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Cow / Cattle Breeding and Raising – Part 3 of 3

By pinoyfarmer | July 22, 2007
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How cattle reproduce

· We shall now study how cattle reproduce.

It is very important to study this, in order to improve cattle breeding.

When you have a good knowledge of how cattle reproduce, you can make a good choice of breeding animals, and of the right time for breeding. Then you will get bigger animals, animals that grow faster and are stronger, that produce more milk, meat and work.

· To understand how animals reproduce, the reproductive organs of the females and males must be studied.

We have already studied the digestive system, in order to understand digestion and to know how to feed animals.

We shall now study the reproductive system of the cow and bull, in order to understand reproduction and to know how to improve the herd.

The reproductive systems

· The reproductive system of the cow

The reproductive organs of the cow are all inside the animal.

You can see only the entry to the system which is called the vulva.

Genital organs of the cow; genital organs removed from the cow

Flowers have ovaries which contain ovules (see Booklet No. 3, pages 7 and 11).

When the ovules are fertilized by pollen, the ovules become seeds.

The cow has two ovaries. Every three weeks the ovaries produce an ovum. {In animals, the female reproductive cell is called ovum, plural ova).

If the cow is served by the bull at this time, the ovum is fertilized. It develops and becomes a calf.

· The reproductive system of the bull

This system consists of:

· two testicles which hang between the hind legs;
· the penis;
· two ducts which connect the testicles with the penis.

Reproductive organs of the bull

Stamens give the pollen that fertilizes the ovule in a flower (see Booklet No. 3, page 10).

Testicles give the semen that fertilizes the ovum.

The fertilized ovum becomes a calf.

Pregnancy and birth

· When a cow carries a calf in its womb, we say she is pregnant. Pregnancy begins with fertilization and ends with the birth of the calf. It lasts about 9 months.

When a cow gives birth to a calf, it is called calving.

· If the cow has already had a calf, she must not feed this calf more than 5 or 6 months after the new fertilization. The calf she is carrying needs more food. The cow cannot feed the calf in the womb and give milk at the same time.

· Some days before the birth, the cow’s udder swells.

At the time of birth, part of the membranes which cover the calf in the womb comes out. These membranes contain water. Next you see the legs of the calf come out, either the two forelegs or the two hind legs.

Sometimes it is necessary to pull downward a little on the calf’s legs, to help the birth.

After the calf has come out, if the umbilical cord still joins the calf to the cow, cut it and clean it well. You can use a little iodized alcohol.

After the birth, the rest of the membranes come out. All the membranes must come out. Otherwise they may rot inside the cow and cause her to die.

At birth the calf may come out in two ways

When the calf is born, the cow rubs it with her tongue. She licks it. Let the cow lick her calf.

At this time the cow is often thirsty. Give her water to drink. During the first few days after the birth, the mother’s milk is thick and yellow. The calf must drink this milk which will clean its digestive tract.

Take great care of calves. They are delicate. They easily catch parasites. To protect them, give them a medicine to get rid of internal worms at the age of 3 weeks and of 10 weeks. They easily catch diseases. To protect them, have them vaccinated.

At 3 weeks, the calf begins to eat grass with a little cooked cassava.

Look after young calves well. Feed them well, give them good housing. If you do not, they may die and you will lose a lot of money.

Age of breeding animals


The ovaries begin to produce ova (see page 42) when a heifer is 9 or 10 months old. From that time, heifers can be fertilized.

But do not have a heifer served by a bull when she is too young. The heifer cannot go on growing herself and feed the calf she is carrying. In fact you may have accidents when the calf is born, at calving.

So wait until the heifer is big and strong enough, until she is about 2 years (24 months) old, before having her served.

The bull

The testicles of young bulls begin to produce semen when the bulls are about 8 months old.

But do not have cows served by too young a bull. The bull will get tired, will not grow well, will not eat well and will become a poor breeding animal. Do not have the bull serve cows before it is 18 months old.

To make sure that heifers are not fertilized too young, and that bulls do not serve cows before the age of 18 months, do not put heifers that are too young together with bulls, or bulls that are too young with cows.

Castrating bulls

A herd of 25 cows needs only one good bull, a good breeding animal. The other males in the herd must be castrated.

A castrated male is called an ox or bullock.

· How to castrate a bull

Either remove the testicles (see page 43) or crush the ducts which connect the testicles to the penis. The animal husbandry service and the livestock assistants have instruments for castrating bulls.

