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1. Introduction


1.1 Bos indicus cattle in Africa and worldwide
1.2 Productivity and reproduction
1.3 References

ILCA's studies over the past 15 years have shown a high degree of complementarily between livestock and crop production, and indicate that improving livestock production can stimulate crop production and increase the acreage cultivated by small-scale farmers.

Smallholder mixed farming systems predominate in the tropics. Livestock play several roles in these systems: they use resources that would otherwise go to waste, such as crop residues and fallow land; they provide meat and milk for consumption or sale; and their manure can be used as fuel, fertilizer and, sometimes, cement. Cash generated by their sale can be used to purchase farm inputs such as seed, fertilizer and implements. Larger animals, e.g. cattle, provide draught power for cultivation, transport and crop threshing. Exports of live animals and animal products and byproducts make substantial contributions to the foreign exchange earnings of many countries.

Despite their economic importance, the productivity of cattle in the tropics is low. The reasons for this include the low genetic potential of indigenous breeds, poor husbandry and a variety of environmental factors, including high ambient temperature and humidity, seasonal shortages of feed and water, diseases and parasites.

Some breeds of cattle, usually Bos indicus or those with a large proportion of Bos indicus blood, are well adapted to the harsh environmental conditions of the tropics. Essential adaptive traits include resistance to, or tolerance of, pests and diseases; tolerance of intense sunshine, heat and humidity; and ability to utilise high-fibre forages (Koger, 1963). However, the potential for meat and milk production of Bos indicus cattle is commonly low: they mature late and produce little milk, which they often let down only in the presence of their calves. One way to increase the productivity of Bos indicus cattle is to cross them with temperate Bos taurus breeds, such as the Holstein-Friesian and the Hereford.

1.1 Bos indicus cattle in Africa and worldwide

The African cattle population derives from three major introductions from Asia (Epstein, 1957; Faulkner and Epstein, 1957; Williamson and Payne, 1977; Oliver, 1983). The first cattle introduced into Africa, the humpless Hamitic longhorn (Bos taurus longifrons), arrived about 5000 BC. They were followed by the humpless shorthorn (Bos taurus brachyceros) about 2500 years later and the humped zebu (Bos indicus) in about 1500 B C. Most cattle followed the Nile Valley through Egypt or came through the Horn of Africa (Figure 1). Further migrations resulted in a heavy concentration of cattle in the highlands of Ethiopia and Kenya, regarded today as one of the original sites of Africa's indigenous cattle. Interbreeding among these three types resulted in the Sanga, a so-called intermediate type because of the length of its horns and the location of its hump (Mason and Maule, 1960). The name Sanga was originally applied to the giant-horned Galla cattle: in the Oromo (formerly Galla) language of Ethiopia, Sanga means ox.

Possible migration routes of domestic cattle in Africa

Source: Oliver ( 1983).

Native breeds of Africa include the humpless N'Dama, Kuri and Dwarf Shorthorn; the humped Azaouak, Sokoto, Senegal Fulani, White Fulani, Red Bororo, Abyssinian, Boran, Small East African Zebu and Angoni; and intermediate types such as the Bambara, Ankole, Danakil, Barotse, Tuli, Mashona Nguni, Basuto and Africander.

Zebu 1 cattle are common in other parts of the world. There are about 30 zebu breeds in the Indian region alone, including Gir (Gyr), Haryana, Kankrej (Guzerat), Ongole (Nellore), Red Sindhi, Sahiwal and Tharparkar.

1 Bos indicus is used interchangeably with the term "zebu", which originates from the Tibetan word Zen or Zeba, which means "the hump of the camel".

