The Sunday Mail
By Chipo Tachiona
THE business of producing beef is dependent on a wide range of variables. Each component is equally crucial to the other. These components must cooperate in order to maximise the herd’s productivity and boost profitability.
Below are some of the considerations that should be made to get the best out of cattle farming.
Most calf crop genetics come from bulls, so it is critical to choose a herd sire that can generate the right offspring. Breed type, parentage (pedigree), physical appearance, performance records and genetics are fundamental factors to consider when choosing a bull. It is more economical to select the right breed for a particular production environment than adapt the environment to meet the requirements of the breed.
What you feed your beef cattle directly affects the quality of the meat; the marbling of the fat and the overall price at the market when the time comes to sell or slaughter your cattle. A solid plan for feeding cattle that considers their nutritional needs, and cost and availability of feed, as well as other aspects of feeding beef cattle, can improve the quality of the final product.
Good pastures produce quality beef. Your cattle will require less additional feed if the pasture is excellent since they will be able to obtain most of their nutrients directly from the ground. Both vitamins and roughage, two crucial elements required for bovine health, are abundant in pasture grass.
Because pasture grass contains more vitamin K and E than commercial diets, it is a better choice for feeding cattle. In order to produce grass that is of the highest nutritional grade, the proper seed mixture must be utilised.
Additionally, pastures must be rested, reseeded, raked and trimmed as needed, and weeds that might deplete nutrients or even poison your cattle must be looked out for.
Cattle can extract protein from vegetable plants. While hay and various types of grass do contain protein, most beef cattle get their protein from legumes. The essential minerals for beef cattle include calcium, phosphorus, potassium and salt.
Additionally, they require trace levels of selenium, copper, cobalt, zinc and iodine. A mineral block should be placed beneath an overhang or shelter to prevent rainwater wastage so that cattle have access to plenty of minerals.
The block is licked by cattle because it tastes pleasant and provides them with the salts and minerals they require. Beef cattle also need an abundance of vitamins, especially A, D and E.
Most beef cattle are fed a mixture of ground, shelled maize or millet to finish them off before slaughter. These grains are reasonably priced. They help the meat to become soft by adding fat.
When producing beef cattle, water is one item farmers cannot afford to overlook.
Water is a crucial component of a good livestock management plan, even though it is not included in cattle feeding programmes. Cattle require daily access to clean, fresh water.
In cold weather, cattle drink 12-16 litres of water per day.
They may need to consume approximately four litres of water for every 500 grammes of body weight at least once a day in hot weather, as their water needs soar.
Good herd management
◆ regular vaccinations — administering of chemicals/microorganisms that resemble disease-causing organisms to improve the animal’s immune system and prevent them from succumbing to life-threatening diseases.
◆ parasite control — deworming to enable the farmer to eradicate internal parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, flukes and screwworms that are harmful to the herd’s health.
◆ Dipping — This is a crucial measure to control ticks, fleas, lice and mites, and manage outbreaks and deaths. Ectoparasites cause weight loss and diseases in livestock.
Properly constructed facilities confine cattle safely and efficiently, with minimal animal stress and risk of injury to both the livestock and workers.
Cattle handling includes sorting, weighing, dehorning, vaccinating, dipping, branding, grooming, treating and calving. Well-designed facilities allow for safe cattle handling.
The components of a facility are the same regardless of the number of cattle and include:
◆ Cattle race — fixed construction with poles or fences that cattle must pass through one at a time and in which they cannot turn around.
* A portion of the race known as the “cattle crush” enables safe and controlled handling of the animal while it is being investigated.
* Scales and loading ramps for cattle — the body weight of an animal that is penned up in a race or crush can be assessed by weighing each one separately on a scale.
* Watering and feeding troughs
* Cattle pens — They should be built with sturdy materials (wood or metal) that will ensure animals remain inside. They should be designed to allow for confining of animals to a location and to separate them as needed (e.g. if an animal becomes aggressive or sick or needs a specialised treatment).
Pens also serve as a good facility to restrict animal movement when fattening to achieve desired slaughter weight. Each adult animal must have at least 10 square metres of space, including the one for feeding, in the pen.
◆ Dipping facilities e.g. spray race. If these considerations are factored in, farmers are guaranteed of having the best out of their beef production endeavours.
◆ Chipo Tachiona is Farmyard Investments director. Word from the Market is a column produced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority to promote market-driven production. Feedback: [email protected] or WhatsApp/Call +263781706212.