Rearing cattle is a complex but rewarding endeavour that requires careful planning, management, and a deep understanding of the needs of these animals.

Whether you are a small-scale hobby farmer or an aspiring cattle rancher, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps and considerations for successfully rearing cattle.

highland cow, cattle rearing

1. Selecting Cattle Breeds:

Choosing the right cattle breed for your specific goals and environmental conditions is crucial. Factors to consider include:

  • Purpose: Are you raising cattle for beef, milk, or both?
  • Climate: Some breeds are better suited to cold climates, while others thrive in hot regions.
  • Size: Consider the size of your property and facilities when selecting breeds.

Common beef cattle breeds include Angus, Hereford, and Charolais, while dairy breeds include Holstein, Jersey, and Guernsey.

2. Providing Adequate Shelter:

Cattle require shelter to protect them from adverse weather conditions such as rain, extreme heat, cold, and wind. A well-designed cattle barn or shelter should:

  • Offer proper ventilation to prevent condensation and respiratory issues.
  • Have adequate space for the number of cattle you plan to rear.
  • Provide access to clean drinking water and feed.

3. Fencing and Pasture Management:

Proper fencing is essential to keep your cattle safe and prevent them from wandering onto neighboring properties. Consider these factors:

  • Fencing Materials: Common options include wooden, electric, or barbed wire fencing.
  • Pasture Rotation: Implement rotational grazing to prevent overgrazing and optimize pasture health.

4. Nutrition and Feeding:

Understanding cattle nutrition is crucial for their growth, reproduction, and overall health. A well-balanced diet typically consists of:

  • Forage: High-quality pasture or hay should be the primary component of their diet.
  • Supplements: Depending on the purpose (beef or dairy), you may need to provide additional feed, including grains and minerals.
  • Fresh Water: Ensure a constant supply of clean, fresh water.

5. Healthcare and Disease Management:

Regular health monitoring and preventive measures are essential for a healthy herd:

  • Vaccinations: Work with a veterinarian to establish a vaccination schedule.
  • Parasite Control: Implement deworming and parasite management programs.
  • Health Records: Maintain accurate records of each animal’s health history.

6. Breeding and Reproduction:

If you plan to breed your cattle, consider the following:

  • Bull Selection: Choose a healthy, genetically sound bull.
  • Calving Management: Provide proper care during calving to ensure the health of both the cow and calf.
  • Reproductive Health: Monitor estrus cycles, and seek veterinary assistance if fertility issues arise.

7. Handling and Training:

Cattle can be challenging to handle without proper training and handling facilities. Implement these best practices:

  • Gentle Handling: Use low-stress handling techniques to reduce anxiety and aggression in cattle.
  • Chute and Corrals: Invest in well-designed cattle chutes and handling facilities for safe and efficient management.

8. Record Keeping:

Maintain detailed records of your cattle’s health, breeding, and performance. This information is invaluable for making informed management decisions and maximizing productivity.

9. Marketing and Sales:

If raising cattle for profit, consider your marketing and sales strategies. Explore options such as direct sales to consumers, selling to feedlots, or participating in cattle auctions.

10. Continuous Learning:

Rearing cattle is an ongoing learning process. Stay updated on best practices, industry trends, and new research to ensure the well-being of your herd and the success of your cattle operation.

Successful cattle rearing requires dedication, knowledge, and hard work, but with the right planning and commitment, it can be a fulfilling and profitable endeavor.

Some Terms Associated with Cattle rearing

  1. Bull: an adult male cattle- a full-grown cattle is called the Bull. Usually used for sporting activities
  2. Cow: adult female cattle. Majorly kept for the purpose of reproduction
  3. Bullock or steet or Slag: a castrated male cattle. It is widely believed that castrated bulls are usually very strong as such this breed of cattle is used majorly for work such as tillage practices
  4. Heifer: a young female cattle which has not had a calf, usually under I2 months old.
  5. Yearling: a young cattle usually between 12 to 24 months.
  6. Veal: the beef of young cattle.
  7. Vealers: calves reared for meat production. They are usually slaughtered when 3 months old.
  8. Colostrum: a kind of milk produced by a cow three to four days alter delivery.
  9. Calving: the act of deliver in cows.
  10. Servicing: mating of a cow by a bull. Most preferred practice is that there are specially reared for the sole purpose of mating to produce stronger breed
  11. Castration: removal of the male testes to enhance the growth o the animal
  12. Heat period: the period when the cow is ready to receive the bull for servicing. It occurs mid-way within the oestrous cycle
  13. Oestrus cycle: the time interval between one heat period and another.
  14. Gestation Period: This is the period of pregnancy. In cows it last for 281-283 days i.e. about 9 months.
  15. Udder: The breast of cows.

 Management Practices cattle rearing

The life of cattle can he divided into three stages like poultry, namely:

  1. Calf hood
  2. Growers
  3. Adulthood.

(a) Rearing of calves: Calves could be regarded as animals from birth till they attain the age of six months after which they become growers.

(i) Calf Buildings or Pens: Calves are best reared indoors in the tropics as calves are likely to be easily infected with internal parasites around in pastures. Besides, calves do better with young and palatable grasses. It is difficult to keep grassing fields at these conditions. Such should be cut from the pastures and fed to calves in Pens. The roof of a calf pen is simple. It may be of zinc or asbestos roof over a concrete floor. This should be well drained. Side walls are not necessary. The sides of the pens are screened to keep off flies.

(ii) Management of Calves: Immediately after calving a good cow takes care of the calf and endeavours to protect and secure it, then begins immediately to remove the mucus covering the body of the calf by licking it. The farmer has to remove the calf as the cow can be careless. The umbilical cord has to be cut and treated with iodine to check infection.

