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Dairy Farming Manual

Volume 2

Husbandry Unit 2

page 37


Husbandry Unit 2

Technical Notes 

Note: Numbers in brackets refer to illustrations in the Extension Materials.

page 39

Extension Materials
 What should you know about breeds of dairy cattle and buffalo?
What do you look for in different breeds? (5-12)

1 Animals that are:
- happy in local conditions
- have good production.

What are the major groups of dairy cattle? (13-32)

2 There are two major groups:
- Zebu (Bos indicus)

- European or temperate (Bos taurus).


What are the major types of dairy buffalo? (33-46)

3 There are two major types:
- River buffalo

- Swamp buffalo.


What is the purpose of breeding dairy cattle and buffalo and how can you do it? (47-68)

4 To get animals which are:
- happy in local conditions
- have better production through selection and cross-breeding.

page 41

 What do you look for in different breeds?
5 You want a breed that:
- does well on your own farm and gives high milk yields
- can stand the heat
- is a strong draught animal (if you use for draught as well as milk production)
- has low food requirements
- stands disease, especially tick-borne disease.
page 42

9 You want good:
- milk production
- milk composition
- meat production (many countries).
12 You should think about these things:
- when you buy cattle or buffalo
- when you breed them.
page 43

Dairy cattle breeds

Domesticated cattle are normally classified into two major groups, Zebu (Bos indicus) and European or temperate (Bos taurus).  Even though there are substantial physical and physiological differences between the two groups, they can be interbred readily to produce fertile offspring of both sexes.   (13-14)

Bos indicus group

This group is also called "the humped cattle".  The size and shape of the hump vary by breed, sex and age of animals.  Other external features common to most Zebu cattle are narrow body, rather long legs and well developed brisket and dewlap, particularly in the males. (15)

The most important characteristic of this group is its adaptation to the tropical environment.  This adaptation derives from three main aspects: (16)

      - a high degree of heat tolerance partly due to low heat production (associated with low metabolic rate and low productivity) and partly due to a high capacity to dissipate heat;

      - low nutritional requirements, mainly due to low metabolic rate and small size and also possibly to more efficient digestion at low feeding levels;

      - a considerable degree of resistance to ticks and also to many tick-borne diseases prevalent in tropical countries.

page 44

What are the major breeds of dairy cattle?

13 There are two major groups:
- Zebu (Bos indicus)
- European or temperate (Bos taurus).

14 The groups are very different but cross-breeding can produce
fertile offspring of both sexes.Zebu (Bos indicus)
15 Another name for this group is "humped cattle". The size and shape of the hump depends on:
- breed
- sex
- age.
16 Zebu cattle live well in tropical conditions. They can:
- stand heat
- live on little food
- resist disease.
page 45

With regard to production traits, this group is characterized by low productivity.  The milk yields are low with short lactations.  They also have low weight gains and are late maturing with delayed first calving.  An important trait is the higher fat and solids-not-fat content of the milk when compared with the Bos taurus group. (17-18)
page 46

17 Zebus have:
- low milk production
- short lactation periods.
But the milk has higher fat and solids-not-fat content than the Bos Taurus group.
18 They have:
- low weight gains
- late maturity and first calving.
Sahiwal especially are selected for improved production.
page 47

A large number of Zebu breeds have been described, each country in the region having one to several breeds.  Most of these breeds are of importance only in their home countries.

 The more important breeds of Zebu cattle are Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, Tharparkar, Hariana, Kankrej, Gir and Ongole.

Sahiwal, Red Sindhi and Tharparkar breeds  (19-24)

 All these three breeds have originated in present day Pakistan.  Although distinguishing external characteristics have been described for each breed e.g. skin colour (Red Sindhi -reddish brown; Tharparkar - white or light grey; Sahiwal - greyish red or brown), the more recent selection criteria for the Sahiwal have been based on productivity traits.

 Identification based on external characteristics is, therefore, quite difficult.

 The mature cows of Red Sindhi and Sahiwal breeds have an average weight of about 300 to 350 kg while the Tharparkar is slightly bigger.  The average milk yields have been estimated at 2,000 kg per lactation with 5 percent fat.  Individual cows of the Sahiwal breed in some herds in Pakistan are reported to have produced about 5,000 kg in a lactation.