The American Brahman was developed by crossing native American cattle with Asian zebu cattle (Phillips, 1963). Brahmans are now used widely for beef production in the tropics (Koger et al, 1973). Large numbers of Asian cattle were introduced into Brazil between 1813 and 1964, and subsequently spread to other countries in the region. The Brahman breed has been maintained in its original form, improved, and used in the development of new breeds, such as the InduBrazil (Gir x Guzerat), Canchin, Jamaica Hope, Sibovey, Santa Gertrudis, Brangus, Beefmaster and Simbrah The Nellore (Ongole), Gir and Guzerat (Kankrej) breeds are also present in substantial numbers in South America.

Australia's large Bos indicus population originates mainly from cattle introduced from India, Pakistan, South Africa and America. The Africander breed was used in the development of the Belmont Red, the Brahman breed for the Droughtmaster, and the Australian Milking Zebu was developed partly from the Sahiwal. Further details can be found in Mason (1951), Joshi and Phillips (1953), Mason and Maule (1960), Epstein (1971), and McDowell (1972).

1.2 Productivity and reproduction

The productivity of cattle largely depends on their reproductive performance. Cows that rarely deliver a live calf are not worth keeping. Poor reproductive performance is caused by:

· failure of the cow to become pregnant, primarily due to anoestrus (prepubertal or postpartum);

· failure of the cow to maintain the pregnancy; and

· calf losses.

This monograph summarises knowledge of the reproductive biology of cows, with emphasis on Bos indicus types. After a brief introduction to the reproductive anatomy and endocrinology of the cow, subsequent chapters describe changes which occur at puberty, during the oestrous cycle, and at pregnancy; measures of reproductive performance; causes of infertility, and how these can be diagnosed and their effects minimised; the role of nutrition in cattle reproduction; lactational anoestrus and the effect of weaning; and herd health programmes. Data from Africa, Asia, America and Australia are presented. Where data from zebu cattle were not available, points are illustrated or emphasised using data on Bos taurus cattle, or other species.

This monograph is intended for field workers in agriculture and livestock production and health, particularly in Africa, who may not have access to current publications on this subject. However, it gives enough detail to be useful also to higher degree students and researchers. It is hoped that this review will stimulate more research, especially in Africa.

1.3 References

Epstein H. 1957. The Sanga cattle of East Africa. East African Agricultural Journal 22: 149-164.

Epstein H. 1971. The origin of the domestic animals of Africa. 1. Cattle. Africana Publishing Corporation, New York, USA. 573 pp.

Faulkner D E and Epstein H. 1957. The indigenous cattle of the British dependent territories in Africa with material on certain other countries. Communication on Agriculture, Animal Health and Forestry No. 5. HMSO, London, UK.

Joshi N R and Phillips R W. 1953. Zebu cattle of India and Pakistan. Agriculture Study No. 19. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Rome, Italy.

Koger M. 1963. Breeding for the American tropics. In: T J Cunha, M Koger and A C Warnick (eds), Crossbreeding beef cattle. Series 1. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida, USA. pp. 41-46.

Koger M, Cunha T J and Warnick A C (eds). 1973. Crossbreeding beef cattle. Series 2. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida, USA. 459 pp.

Mason I L. 1951. The classification of West African livestock. Commonwealth Bureau of Animal Breeding and Genetics Technical Communication No. 7. CAB (Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux), Farnham Royal, UK. 10 pp.

Mason I L and Maule J P. 1960. The indigenous livestock of eastern and southern Africa. Commonwealth Bureau of Animal Breeding and Genetics Technical Communication No. 14. CAB (Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux), Farnham Royal, UK. 248 pp.

McDowell R E. 1972. Improvement of livestock production in warm climates. W H Freeman, San Francisco, California, USA. 711 pp.

Oliver J. 1983. Beef cattle in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Journal of Agricultural Research 21: 1-17.

Phillips RW. 1963. Beef cattle in various areas of the world In: TJ Cunha, M Koger and A C Warnick (eds), Crossbreeding beef cattle. Series 1. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida, USA. pp. 3-32.

Williamson G and Payne W J A. 1977. An introduction to animal husbandry in the tropics. 3rd edition. Longman, London, UK. 755 pp.


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