Milk production level and calf-rearing system affecting Boran, Ethiopian zebu cattle breed, cow-calf performance
Livestock Research for Rural Development
Dairy Technology, Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization, Holetta Agricultural Research Center, P.O. Box 31, Holetta, Ethiopia
Milk yield, reproductive performance, dry matter intake, milk composition and calf growth were studied for Boran (Ethiopian zebu breed) cows under different milk production levels and calf rearing methods. 39 Boran cows in their 2 nd and 3 rd parities were used for the study in a 2 x 2 factorial arrangement with main factors being suckling (partial suckling Vs non-suckling) and milk yield (low- and high-yielding). Suckling has resulted in increased total milk yield as compared to non-suckling in both milk yield groups: 793 Vs 369 kg for low-yielders and 1142 Vs 819 kg for high-yielders. Suckling and high-yielding cows consumed 0.6 kg and 0.8 kg more concentrate and total dry matter daily than non-suckling and low-yielding cows, respectively. Non-suckling and high-yielding cows produced 52 kg and 31 kg, respectively more hand-milked milk monthly (P<0.05) than suckling and low yielding cows. Although partial suckling resulted in reduced fat percentage in milk obtained through hand milking, total milk yield was increased. Partial suckling, however, prolonged calving to first heat, days open and cycling compared with non-suckling. Suckling also resulted in higher (P<0.01) average daily weight gain to weaning. Smallholder dairy enterprises in Ethiopia that are based on local cows need to consider the importance of suckling for increased productivity of the farm particularly in terms of milk yield and calf growth rate. As suckling resulted in increased milk yield, this practice should be accompanied by improved feeding. Further studies are needed in this line to address the economic implications of such practice. The need for similar studies under different production systems is also imperative to determine and implement the most appropriate strategy to improve overall life time productivity of local cows that include reproduction traits, milk production, calf growth and survival with suckling practices.