 Sahiwal is the breed that has been mostly used for breed improvement in countries other than Pakistan, the other two breeds having been used only to a limited extent.  It is used both as a pure breed, for upgrading of unimproved cattle and for crossbreeding with European breeds.  Sahiwal has made important contributions to most of the new breeds of Zebu x temperate cattle.

page 48

Location                     : Pakistan,      India,      Africa
Colour                        : greyish-red or brown
Meat production         : poor           average            good
Draft ability                : poor           average           good
Values for breeding     :  1. upgrading native cattle
                                     2. cross breeding with European
19 Male

   Average body weight (kg): 300     400     500     600     700
20 Female


Body weight (kg)                :300         400        500        600        700
Lactation period (days)      :250         275      300        325        350
Milk yield/lactation (l)        :1,000     2,000     3,000     4,000     5,000
Fat content    (%)               : 3%     4%     5%     6 %
Solids-not-fat content (%)   : 8-9 %

page 49

Two other Zebu breeds are used to a limited extent:
Red Sindhi
21 Male

 22 Female

23 Male

 24 Female
page 50

Hariana breed  (25-26)

This is the most common breed in North India.  It is a prominent dual purpose breed (milk and draught).  The bullock is highly recognized for its vigour and persistency for draught.  Cows produce about 1,000 kg of milk per lactation.  Hariana has been the local counterpart in many crossbreeding programmes.

Kankrej, Gir and Ongole breeds

These are three breeds from the Western and Southern parts of India.  They combine very good draught ability with acceptable milk yields.  They also have a high potential for meat production.

page 51

Other Zebu breeds include:
25 Male

26 Female
The bullock is a strong draught animal.

Kankrej, Gir and Ongole breeds are good for draught and meat production and have acceptable milk production.
page 52

Bos Taurus group

For over two centuries, the temperate breeds of cattle have been subjected to strong selection pressure for improved dairy, beef or dual purpose (dairy and beef) characteristics.  Many of these breeds have been used in crossbreeding in the tropical countries.  Some of the more important ones are as follows.

Holstein Friesian breed (also called Friesian, Holstein or Black and White)  (27-28)

This breed has a characteristic Black and White colour and is the predominant breed in most developed countries.  There are about 70 million Holstein Friesian type cows in the world accounting for about one-third of all dairy cows.

The breed is well known for its high milk yields (with averages of over 6,000 kg per lactation in several countries), but fat and solids-not-fat contents are low.  They also have larger weight gains and higher mature weights than other temperate breeds of dairy or dual purpose cattle.

In recent years, Friesians have gained in popularity as the temperate counterpart for crossbreeding of Zebu cattle and in some countries, this is the breed of choice.

Brown Swiss breed  (29-30)

This breed has a somewhat lower lactation yield than Holstein, but with a higher fat content.  It is slightly better than Holstein in beef potential.

The total world population is in the range of about 4 million cows (2 percent of all dairy cows).

page 53

European or temperate (Bos taurus)
Holstein Friesian (Black and White)
27 Male
This breed is the most popular for cross-breeding with Zebu and gives high meat and milk production over 6,000 kg/lactation in several countries.

28 Female

        Brown Swiss
29 Male
This breed has:
(1) lower milk yield/lactation 
(2) higher fat content 
(3) better beef production than the Friesian.

30 Female

page 54

Jersey breed  (31-32)

This breed is characterized by its fawn colour, small mature body size (mature body weight is about 60 % of the Friesian), early sexual maturity, high butter fat levels and poor beef capacity.

The total number of Jersey cows in the world has been estimated to be about 2 million   (1 % of all dairy cows).

Other breeds

Other temperate breeds such as Dairy Shorthorn, Ayrshire, Red Dane, Simmental, Normande, Guernsey and MRY have also been used in crossbreeding in the tropics but to a limited extent.

page 55

31 Male
This breed has:(1) lower milk yield/lactation (2) higher fat content 
(3) earlier sexual maturity (4)poorer beef capacity than the Friesian.

32 Female
Other temperate breeds include:(1) Dairy Shorthorn (2) Ayrshire (3) Red Dane (4) Simmental (5) Normande (6) Guernsey (7) MRY.

page 56

Dairy Buffalo breeds  (33-36)

Buffaloes are mainly concentrated in Asia.  Two main types are identified: River Buffalo and Swamp Buffalo.

