Some factors associated with poor reproductive performance in smallholder dairy cows: The case of Hai and Meru districts, northern Tanzania
Livestock Research for Rural Development
Veterinary Investigation Centre, PO Box 1068, Arusha, Tanzania; National Artificial Insemination Centre, PO Box 7141, Usa River, Arusha, Tanzania; District Livestock Office, PO Box 10 Hai, Tanzania
An on-farm observation and questionnaire based study was conducted, during the period of January to March 2009, to assess the reproductive performance of dairy cows in two smallholder dairying districts of northern Tanzania. A total of 100 (50 Meru district and 50 Hai district) smallholder dairy farms owning 1-4 pure and crossbred dairy cows were visited and the reproductive performance of 191 (94 Meru and 97 Hai) dairy cows were analysed. Overall, land holdings averaged 2.26±1.99 (mean±standard deviation) acres, with an average of 0.55±0.67 acres being reserved for pasture production. Land holding and reserved land for fodder production was, on average, higher in Hai (2.62 and 0.65 versus 1.81 and 0.45 acres) compared to Meru district (P<0.05). The mean (mean ± standard deviation) number of lactating cows per farm was 1.79 ± 0.87 and ranged from 1 to 5. Survey results revealed that 40% of the smallholder dairy farms reported dairying to be their most important source of household income. Other reported sources of income were crop farming (32%) and off farm activities such as trading (12%), employment (9%) and traditional livestock keeping (6%). Perceived and reported dairy farming constraints included availability of feeds (quantity and quality) (81.8%), lack of money to buy farm inputs (77%) and insufficient land (53.0%). Others were milk marketing (31%), diseases (28%), availability of breeding bulls (27%) and high costs of inputs (18%). The birth rate was 39% and overall mean (mean ± SE) estimated calving interval (CI) was 525±18 days. Mean CI was significantly higher in Meru (530±28) than in Hai (518±22) (P<0.05). Hypothesized factors associated with long CI based on logistic regression models were body condition score (BSC) and low body weight. Cows with body condition (>3 BSC) were three fold (OR =3.8, P = 0.048) times more likely to have a reduced CI and cows with low body weight were associated with extended long CI (β for age = 0.01, P = 0.044). Despite the herdsmen having extensive dairying experience and competency in heat detection, the CI was too long and possibly associated with inadequate feeding as reflected by the low body score condition (average 2.6), low level of land holding and daily fresh matter intake per cow in most surveyed farms. The present study revealed that the reproductive performance of the dairy cows, under the smallholder management conditions in the two given districts, was sub-standard which prevented attaining a calf crop every year and expected levels of milk production. Interventions should include an effective extension service to advise on improved dairy cow and feed resources management together with applied research into the factors causing extended calving intervals.