The calf may suckle the dam. If the dam is milked for human use. he calf may be bucket-fed. Whichever is the method, the milk produced by the dam for the first three to four days called colostrum must be fed to the calf. In general, a calf is fed a milk ration up to 8% of its body weight a day or 4 to 6 litres, in three feeds. The milk to be fed must be warmed to 29°C, the body temperature of a calf, cold milk may result in calf diarrhoea called Accour. The bucket used in feeding must be scrubbed with soap after each feeding.

It should be remembered that a calf does not function well until it is few weeks old. At birth, the capacity of is 70% of the four stomach chambers, whereas in the cow it is 7%. Therefore, a calf can only take solid when it is up to three weeks old. A suitable ratio at this stage is

Palm kernel meal – 50 parts

Guinea corn dusa – 25 parts

Groundnut cake – 25 parts

Feed 1 to 1.5kg of this ration in a day. The milk feed is then reduced: young succulent grasses are ted in addition. The calf is finally weaned from milk when 12 to 14 weeks old.

At every stage of cattle rearing, water must be made available to calves every day.

(ii) Dehorning in cattle rearing: This is the process of preventing the appearance of the horns. Dehorning is essential with dairy animals. Bull calves proposed for work should not be dehorned. This is to provide points of attachment for farm implements.

Dehorning should be performed when a calf is a week old.

This is done by cauterizing the horn bud by either rubbing it with a caustic stick till near bleeding or by use of a cylindrical hot iron pressed for a second on the rim of the horn bud.

De-horning helps to reduce space occupied by animals and prevent injuries arising from fighting.

(iii) Castration: This is preventing the development or the entire ol testicles. This is best done when a bull-calf is ten days old, and a very sharp knife, crusher or rubber ring is used for the lilt pin pose. The Burdizzo bloodless castrator can be used safely at any age. Castration helps to prevent indiscriminate breeding and also makes animals fatten up faster.

(v) Earmarking: For the purpose of distinguishing the animals, the calves are marked on the ear as early as possible with a pliers or punching tool.

(vi) Nose Puncturing: Bull calves proposed for work should have their noses punctured. Nose rings should be inserted. These rings help to control the animals later.

1 ½ parts cotton seed.

1 part guinea corn seed.

½ part dusa (guinea chaff).

3% mineral mixture.


3 parts guinea corn seeds.

1½ parts groundnut cake.

3% mineral mixture.

The mineral mixture could be made with

40 parts of common salt.

20 parts of bone meal.

40 parts of lime.

Heifers come on heat when they are 20 months old. The best age for the first service is

Two months before calving, the heifer should be brought to the milking herd to accustom it to handling. It should be fed heavily.

The heavy feeding before calving is known as \”steaming up\”.

All heifers must be vaccinated against contagious abortion when 4 – 8 months old and against rinderpest when eight months old.

(i) Management and feeding during milking: It is not essential to over-expose milking animals to sun more than is necessary. they should be encouraged to graze at night. Concentrates should be fed both in the pasture and in the yards. Shelters should be constructed both in the grazing field and in the yards; shelters should be open to the prevailing winds. Water sprays and air fan should be installed in the yards to keep the floors as cool as possible. Whenever possible, dairy animals should be reared indoors and this must he the practice in northern Nigeria to check tsetse-flies.

Out-door cows should be rotationally grazed. It is best to move animals daily. The best method is close grazing or close, by this method, the animals are given exactly the area that the need for one grazing. This is achieved by fencing and if need be by tethering the animals.

Grazing alone is sufficient for the production of 4.5 litres of K Above this, they should be given concentrates according to the live weight of the animal and the quantity of milk produced. Feed the concentrate twice a day while milking is going on. A licentiate mixture consists of:

3 parts guinea corn grains

2 parts groundnut cake

3 parts palm kernel meal

2 parts dusa

3 per cent mineral mixture

This should be fed at the rate of ¼ kg of mixture for each 4.5 litres of milk produced.

(ii) Milking: Milking should he done twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. It is essential when milking a cow tin the first lime to prevent her from being frightened or getting excited. Tools for milking should not be associated with pain the cow will never let down milk.

Always milk quickly. Before milking operation, the cow has to be stimulated. The pull of the calf on the teat of the udder of the cow gives the stimulus. The action of the calf could be imitated when hand milking is used. Dry hands should be used. Two teats are pulled alternatively each occasion into the bucket. It is necessary to clean them with warm water before milking.

The cow may not let down milk if the calves are not neaf Therefore the calves may be brought near such cows. During milking, all the milk must be extracted from the udder, milking is not complete, and there is the tendency for the cow to dr off too soon. When a cow is to be dried off. it is essential to restrict milking gradually.

The first heat occurs about 50 days after calving and it recurs i an average of 21 days, if there is no service or if there is pregnancy. It is best to service the animals on about the 85th day after calving. This results in calving at 12-month intervals. Older cows should be milked for 305 days and dried off preparatory for calving in two months. Heifers should get longer drying periods. They should be milked only for nine months and dried off for three months.

Dry cows should subsist on grazing alone until 8-12 weeks from calving when they should receive 1kg of concentrate a day

(c) Management of Bull: The general feeding and management of young bulls should be similar to those of heifer. When mature, they should be fed as dry cows.

(i) Stud Bulls: These are bulls used for service. Bulls are used service when they attain the age of two years. They reach the peak breeding power from three to six years. A young bull of service one or two times a week. Older bulls can service five tinier a week bull may be allowed to service cows once in a year.

(ii) Work Bulls: Bulls for work should be trained to draw ploughs when they are two years old. Bull calves intended for work should be castrated at a very early stage.

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