The buffaloes in India and Pakistan belong to the River type.  They have been selected for improved milk production.  They are also good meat producers and can be used for work as well.

The native buffaloes in other countries in the region belong to the Swamp type.  They are used primarily for work and meat.  Milk yields are very low.  However, in several countries even these low yields contribute to the income of the rural poor.

page 57

      What are the major types of dairy buffalo?
33 There are two major types:

- River buffalo
- Swamp buffalo.

River Buffalo
34 Most buffaloes in India and Pakistan are River buffalo.
35 They have good:
- milk production
- meat production
36 and are good for draught work.
page 58

  River Buffalo

Murrah (37-38)

  The name Murrah was given to the buffaloes having curled horns and producing good milk.  The breed originated in Punjab and is found in India and Pakistan.  Several other countries of the world have imported these animals.

  The animals are heavy with a wide deep frame.  The horns are short and tightly curled.  The females have a fine clean-cut head and neck whereas the males have a thick neck.  The limbs are short, straight and strong with black hooves.  The tail is long with a white switch.  The udder is well developed with squarely placed teats.  The body colour is black but a few brown or fawn grey animals are also seen.  The body weight on average is 550 kg for males and 450 kg for females.  The milk yield per lactation (between 270 to 305 days) in good herds is 1,500-1,800 litres with 7 percent fat.

Nili Ravi (39-40)

  The Nili Ravi breed is found in Punjab.   Previously these were described as two breeds - Nili is found in Sutlej valley (Punjab) and Ravi in Sandal Bar.  Both areas are the central Punjab Pakistan.  The animals are black coloured, wall eyed, with white head markings.  The hooves and switch of tail are white.  The body is massive.  The head is long and convex and the double chin is conspicuous.  The udder is well developed with squarely placed long teats.  The milk veins are very prominent.

  The average weight of male and female is 600 and 450 kg respectively.  Milk production ranges between 1,800-2,000 litres in 250-300 days.

page 59

      The major River Buffalo breeds are:
37 Male
38 Female
The milk yield/lactation is 1,500-1,800 l with 7 % fat.

         Nili Ravi
39 Male

40 Female
The milk yield/lactation is 1,800-2,000 l.

page 60

 Kundi (41-42)

  This breed is found in Sind Province of Pakistan around the River Indus.  The animal is jet black in colour.  Sometimes there is a white star on the forehead and the hooves may be white.  The horns are thick at the base inclined backward and upward and end in a tight curl (the name Kundi coming from horns).  The udder is well developed with squarely placed teats and the hind quarters are massive.

  Animals of this breed are smaller than the Nili Ravi buffaloes and have a liveweight of 320 - 450 kg.

  Milk yield varies between 1,500-2,000 litres with 7 percent butter fat.

Surti (43-44)

  The Surti breed is found in Gujarat State of India.  The colour is black but brown animals are also found.  The tuft of the tail is white.  The horns are of medium length and sickle shaped.  They are flat with transverse corrugations and are hook shaped.  The animals have a very straight back and are low on the legs.  The head is long and fairly broad and the eyes are very prominent.  The neck is long and thin in females but massive in males and there is no dewlap.

  The udder is well shaped and the teats are medium sized.  The skin of the udder is pinkish in colour.  The female has an average weight of 600 kg and the male about 700 kg.

  Milk production is around 1,500-1,750 litres with 8 percent butter fat.

page 61

41 Male

42 Female
The milk yield is 1,500-2,000 l with 7 % fat.

43 Male

44 Female
The milk yield is 1,500-1,750 l with 8 % fat.

page 62


The breed's hometract is Gujarat and parts of Maharashtra States (India).  The breed is a cross between Murrah and Surti.  The colour is jet black.  The horns are coiled (like Murrah) or sickle shaped (like Surti).  The animals have a long body, higher limbs and a longer and heavier head.  Females have a well developed udder.  The teats are fairly thick, long and pliable.  Mehsana females are reputed for regular breeding and persistent milking.

The body weight of males and females is 600 and 425 kg respectively.  Milk production ranges between 1,300-1,800 litres in a lactation of 300 days.

Jafarahadi/Zafarahadi, Nagpuri, Bhadawari and Taria breeds

These are four of the several breeds with localized importance in India.

