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Introduction to Cattle Production Technologies

Cattle fattening has gained prominence as an important business project of the livestock industry in the Philippines. It gives the farmer year-round work and provides him with extra income. He can make use of cheap, plentiful farm by-products such as corn stovers, rice straw, copra meal, rice bran and sugarcane tops, which ordinarily go to waste. Most importantly, it helps meet the urgent demand for high-protein foods in the Filipino diet.

Backyard cattle fattening or on a large scale can be profitably undertaken. It consists of buying healthy stock, feeding and fattening them for 120 to 180 days, and selling them at anytime of the year. Minimum space for housing is required: 1.5 to 2 sq. meters per head for a sheltered feeding area, and 5 meters per head for a fenced loafing area.

Given the proper care, there is less danger of diseases and parasites affecting confined animals and the fattening period is shorter. Marbling or intermixture of fat and lean in meat is better obtained through feedlot fattening. This is preferred by customers.

I. Types of Cattle Raising

Cow-calf Operation
In a cow-calf operation, cows and bulls are raised to produce calves which are raised until they are weaned from their dams at seven (7) to eight (8) months of age. After weaning, they can be sold immediately, or raised for a few more months for use as replacement stocks or sold for fattening.

The cow-calf operation is considered most challenging because the breeder needs to be familiar with the reproductive cycle, management practices involved in the production and maintenance of cows, bulls and calves as well as breeding and feeding systems. A good animal health program should also be observed to minimize mortality and ensure the productivity of the animals.

Breeder Farm Operation
In a breeder farm operation, the main interest of the raisers is to produce animals for breeding purposes. There is a set of selection criteria for calves and they are raised until they are ready for breeding.

Since the main output of a breeder farm is quality breeding animals, a large herd is necessary for the selection of the replacement stocks. Purebred animals are usually utilized in this type of operation. The breeder farm can be maintained in the ranch, in complete confinement, or integrated with plantation and forest trees. The farm requires a number of animal stock, a big space and a big capital.

Growing-Fattening Operation
This is the most popular type of cattle raising in the Philippines. It requires simple facilities and level of management. The lifespan of operation is shorter and the return of investment is relatively higher.
Growing cattle can be raised through grazing or cut-and-carry feeding. Thus, it needs little capital so it can be managed by small hold cattle raisers.

On the other hand, the fattening or finishing stage is usually done intensively or in confinement. The animals are kept within an area so that the feeds given to them are utilized to develop their tissues.

II. Breed

Improved breeds and crossbreds gain weight faster than native animals. Tropical breeds are more adaptable to local climatic and feed conditions than temperate breeds. Some of the recommended tropical breeds are:

The Brahman is one of the most popular breeds of cattle intended for meat processing. They come in two colors: White to grey, and red. Whitish Brahmans, especially the bulls, typically have much more grey around the neck, shoulder and head area than the rest of their body, with a grey tail switch. Red Brahman bulls typically have a deeper red to almost black tinge around their neck area with a black tail switch. The cows can be all white or all red, with black noses, tail switches and hooves.

Ongle or Nellore
Popular color is white. Males have dark grey markings on head, neck and hump, and black points on knees and pastems. Head is broad between eyes slightly prominent. Face moderately long, bridges of nose to nostrils large, placid full, bright, elliptical black eye lashes, ring of black hair around eyes. Horns are short and stumpy, growing outwards and backwards. Thick at base is firm, without cracks. Ears are moderately long, slightly drooping, alert, tip of ears are black. Neck is short and thick in bulls,moderately long in cows. Hump is well developed and erect. filled up on both sides and not concave or leaning to either side. Dewlap is fleshy and hanging in fold, extending to naval flap. Chest is deep and wide, broad between the fore arms. legs are strong, clean and medium in length, well apart, firmly and squarely set under the body, toes pointing straight. tail head is slopping, deeply molded and not coarse. Long and fine with black switch. Tip of tail vertebrae reaches just beyond point of hock.

Indo-Brazilian cattle are a Zebu beef breed developed in Brazil from Gir, Kankrej and Ongole Cattle brought from India.[1] While this is nearly the same mixture which produced the American Brahman, the two breeds differ in appearance, with the Indo-Brazilian having much longer ears which hang down lower, like the Nelore. Indo-Brazilian cattle have good heat and parasite resistance and thrive in the tropics. They are white to dark grey in colour with short horns and very large ears. They have the typical Zebu shoulder hump.

Batangas Cattle
this is not really distinct breed of cattle in the Philippines. Cattle fattened in Batangas comes from Mindoro, Masbate and other provinces. The term Batangas beef has become popular because of the good quality cattle produced by the “supak” method of Batangas.

III. Management Practices

Management of Calves
Calves should suckle colostrum milk from their mother within three (3) hours after calving. A calf that has not suckled five (5) to six (6) hours after calving should be led to his mother’s udder.

During bad weathers, weak calves should be taken to the barn with the mother. However, orphaned calves may be raised to cow’s milk or milk replacers. Calves should be given concentrates at an early age for faster growth.

Management of Growers
Growers are weaned yearlings which are not to be fattened immediately. They are handled in such a way that maximum growth is achieved at the lowest possible cost. The growing period starts from weaning to fattening or replacement stage. Growers are usually maintained in the pasture with very little attention; they are given salt and mineral supplements. If raised in confinement, concentrates should be given in addition to grass or roughage.

Management of Fatteners
Fatteners require a shorter period to reach slaughter weight. They are generally bigger, mature, or nearing maturity. However, one and a half to two-year old animals weighing 200 to 300 kg are preferred. They may be fattened either in feedlot, on pasture, or in both areas.