· Why castrate bulls?

After castration bulls are quieter, they are not vicious, and it is easier to harness them. They put on weight more quickly, the meat is better. They cannot fertilize the cows; in this way you prevent poor breeding animals from reproducing, and can leave them in the herd.

· At what age should bulls be castrated?

At about 10 months if you want to sell them to the butcher.

At about 18 months if you want to make working oxen.

If you wait until 18 months, the ox is stronger for work, but in that case it must be kept away from the herd, so that it cannot cover the cows.

Choosing breeding animals

Bulls and cows must be carefully chosen because the calves take after their parents.

· Cows that give a lot of milk usually produce females that will also give a lot of milk. This quality is passed on from mother to daughter.

Cows that grow and put on weight quickly usually produce males and females that will grow and gain weight quickly. This good quality is passed on from the mother to her calves.

· Bulls that grow and gain weight quickly, that have well developed bones and muscles, that are not vicious, usually produce calves that grow and gain weight quickly, that hew well developed bones and muscles, and are not vicious. Calves often have the good qualities of the bulls.

Bulls born from a cow that gave a lot of milk often produce females that will also have a lot of milk. The good qualities of the bull’s mother are often passed on to the bull’s daughter.

Choose breeding animals

· that are well formed.

Sell all poorly developed animals.

Keep animals with plenty of muscle, especially of the back and rump, because they give the best meat. This quality will be passed on to the calf.

· that gain weight quickly.
· that are resistant to disease.

If a cow has little resistance to sleeping sickness (see page 36) her calf will also have little resistance.

· that give plenty of milk.

Such cows can easily feed their calves.

You can also milk the cow and drink the milk or sell it.

The good qualities of the bull and the cow are often passed on to their calves.

The bad qualities of the bull and the cow are also passed on to their calves. So it is very important to make a good choice of bull and cows.

It is easier to improve the herd by a good choice of bull. A cow passes on her good qualities to only one calf each year. A bull passes on his qualities to all the calves of the herd,

How to know your herd

We have seen how important it is to make a good choice of breeding animals.

In modern animal husbandry we look for breeding animals of good quality.

But we also look for animals from parents and grandparents that were of good quality.

The family qualities are passed on to the young. This is what we mean by selection.

Modern farmers keep a herd book.

Give a number to each animal in the herd.

This number is the animal’s name.

Mark the number on the animal’s rump, for instance, by branding.

Use a double page of the book for each animal.

Write in the book everything you need to know about your animals (see Booklet No. 9, pages 22- 24).


No. of animal Year of birth
No. of sire No. of dam


No. of sire ………………………………………………..
Date of service ………………………………………………………..
No. of offspring ………………………………………………………
No. of deaths before weaning ……………………………………

No. of sire …………………………………………………………………..
Date of service ………………………………………………………..


Production (milk, weight)
Vaccinations and disease

Two pages of the herd book which records each female in the herd.


No. of animal Year of birth
No. of sire No. of dam


No. of female Date
1st ……………………………………..
2nd ……………………………………..
3rd ……………………………………..
4th ……………………………………..
5th ……………………………………..
6th ……………………………………..
7th ……………………………………..

What cattle produce

Meat production

A farmer can sell animals every year, especially young bulls, oxen and old cows. These animals are sold for slaughter.

A farmer should sell fat animals. Then he will earn a lot of money. Young bulls, oxen and old cows that you want to sell should be well fed and looked after.

You will sell many fat animals if the herd has a good yield (see Booklet No. 9, page 29).

That is to say:

· If the animals are of a good breed.

The animal husbandry service is finding out which breeds produce most and thrive best in each region.

· If all the animals grow quickly.

On the same pasture, all the animals do not gain weight as quickly as each other.

You should keep only the calves of bulls and cows that have grown quickly.

· If there are many cows which calve each year.

You must sell the old cows: they do not produce calves, they do not gain weight any more and they eat a lot.

You must also sell the surplus bulls: they eat but are of no use.

You must keep the most fertile cows and make them breed. A fertile cow calves each year.


All cattle do not yield the same amount of meat.

For example:

Two cows each weigh 250 kilogrammes.

They are slaughtered.

The blood, skin, hoofs, head and everything in the belly are removed.

What remains is called the carcass, that is, the meat with the bones.

Now let us weigh the carcass of each cow. One weighs 115 kg; the other weighs 134 kg.

So the carcass of one cow weighs 19 kg more than the other: the yield in meat of the two cows is different. All cows do not give the same amount of meat.