Jafarahadi buffaloes are found mainly in Gujarat.  They are good milk producers but poor breeders.

The other three breeds are lower milk producers but are good draught animals with good adaptation to the conditions in their local areas.

Swamp Buffalo (45-46)

The name Swamp buffalo arises from their natural habitat in swamp areas.  In certain regions the wild herds also move with domesticated buffaloes.  Various regional names are also given.  (Carabao - Philippines; Kwai Tui or Kwai Jaam, Kwai Kam etc. in Thailand) The skin is grey but with advancing age turning to slate blue.  Dark grey colour giving a white tinge is common.  The horns grow out laterally and horizontally in young animals and curve round in a semi-circle in older ones.  In Thailand the horn shape and size varies from short horns to long straight horns.

The animals are well built.  The body is short with a pot belly.  The forehead is flat, orbits are prominent and the face is short.  The neck is long and the legs are short and thin.  The tail is short reaching the hocks.  The udder is small and set far back in the legs.  The weight in small types is between 300-450 kg but in larger types 450-550 kg.

The Swamp buffalo is a work animal of rice growing areas.  The main use is ploughing, harrowing and puddling of rice fields.  It is also used for carts and sledges and has tremendous ability for draught.  Milk yield is very low (maximum of around 488 litres) and generally it is not used as a dairy animal.

Animals like swamp areas.  The hottest part of the day is spent in wallows and active grazing is in the morning and evening hours.

page 63

Other River buffalo breeds include:
Mehsana Jafarahadi/Zafarahadi
Nagpuri Bhadawari
Swamp Buffalo
45 Male

46 Female

The Swamp buffalo is a good draught animal in rice growing areas.
The milk yield/lactation is less than 500 l.
page 64

Dairy cattle breeding

In their pursuit to produce suitable dairy cows, the different countries in the region are adopting various strategies.

The first attempts were aimed at importing pure bred temperate cattle and establishing them in the colder climates of especially the higher elevations.  This practice met with little success because of the poor adaptability of the temperate cattle to the tropical conditions, even though some nucleus herds were maintained to produce pure bred stock, especially bulls and semen, for crossbreeding the local stock.  (49-52)

page 65

What is the purpose of breeding dairy cattle and buffalo and how can you do it?
47 The purpose is to breed dairy cattle and buffalo which can live happily in local conditions
48 and still have good:
- milk production
- meat production
- draught ability, where they are used for draught.
Dairy cattle breeding
49 Some farmers kept pure bred temperate cattle in cool places, especially in the hills,
50 but most of the temperate cattle could not live happily in local conditions.
page 66

 There are advantages in retaining some genes from the tropical breeds in the dairy cows to maintain their viability in the tropical climate.  Crossbred cattle were produced, using different crossbreeding schemes.  These schemes included 

- rotational crossbreeding using several temperate breeds;
- production of synthetic breeds e.g. Jamaica Hope (approximately 80 % Jersey, 5 % Friesian and 15 % Sahiwal), Australian Milking Zebu - AMZ - (approximately 60 % Jersey and the balance 40 % mainly Sahiwal and a minor contribution from the Red Sindhi which was used at the initial stages of the programme) and Australian Friesian Sahiwal - AFS - (produced under a similar programme as the AMZ but with Friesian and Sahiwal breeds only).

Recently some countries have embarked on programmes to import pure bred temperate cattle, particularly Friesians, while others continue with the crossbreeding programmes.  On the other hand, Sahiwal herds are also maintained pure and considerable improvements in yield characteristics are being achieved through selection within the breed.  Sahiwal bulls are used to upgrade tropical cattle in some areas where it is not feasible to use cross-breeding with temperate breeds.

Considering the wide variety of strategies being adopted in the region, it is important that extension officers get a clear understanding of the strategies that are recommended for the particular area.  Then only will they be in a position to assist the farmers to make correct decisions on breeding without making mistakes that may prove to be costly later on. (53-65)

page 67

51 They set up some nucleus herds to produce pure bred stock, especially bulls and semen
52 for cross-breeding with local stock.
53 They found that genes from temperate cattle and genes from local cattle
54 can produce animals with high production which live happily
in local conditions.
page 68
          Rotational cross-breeding
55 One temperate breed of Bull (e.g. Holstein) is cross-bred with a native cow (e.g. Sahiwal).