IV. Cattle Housing

Proper housing is important in successful cattle fattening operation. Adequately protect animals against the adverse effects of weather when they are raised in relatively small areas. Animals in backyard cattle farms are usually tethered along roadsides and in backyards during the day and confined in a shed or corral at night. The permanent type of housing consisting of GI roofing, timber frames, concrete floor, feed trough and water troughs are used in most farms. The shelter is open-sided and is located near the farmer’s house or under the shade trees. Building height ranges from 1.79 to 1.9 meters while the width varies from 2.1 to 2.7 meters. Each animal can be allocated with 1.5 to 4.5 sq. meters.

A fenced loafing area beside the goat house must be provided (100 to 150 sqm/250 head), complete with feeding racks and water troughs to allow animals to loaf freely. Flooring of the area must be cemented to facilitate drying. Cogon and nipa as roof materials are preferred in hot and humid areas.
Ventilation is of outmost importance. Majority of pneumonia cases can be traced to excessively warm and humid interior and sudden changes in temperature. Allow a 0.5 to 1 feet clearance between floor to wall and wall to beam to create an adequate circulation and to lower draft. It is desirable to maintain an interior temperature of 28 to 30°C. It has been established that above 30°C ruminants are inhibited from eating.

Lighting may also be provided in the barns during the night. Goats consume up to 30% of the day’s intake during the night when light is provided.

Other Options:
1. Housing System for Cow-calf Operation

Cow-calf operation in smallhold farms is usually done using simple methods and facilities. The animals are usually tethered during the day and kept inside the shed during the night. The shed is built from native materials like wood and bamboo frames and enclosures; nipa and cogon for roofings. Feeding and watering troughs can also be made out of locally available materials such as used tires, used and halved drums. The shed is usually built near the house of the farmer.

2. Housing System for Fattening Operation
In this type of operation, the animals are raised in individual stalls with a space about 1.5 m x 4 m/head. Each stall can accommodate one animal during the entire fattening period. The shed is built three (3) meters high to allow good ventilation. Bamboo, lumber, or ipil-ipil poles can be used for frames; nipa or cogon for roofing materials although galvanized iron roofing may be used for durability. Concrete and sand should be used as flooring to prevent mud from accumulating. This will facilitate cleaning.

Guide in Selecting Stocks Based on Physical Appearance

A. Selecting Cows and Heifers for Breeding
  • 1. Milking Ability and Feminity
    A cow should have a mild maternal face with bright and alert eyes, good disposition, and quiet temperament. Its udder is of good size and shape, soft, flexible and spongy to touch. This characteristic is expected to secrete more milk unlike an udder that is fleshlike and hard.

  • 2. Age
    In general, beef cows remain productive for 13 years if they start calving at three years of age. They are most productive from four to eight years of age.

  • 3. Breeding Ability and Ancestry
    Cows that calve regularly are desirable. Calves from cows that do not take on flesh readily do not give much profit. In buying heifers for foundation stock, select those which belong to families which have regularly produced outstanding calves.

  • 4. Types and Conformation
    An ideal cow has a rectangular frame. Should be of medium width between the thurls and pins to have necessary frame on which to hang profitable beef. The rump must be long and smooth.
B. Selecting a Bull
  • 1. Physical Appearance
    A fairly good middle or barrel indicates a well-developed digestive system and healthy vital organs such as the heart, liver and lungs. Likewise, a full heart girth, broad muzzle, large nostrils, muscular cheeks and jaw, well-rounded thighs and a full loin, make up a good constitution. A bull with these qualities is desirable.

  • The legs of a bull should be strong enough to carry its own weight and to carry him around to look for cows that are in heat and to search for food when necessary. Successful mating of cows is ensured when a bull has strong legs.

  • 2. Sex Character
    Well-developed sex organs are characterized by fully descended testicles, deep wide chest, and broad head. These qualities indicate virility and good reproduction.

C. Selecting Cattle for Fattening
  • 1. Age
    Young animals have striking advantages over older cattle. They need less feed for every unit gain in weight because they can masticate and ruminate thoroughly and can consume more feed in proportion to their body weight. Their increase in weight is due partly to the growth of muscles and vital organs. In older cattle the increase is largely due to fat deposits.

  • On the other hand, older animals as feeder stock also have advantages. Generally, a two-year old steer will require a shorter feeding period than a calf or a yearling because the latter grows while it fattens.

  • Calves are choosy when given coarse and stemmy roughage, while two-year old steers utilize large quantities of roughage to produce fat primarily because they have a better capacity to digest. In most cases, they readily relish the feeds ordinarily rejected by the calves.

  • 2. Disposition
    An active yet mild, quiet, and easily-handled steer usually grows fast and fattens easily. Restless, nervous and erratic cattle waste too much energy when they panic even at the slightest provocation.

  • 3. Constitution and Vigor
    These are determined by the size and quality of the vital organs. A large feeding capacity, strong appetite, a large heart girth, well-sprung ribs and a wide, deep and full chest show good constitution and vigor.

  • 4. Sex
    In general, more steers than heifers are available for fattening because some heifers must be retained as herd replacements.

  • If fed for the same period of time, steers gain about 10% faster than heifers and require 10 to 15% less feeds with equal weight gain. On the other hand, young bulls have 20% greater gain in live weight and require 22% less feed to produce a leaner carcass which is nearly of the same quality as that of steers.

  • 5. Health Considerations
    A healthy animal is active, has a soft and smooth hair coat, bright eyes and moist muzzle. Special attention should be given to unsoundness and defects in conformation when selecting feeders. Animals that are blind, lame or with crooked legs, rough skin, and evidence of ectoparasite should be avoided.

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