Almost every Motswana owns a cattle. It is the basis of our culture and root of all developments in the country Botswana. Most Batswana are part time farmers who go to the cattle post almost every weekend or on monthly basis, but there are those who want to start this production and do not know how to start or where. The following will answer most common questions asked by start-up farmers.
Cows give birth after 9 months of fertilization from the bull. A cow goes on heat almost every month and it begins its oestrus cycle at the age of 14 to 15 months and they are able to conceive or give birth. There are also signs that the cow is on oestrus being;
- Thick clear mucus: this mucus will come from the cervix of the cow to lubricate the penis of the bull and help transport sperms
- Instinct of riding others: this may occur when the cow is approaching oestrus, they ride on other cows frequently and do not drift away from doing that a few times
- Swollen vulva: which is sometimes difficult to see, but can also be used to indicate if the cow is on heat
- Blood discharge: the cow after estrus can have blood stains from the vulva, on the tail or in the rear quarter of the cow. This is an indication that the cow was on heat.
But the sperm reception by the cow may not be every month as there are also factors of feed, energy and fertility that comes into place. There periods which are best suited for mating the cows and bull, but this will also be according to the cycle of breeding system adopted in the farm. The best months or period for the cows to receive bulls in Botswana is between the months of November to march. This is due to the availability of feed water and the good climate that comes with these months.
Cows feed on grass and legumes and other field plants that are cultivated. But there are other forms of feed like the blocks and licks and supplements. The feeds are written and explained well in feeds for cattle article. On average a cow eats 9 kg of dry grass per day.kg every day to cover for the energy intake and other metabolic activities in the bodies
Every living being needs to drink water, so that some of the activities in the body can occur very well with the use of water. It is very essential to provide good clean treated water to the cattle. This is so that risks of disease causing pathogens are reduced. Water should be abundantly available to cater for the growth of the herd and also for sustainability. Water requirements for cattle differs according to age and body mass, if the it is a lactating cow or not of which lactating cows drink a lot of water, also factors like season because in summer they tend to drink a lot of water than in winter, also as the forage in the range land dries they drink a lot of water.
Daily water intake may vary from 11 to 113 litres per day depending on age, body size (weight), stage of production and the environment (mainly air temperature).
As a rule of thumb, consumption will range from 3 litres per 45 kilograms of body weight during cold weather to nearly 7 litres per 45 kg of body weight during the hottest weather.
Lactating cows require nearly twice as much water compared to dry cows.
Shelter for cattle is mostly in the form of kraals. There are different types of kraals which one can adopt. There is the traditional one that is mostly used at the cattle post made with mapako, others are built using wire fence and others using bars but the choice lies upon the farmer as to what they prefer. Shelter provided should be comfortable to stay in with good aeration (movement of air) this will help reduce disease spread and from developing. The space should accommodate the number of cattle you are anticipating to keep, so that there is no overcrowding in the kraals. In the winter the shelter should also allow for bedding to be used to protect the cattle from cold. The shelter should also accommodate the use of wind breakers during the winter to prevent cold wind from hitting the cattle making them cold. On average a cow needs a space of 4m2 This will depend on the system of grazing and the type of kraals to use.
There are different types of breeds that you can choose from, the different types are discussed in the types of breed’s article. But there are some factors which one can look at when selecting the kind of breeds to buy or breed. The following points will explain such factors
- Available forage: the farmer should look at the type of grass available and the forage for feeding the cattle. Know the quality and quantity of the forage. Different breeds will do well differently towards the available forage and also looking at the quality of the forage to be able to improve or support the breed selected
- Climatic conditions: some breeds do not do well in semi-arid conditions of Botswana and others do. Farmer should be able to research on the conditions suitable for the breed selected. This will also include knowing the seasonal pattern of the area to know the times to mate the cows and to know the selling times of the farm.
- Purpose of rearing cattle: this is determined by the farmer if they want to go into beef or milk production. The farmer will need to choose the breeds which are best suited to the area to give them good quality beef or keep cattle breed which will give them high quality milk production.
- Price of the breed: the farmer will look at the best breed they can afford looking at the price for each breed including the cost attached to maintaining it. It is advisable that the farmer should choose a breed which is easily maintained and also good mothering ability.