copulatory organ, also used for urination.

2. The Female Reproductive System(Cow)

the reproductive system of a cow is composed of;
i). Ovaries
ii). Fallopian tubes
v). Uterus

Ovaries and fallopian tubes(oviduct)

Two ovaries are located in the abdomen, left and right. Produce ova/eggs and hormones which control the sexual cycle.

Oestrogen produced by the graafian follicle inside the ovary induces oestrus i.e. Heat period so that the cow shows signs of heat. The hormone oestrogen is produced under the influence of other hormone called the Follicle stimulating hormone.

After every 21 days, the ovary releases a mature ovum and the cow comes on heat. The ovum travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus.

The release and movement of the ovum down to the uterus is called ovulation. If mating is done at this time, fertilization will take place.
The fertilized egg implants itself onto the endometrium(walls of the uterus)and develops into a foetus.

Fallopian tubes:

Fertilization takes place here. Also a passage for the egg from the ovary to the uterus.

The Uterus:

Implantation takes place here and also embryo develops here.

The cervix of the uterus: Closes the uterus.

The outer opening

The outer opening is the external opening of the female reproductive system.

It allows mating to take place so that sperms are deposited

The foetus and urine are removed through the outer opening.

The pregnancy period for most farm animals

is the period between fertilization of ova and the expulsion of the foetus through The outer opening. Also called the gestation period. In cattle gestation period is 270-285 days.

Ends with the birth of a calf.
The reproductive tract undergoes a period of rest during which it is repaired and returns to normal.

During pregnancy, a hormone called progesterone is produced by the placenta to maintain the foetus in the uterus.

Animal Length of days
Cow 270-285 Days
Sow 113-117
Ewe/Goat 150
Rabbit 28-32


Act of giving birth is called parturition. This time the foetus is expelled through the birth canal.

When an animal is about to give birth, it shows signs;-

Distended udder which produces a thick milky fluid called colostrums.
Swollen outer opening producing thick mucus-like discharge.
Loose and slackened pelvic girdle.
Visible pin bones.
General restlessness.

Animal parturates within 2-3 hours after this sign. The correct presentation is with the front feet first, and the head outstretched and resting in between the feet.
Any other presentation is called mal-presentation or breech presentation and requires assistance.

Reproduction in Poultry

The male chicken has no special male organ but a small opening near the vent through which sperms are emitted. male chicken has testes within the body.

The hen has an elongated oviduct for the formation of an egg. Fertilization occurs internally.

During mating the cloaca of the hen and the vent of the male chicken fit into each other and then the seminal fluid is poured into the cloaca, then sucked into the oviducts.

The Reproductive System of a Hen

The reproductive system has the following parts;
i). Ovary
ii). Funnel(infundibulum).
iii). Magnum
iv). Ishtumus
V). Uterus/Shell gland
viii). Cloaca

read more of poultry management here


Hen has two ovaries but one functional. Ova is formed in the ovaries.
About 3500-4000 ova are present inside the ovary held by the follicle. The mature ovum is released via rapture of the follicle. It moves into the oviduct received by the funnel.

Funnel (infundibulum)
Fertilization occurs here. Chalazae was also added to the yolk.
It also collects the ovum and stores the sperm. The time here is 15 minutes and it is 11.6cm long.

Thick albumen is added and stays for 3hrs. it\’s 33cm long.

Its 10.6cm long, Shell membranes are added and determine the shape of an egg.
Water, mineral salts and vitamins are added and takes 15 minutes.

Uterus(shell gland)
Calcium deposits added around the egg. Pigments added.
The addition of albumin is finished and stays here for 18-22 hours.

Egg moves out of the cloaca through the vent and the cloaca extends out to prevent the egg from breaking.
Egg formation is not dependent on fertilization. Egg formation takes 24-26 hours.
The components of eggs are obtained from the body reserves of the hen\’s body.

Selection of Breeding Stock

Selection is used as a tool for livestock improvement. A breeding type is a group of males and females which act as parents of future generations.

Selection is the process of allowing certain animals to be the parents of future generations while culling others.

Culling is the removal of animals which do not perform to the desired level, from the herd. The animals retained have certain desirable characteristics which make them produce more.

Selected animals make up the breeding stock.
The breeding stock should pass the good qualities to their offspring for better performance, to improve the livestock.

The selection process repeated for many generations increases the chances of the formation of desirable qualities in an animal.
Genetically termed as gene frequency(occurrence of the genes that carry desirable characteristics.) Selection increases the occurrence of desirable genes and decreases the occurrence of undesirable genes.