The meat yield of cattle is the relation of the carcass weight to the weight of the live animal. If a cow weighs 250 kg and if the carcass weighs 115 kg, the yield is: 115 x 100/250= 46%
If a cow weighs 250 kg and if the carcass weighs 134 kg, the yield is: 134 x 100/250 = 54%
If an ox weighs 350 kg and if the carcass weighs 180 kg, the yield is: 180 x 100/350 = 51 %

The meat yield of cattle is about 50 %, that is, the weight of the carcass is about half the weight of the live animal.

All cattle do not give the same quality of meat.

The meat of an old thin cow does not fetch such a high price as the meat of a young, fat bullock, because it is not of such good quality. The meat of a young fat bullock is of very good quality.

So all cattle are not worth the same price.

The price changes with the amount of meat and with the quality of meat.

For example, in some places a thin cow is worth about 7 500 francs, but a fat cow of the same age is worth about 15 000 francs.

It is better to make 30 000 francs with two cows of 15 000 francs each, than 22 500 francs with three cows of 7 500 francs each.

You can earn more by selling fewer animals, if each animal is sold at a very high price.

Milk production

Milk is formed in the cow’s udder.

The milk comes out through the teats.

Squeezing the teat makes the milk come out.

The milk is produced by the blood that circulates in each quarter of the udder.

If plenty of blood circulates in the udder, plenty of milk is produced.

Emptying the cow’s udder of milk may take 5 to 10 minutes.

The cow’s udder

For good milking, the cow must be calm; if you strike her or she is frightened, she will not let herself be milked easily.

Make sure you always empty the udder. If all the milk is taken away the udder can develop. A well developed udder can give more milk. Often a cow gives more milk after her third calving than after the first.

Milking must be done every day at the same time, for example, in the morning, before going to the pasture. The cow gets into the habit of giving her milk at the same time every day.

A cow with large blood vessels can have a lot of milk.

Milk production changes greatly according to:

· breed

Some breeds yield more milk than others.

· health

Cows that are ill give little milk.

· age

At the first calving, cows have little milk; afterwards they produce more. When they are old, production is less.

· time of calving

If the cow calves in the rainy season, when there is plenty of good grass, she gives a lot of milk.

· feeding A well fed cow gives more milk than a badly fed cow. A cow in milk needs a feed supplement and plenty of water.

Use of milk

· Milk is food for calves.

To grow, a calf needs to drink a lot of milk.

If you milk the cow there is not enough for the calf, and the calf cannot gain weight; it will be less resistant to diseases. Many calves die because they lack milk.

When the calf has finished drinking you can milk the cow if there is any milk left in the udder. You can also milk the cow after some months, when the calf has begun to eat grass and feed supplements.

· Milk is food for people.

Cow’s milk is very good for both children and adults.

Organizing sales

To earn more money, it is not enough to work well, you must also sell well.

A farmer should think carefully to decide:

· When to sell an animal

· You should sell sterile cows which do not produce calves. You should feed them well for several months and sell them when they are really fat.

· You should sell a cow before it is too old. If you wait too long before selling, maybe you will get one more calf, but the cow will be too old to fetch a good price. By keeping a cow that is too old, you lose more money than you can earn from the calf she may produce.

· You should sell oxen as soon as they no longer gain weight.
It is useless to keep them for 5 or 6 years.
Sell oxen at 4 years.
If you keep them longer, the ox eats food that would have enabled you to raise another animal.

· Sell some animals at the end of the rainy season. Then you will be able to feed the herd well in the dry season (see page 101.

· You know when meat is bought at a high price, for example, at festivals and at the end of the dry season. Organize your breeding so as to have animals for sale at that time.

· Where to sell animals and milk

Should animals be sold in the village, at the market, in the town?

Where will you earn most?

A modern farmer should know how to work out what is the cost of taking the animals from the village to the town if he wants to know where to sell his animals.

· How to sell animals

A farmer can sell

· for slaughter, for meat, when his animals are really fat.

· for breeding

If he has fine young bulls of a good breed, of a good family, well selected, they can be sold at a higher price.

· for fattening

If he has too many young calves and not enough grass to feed his animals he can sell some calves to another farmer who will fatten them.

A farmer should think before selling.

Related Posts:
Cattle Breeding – Part 1
Cattle Breeding – Part 2

Source: Better Farming Series 11- Cattle Breeding (FAO – INADES, 1977, 63 p.)

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