7.0 SELECTING BREEDERS

7.1 Selecting a Breeding Bull

To achieve improvement in milking performance of the offspring of your cows, It is important to have control over which bull will mate with the cows.

In herds of milking cows where hand mating is practised, where the bull is brought to the cow for mating or the cow is brought to the bull, a mature bull of about four to five years of age can mate with forty to fifty females. In small herds of (say) about ten milking cows, it is better to buy replacement breeding bulls from a reputable source such as the government farms, and make sure that the bull is not related to the cows on the farm. If small farms close together in the same area are not each able to buy a good breeding bull or they each have too few cows to justify a bull each, they could consider buying a bull between them and sharing the services and the initial cost. But unless the farmers co-operate well, this arrangement can lead to problems if some farmers don't take enough care of the bull when it is their turn to look after it.

If your cows are the small local type, you must be careful to select a bull, preferably a crossbred between the local and improved breeds, which is not too large for the cows, and which has a greater probability of siring small calves which will not cause problems at calving time.

Only if good bulls are not available from a breeding farm should consideration be given to breeding a replacement breeding bull from within the small herd itself.

Swapping unrelated bull calves with other farmers, can be a good source of a replacement bull when they are scarce.

7.2 Selecting the best Replacement Heifers

If you have several (say eight or ten) replacement heifers to choose from, the heifers which are finally chosen should be selected according to these criteria:

body soundness including suitability of udder and teats

a quiet temperament

the milking production of the darn [mother] - you select replacements from the best producing cows

the source of the sire [father](i.e. whether a local bull or a breeding-farm-bred bull)

the speed with which the heifer reaches mating age. Select those heifers which have good production characteristics and which come into earliest mating activity.

Thus heifers with udder or teat defects or which are too excitable to be handled and easily milked, should be culled as slaughter animals automatically. If the remaining heifers have the same improved sire, they should be ranked according to the milk production of their dams, and then selected according to the youngest age of first joining. In this way you will gradually improve the milking performance of your herd over several generations, as well as tending to get rid of physical and temperamental defects. At the same time you will protect the ability of the cows ill the herd to breed efficiently.