During selection, the characteristics to be selected are first studied closely to ascertain that it is not influenced by the environment, but mainly by the genetic make-up.

Selection helps improve characteristics which are highly heritable.
Heritability means the likelihood of a particular trait to be transmitted to the offspring and they are strongly inherited.

A character like milk yield is lowly heritable, i.e. it is weakly inherited and a bigger percentage of the character is affected by the environment.

The degree to which selection affects a character depends on the following factors;
The heritability of the character, The intensity with which the selection is done and the interval between generations and the kind of selection being practised.

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Breeding variety.

Level of performance
Physical Fitness

Body Conformation
Temperament or Behaviour
Quality of products
Mothering Ability


Young animals,
Those that have not parturated for more than 3 times, should be selected.
They have a longer productive life.
Old animals are poor breeders and low producers.
Production and breeding efficiency decline with age.

Level of performance

Animals with the highest production level were selected.
Performance best indicated by records.

Good performance of animal indicated by;

High milk, wool and egg production,
Good mothering ability
High prepotency is the ability of a parent to pass on good qualities to their offspring.

The animals with poor performance should be culled.
Good records are kept and used by the farmer for this purpose.

Physical Fitness
Animals selected should be free from any physical defect e.g.

irregular number of teats,
scrotal hernia,
defective and weak backline


Sick animals do not breed well and are expensive to keep.
Animals that are resistant to diseases pass these characteristics to their offspring

Body Conformation

Animals for breeding are to be selected according to proper body conformation.
A dairy cow should be wedge-shaped with a large udder, thin legs, long neck.

Temperament or Behaviour

Animals with bad behaviours should be culled. e.g Cannibalism, egg eating, aggressiveness, kicking

Quality of products

Select animals that give products of high quality such as meat, wool, eggs, and milk.

Mothering Ability

Animals selected should have a good mothering abilities,
That is animals with a good natural instinct towards their young ones.
This will enable them to rear the young ones up to weaning.

Animals selected should be well adapted to the prevailing climatic condition in the area e.g. Arid and semi-arid areas.


The animals selected should be highly prolific.
That is animals with the ability to give birth to many offspring at a time(larger litter).
This is a quality that should be considered when selecting pigs and rabbits.
The ancestry records assist to choose the prolific breeds for mating

Selection in cattle

Consider the following;

Level Of Performance Which Include;

Milk Yield Butter Content.

Length Of Lactation Period.

Calving Intervals.

Age of the Animal, Fertility, Physical Fitness, Health Of The Animal, Body Conformation and suitability of the enterprise-milk or beef

Selection in sheep

Consider the following;

Level of performance which includes;

Mothering ability

Growth rate

Wool quality

Carcass quality

Twining rate Age

Suitability to the enterprise wool or mutton
Flocking instinct Health of the animal
Physical fitness
Inheritable defects
Inheritable defects.

Selection in Goats
Consider the following:
Mothering ability.
Growth rate.
Twining rate

Carcass quality/dressing percentage
Growth rate.
Suitability to the enterprise – milk or mutton.
The health of the animal.

Selection in Pigs

Consider the following:
Carcass quality/dressing percentage
Suitability to the enterprise (bacon or pork)
Growth rate.
The health of the animal.

Mothering ability.
Number of teats
Body formation.
Heredity defects

Selection in Camels
The health of the animal.

Foraging ability.
Level of performance-milk, meat, fur and transport.


These include:

Mass selection – Animals with superior characteristics (highly heritable breeds) are selected from a herd and then allowed to mate with each other at random.

The offspring will show higher performance than their parents. This is because mass selection increases the occurrence of the desirable genes in a population.

Progeny testing – is an offspring resulting from selected parents ( Family selection). In this method, a group of progenies (offspring) are used as an aid to increase accuracy in the selection of a breeding type.

This is method is used when the character to be selected is of low heredity power and expressed by one sex only.
This method takes up to nine years for the results to be seen

Contemporary comparison
Contemporaries refer to other heifers in the herd sired by the same bull.

This is a progeny-tasting method which involves a comparison of the average production of daughters (Heifers) of each bull with that of the other heifer referred to as contemporaries.

In this method, it is assumed that the difference between the herds of the same breed are non-genetic in origin.


It is possible to compare heifers of different ages in different locations worldwide.
It eliminates differences brought about by the environment.
it is possible to make a direct comparison of stud bulls at different artificial insemination centres.
It is accurate since we are using a large herd of animals.


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