56 Then another temperate breed of bull (e.g. Jersey) is cross-bred with the cross-bred cow (Holstein-Sahiwal).

57 This is repeated with other breeds.


page 69

          Synthetic breeds
58 Jamaica Hope
- 80 % Jersey (approximately)
- 5 % Friesian (approximately)
- 15 % Sahiwal (approximately).
59 Australian Milking Zebu (AMZ)
- 60 % Jersey (approximately)
- 35 % Sahiwal (or more)
- 5 % Red Sindhi (or less).


60 Australian Friesian Sahiwal (AFS)
- 60 % Friesian (or more)
- 45 % Sahiwal (or less).
Recent country programmes

61 Some countries bring in pure-bred temperate cattle, especially Friesians.
page 70

62 Other countries cross-breed temperate and native cattle.
63 Pure-bred Sahiwal herds and careful selection within the breed are increasing production.
64 Some countries use good Sahiwal bulls to upgrade native cattle where it is difficult to use temperate breeds for cross-breeding (e.g. when A.I. is difficult).
65 Farmers and extension workers should try to use the best breeding programmes for their local conditions.
page 71

Buffalo breeding for milk production  (66-68)

The five main breeds of dairy buffaloes found in India and Pakistan are being selectively bred for increased milk production.

Programmes are being undertaken in many countries to improve the milk production potential of Swamp buffalo by crossbreeding with different dairy breeds (of the River type).  Murrah, Nili Ravi, Surti and Kundi are the prominent breeds used.

Some reports indicate that the crossbred offspring perform better than either parent breed under similar conditions.  More common are findings of an intermediate performance between the two parent breeds.

Nucleus herds of dairy buffalo breeds can be conveniently established in tropical countries (unlike the case of dairy cattle breeds like Friesian and Jersey).  The bulls from the nucleus herds can then be used to breed the Swamp buffaloes even where A.I. is not feasible (again an advantage over the Friesian and Jersey bulls).

page 72

          Dairy buffalo breeding

66 Many countries use River Buffalo to upgrade Swamp Buffalo, especially:
- Murrah
- Nili Ravi
- Surti
- Kundi.

67 The cross-bred cows produce as well as the River type parent or better.

68 It is easy to set up nucleus herds of River Buffalo bulls (unlike temperate cattle) and to use them for breeding.

page 73

 What do you know about breeds of dairy cattle and buffalo?
     Things to look for in different breeds
      1 Heat tolerance 
      2 Low nutritional requirements 
      3 Disease resistance 
      4 High milk production 
      5 High fat and solids-not-fat content 
      6 High meat production 
      7 Draught ability, where relevant

    Major breeds of dairy cattle
      1 Zebu (Bos indicus) 
      - Characteristics 
      - heat tolerance  
      - low nutritional requirement  
      - disease resistance
      - low milk production 
      - short lactation period  
      - high fat and solids-not-fat content  
      - low weight gain 
      - late maturity and first calving
      2. Breeds
      - Sahiwal 
      - Red Sindhi
      - Tharparkar 
      - Hariana 
      European or temperate (Bos taurus)
      - Holstein Friesian (Black and White) 
      - Brown Swiss 
      - Jersey 

     Major breeds of dairy buffalo
       1 River Buffalo 
      - Characteristics  
      - high milk production 
      - high meat production  
      - good draught ability 
      - Breeds  
      - Murrah 
      - Nili Ravi 
      - Kundi 
      - Surti 
      2 Swamp Buffalo
      - Philippines (Carabao)
      - Thailand (Kwai Tui, Kwai Saam, Kwai Kam) 

    Dairy cattle breeding
      1 Early methods  
      - difficulties with pure-breds 
      - nucleus herds for cross-breeding 
      2 Later methods  
      - need for native genes 
      - rotational cross-breeding 
      - synthetic breeds 
      3 Recent country programmes
      - pure-bred imports 
      - pure-bred x native cross-breeds 
      - pure-bred Sahiwal herds 
      - Sahiwal x native cross-breeds 

     Dairy buffalo breeding
      1 River/Swamp cross-breeds 
      2 Nucleus herds of River Buffalo 
page 75

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