Diversifying Rural Livestock Production by the Introduction of Holstein Friesian on Zero Grazing for Rural Dairy Production, Employment, Poverty Alleviation and Food Security in the Tropics
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The review was conducted from studies/reports of the performance of Holstein Friesian routinely kept by Heifer Project International (HPI) Farmer groups on imported Holstein Friesian herds on zero grazing in the western highland region of Cameroon. The review provides insight to the reports of the studied area, its climatic conditions, management of the animals and the methodology adopted by the researchers. Their findings and recommendations were also highlighted in order to inform policy makers and agencies with the responsibility to design programmes for rural development and youth empowment in tropical countries, the potentials of this technology to alleviate poverty, hunger, rural-urban migration and unemployment. The mean age at first calving was higher compared to other reports. The additive genetic variance of the sire that sired the dam of the heifer, the breeding techniques of maintaining a central bull for several farmers and other management techniques employed elongated age at first calving. Calving interval and calf birth weight were appreciable, though longer and lower respectively compared to existing reports. They were greatly affected by the management techniques employed by the farmers. The mean gestation length was low despite the poor management indicating that, this breed with improved management can be integrated into the tropical conditions. The percentage calf mortalities were very high. It varied across herd, indicating that there was no standard routine management practice adopted at the herds locations. The herd with better management recorded lower calf mortality. The effect of calf mortality rate on calf crop and selection for genetic improvement were worse and also varied across herds. In some herds, all the heifers produced must be retained to maintain herd size. In other herds the cow must calve many times before it is able to produce a heifer, that would replace it and lactate in the herd. The higher the number of calving that produced a lactating heifer, the longer the generation interval, and the lower the genetic progress achieved through selection when generation intervals are elongated. The genotypic diversity created through independent assortment, segregation and recombination of genes as random effects through gametogenesis and fertilization, respectively were lost to calf mortality and never presented to the environmental challenges of the tropics for selection and adaptation. Superior genotypes that could have tolerated the tropical condition were never exposed to build physiological mechanism that would help them cope with tropical stress. The few genotypes that survived, were introduced into the stressful conditions of the tropics often too early and sudden with no time to allow them develop and build their survival techniques to enhance their adaptation in the tropics. There were high incidences of disease prevalence which also varied across herds, locations, type of bedding materials used and floor type in the housing. There was no housing design directed towards herd health as participating farmers erect structures they can afford. This was why calf mortality rate were very high. The calves are being introduced into an already diseased hazard environment without adequate time to develop their own defence mechanisms. The survival of some calves, reproductive performance of the herd and their lactation thus indicate that, this breed can be integrated into the tropical conditions. There is however, need for interested countries and agencies to design a low cost housing type and insist that, their potential beneficiaries must provide this housing and adequate feed from the zero grazing plots first before they acquire their animals. Mud floor must be replaced with laterite floor for easy drainage of urine and water. This will improve herd health, introduce calves into the challenging tropical stress gradually and allow them enough time to build their body defence against prevalent diseases. There is also the need to reduce the number of farmers attached to a central bull, to ensure that all heifers attached to a bull have successful services.
- Department of Animal Breeding and Physiology, University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Nigeria
- Department of Animal Production, University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Nigeria
- Department of Animal Production, University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Nigeria
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