CATTLE REARING, Cattle rearing in one of the most important aspect of animal husbandry. The production of beef meat, hides and skin through cattle rearing dates far back as 6,000 BC.

parts of a cow. cattle
labeled parts of a cattle

The art of rearing of cattle is as old as man himself. Cut across all religion, cultural practices and Tribal sentiment, cattle rearing is generally accepted. So in this article, we shall be looking at the various types of cattle, geographical distribution, meat production and cattle management in general. So let’s consider the following


(a) Importance of Cattle rearing

  1. Beef, which is a rich source of protein, is obtained from cattle,

Milk is also a major product from dairy cows.

  1. Hides are used for various industrial purposes, particularly leather works
  2. It horns and hooves are used for making various household wares, e.g. knives, ash trays, etc.
  3. Cattle production provides employment to many people directly or indirectly.
  4. Provides income to the farmer.
  5. The dungs serve as a good source of farm yard manure to crop growers.
  6. The bones supply minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium when included in animal feeds.

(b) Some Terms Associated with Cattle Production and rearing

  1. Bull: an adult male cattle- a full grown made 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 are 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.

(c) Types of Cattle rearing and management

There are different types of cattle depending on the purpose for which they are kept. In this article I am going to use cattle names majorly reared in Nigeria, so if you have other breeds of cattle that are not listed here, feel free to complete the list by leaving us a reply and comment below.

These include:

  1. Beef type cattle: Those kept for beef or meat production purposes, e.g. Ndama. Muturu. Keteku. Etc.
  2. Dairy cattle: Those kept for milk production purposes, e.g. white Fulani, Buraji etc.
  3. Workcatte: These are cattle kept for work purposes. They are used to do odd jobs in farms like

Pulling of ploughs, e.g. Sokoto gudali. Kanrej etc. they are kept for tillage works in agricultural science

  1. Dual purpose cattle: These are kept for more than one purpose. They could be kept for milk production and at the same time for beef production, e.g. Sokoto gudali.

 Breeds of cattle

Cattle are mostly reared in the Northern Nigeria because of the presence of tse-tse fly in the south of the country. This type of fly transmits a disease causing organism called TRYPANOSOM that causes sleeping sickness in cattle

The following are common breeds of cattle in Nigeria

(i) Hump-less Cattle: Krui, Ndama, Muturu

(ii) Humped or Zebu Cattle: Red bororo. Sokoto gudali, Shuwa Cattle, white Fulani

(b) Foreign or exotic breeds: These can be grouped into two:

(i) Dairy breeds: e.g. Holstein Friesian. Brown Swiss. Red Den and New Jersey.

(ii) Beef breeds: e.g. Hereford. Aberdeen Angus. Red Devon etc.

 Management Systems in Cattle

Cattle can be managed under any of the following systems:

(i) Extensive System: This is the traditional method of cattle production. It is commonly practiced in tropical countries of the world. In this system, cattle are moved from one grazing land to the other depending on the availability of grass.

Most cattle in Nigeria are reared under this system. When grasses become scarce in the dry season, the animals are moved to where there is denser vegetation. The animals are In graze under the control of a herdsman.

Advantages of the system

  1. The system is cheap since no money is spent on feeding the animals
  2. Some parasites such as ticks and worms can be checked since the animals do not remain in one place for a long time.

Disadvantages of the system

  1. Much land is required to practice the system.
  2. The animals do not perform maximally in terms of milk or beef production especially when dry season comes.
  3. No adequate records can be kept about the animals.
  4. Animals are exposed to various dangers such as weather hazards
  5. Diseases cannot be easily controlled under this type of cattle rearing

(ii) Intensive System: Under the intensive system of management the cattle are housed in pens or kraals. Feed and water are supplied them in the pens.


  1. It does not waste land
  2. Records are easily kept
  3. Weather hazards are minimized
  4. Diseases and pests are easily controlled
  5. The performance of the animals is very good in terms of meat and milk production


  1. It is very expensive due to the cost of erecting the buildings
  2. Contagious disease is often a problem

iii. Semi-Intensive System: This is where cattle are kept with some restriction and are usually provided accommodation at nights or during bad weather. It is a bridge between the extensive a intensive systems of management.

 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 round in pastures. Besides, calves do better with young and palatable grasses. It is difficult to keep grassing fields at this 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 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 begins 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 he 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 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, him cold milk may result in calf diarrhea 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 on 7%. Therefore, a calf can only take solid when it is up to three weeks old. A suitable ration 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: 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 with a caustic stick till near bleeding or by the use of cylindrical hot iron pressed for a second on the rim of 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 the testicles. This is best done when a bull-calf is ten days old, a very sharp knife, crushers or rubber ring is used for lilts pin pose. The burdizzo bloodless castractor 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.

 Rearing of Growers (Heifers): The management of heifers is divided into two stages. The first stage is from six months old till the time of first service which is approximately 27 months. The other stage is from the time of the first service till calving at approximately three years and one month. It is cheaper to rear heifers out doors under rotational grazing where grasses are adequate. Grazing is sufficient during the wet season. During the dry season, grazing should be supplemented with good silage, hay or potato vines. In addition. 1 to 1.5kg of concentrate should be given. The concentrate could be made up as follows:

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 out 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

27 months. Gestation (period of pregnancy) is about 9 months or 283days. During the gestation period, the constitution and the life of the heifer change. It continues to grow to bear calf and prepare to produce milk for the young calf. The heifers should be given a better treatment particularly in feeding and handling, in dry season, grazing alone is enough. In dry season, hay and silage should be fed with concentrate in addition to grazing.

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 – 8months 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 milicentrate 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.

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, there is the tendency for the cow to dr off too soon. When a cow is to be dried off. it is essential restrict milking gradually.

The first heat occurs about 50 days after calving and it recurs i 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 months interval. 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.

During the wet season, grazing alone is sufficient to maintain the animals and produce three hours of work per day. For each additional hour of work ½kg of dose should be fed in addition. In dry season, feed up to 6kg of mixed fodders in addition to grazing and extra ½kg of dose or its equivalent for each hour of work. For three weeks before ploughing begins,

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