This article provides a wrap-up of information required to further proper livestock management or establish a livestock enterprise bearing in mind the important economic factors to achieve high productivity and profitability.
The general management tips provided in the unit are applicable to productive livestock enterprises widely present in the tropics and particularly in Nigeria for instance where commercial livestock production may be described as being in infancy.
It is envisaged that the management tips would assist learners to gain insights into both production and management aspects of a profitable livestock enterprise management as it may concern various farm animal species.
General Livestock Management Considerations
It is important to note that the more time manager can personally devote to the maintenance of the herd the better the chances of success.
It is also crucial for the producer to have sound knowledge about animal management because ignorance of certain basic facts or principles can result in a great loss of stock or income.
Experience in most instances guarantees confidence to succeed. Suggested practical steps or tips are meant to inspire confidence in farm animal production.
• Stockmanship: This concerns the relationship and rapport between a husbandman and his stock. A good stockman is firm and irregularities pay attention to the needs of his stock. He is highly sensitive to and watches for the behavior or condition of the individual animal.
He also anticipates problems ahead of action or inaction. He carries out his routine activities with calmness and diligence, and minimizes upsetting or scaring the herd or flock of stock.
Even in an attempt to restrain or attend to a member of the herd, the calmness of the herd is minimally disrupted through the use of retraining materials or facilities that guarantee peace.
• Cleanliness and Hygiene: Maintenance of good hygiene in the livestock farm environment not only reduce the incidence of diseases and parasites in farm animals but also has a beneficial effect on staff morale to work in a clean environment.
Routine farm operations should allow for periodic cleaning, emptying, and resting of pens for sufficient time before stocking.
Cleaning of a used pen must be immediate involving scrubbing, washing, disinfecting, and being left dry to break the lifecycle of parasites and the recurrence of diseases.
• Evaluation and Selection for Replacement: The stock population of a farm is dynamic. New purchases and selections from the existing herd are being consistently undertaken for replacement.
Evaluation and selection of desirable animals is the first test for considering eligibility for the replacement of old, non-performing, or disposed animals.
New purchases from the open markets scarcely have records to use as a basis for evaluation. The stockman in such circumstances is left with the option of visual evaluation or the physical appraisal/scoring technique.
Traditionally this involves observation of physical appearance relating to its health, alertness, agility, and absence of other defects.
The relative meatiness or physical body condition may be determined on the basis of a combination of physical feel at various points such as the pin bones, tail set, loin area, backbone, or ribs.
Besides its traditional use in identifying, selecting, and purchasing stock, a physical appraisal is quite useful as a guide for management and feed requirement.
For example in beef production enterprise, animals identified to have finished in terms of the required conformation and deposition of fat may be culled for slaughter or market while those that are yet to meet the target are offered a high-level diet to finish early. In a few instances feed quality is reduced to lower the rate of fat deposition.
• Record-Keeping: In order to measure both the technical and economic efficiency of a livestock enterprise, it is essential to keep some basic records. These should cover all aspects of the enterprise especially those concerned with the evaluation of the efficiency of the enterprise.
For example, sire or dam productivity, lactation, or growth performance of individual animals may be measured. The type and detail of a record depending on the information it is intended to provide and the accuracy of the recorder.
The record sheet need not be over-ambitious in showing too many details that lead to ambiguity. The record must be clear, and dated and should indicate the period covered by information e.g. monthly and six monthly bases.
A comparison of individual farm records with other farms or regional averages enables farms to assess their performance or efficiency as well as competition.
One other important use of record keeping is to maintain overall productivity in the herd by having a culling policy so that animals are moved as soon as performance falls below predetermined due to age, injury, lameness, poor litter size, poor mothering ability, low fertility are rationales for culling.
Note that the lifetime performance of a stock will be necessary for the selection of its offspring or progeny for replacement.
Read Also: Modern Approach to Livestock Breeding
• Water and Feed Consumption: The importance of water for consumption, cleaning, and ambient temperature control in the tropical herd cannot be ignored in the productivity of the stock. The absence of a regular supply of clean, fresh water is often the first factor that limits feed intake.
While specific objectives of the enterprise and the management system adopted dictate the
sophistication of the feeding method. Feeding and management must be geared to optimize performance.
The small-scale rural producer, for example, will attempt to maximize the use of cheaper, lower-quality feedstuff. It is expected that stock produced under such feeding conditions will experience a slower growth rate as a consequence of the limitation of farm animals to utilize bulky fibrous and low-quality feedstuff.
Under commercial conditions, different priorities may give feed utilization efficiency and cost, growth rate, carcass leanness, and grading according to the relative economic advantages they provide.
Other Major Decisions Relating to the Feed System to be Adopted May Include:
(i) Restricted or ad-lib feeding: Restricted feeding is known for its firm control of feed wastage and feeds cost, excess fattiness in carcasses. Ad lib feeding saves labor gives a faster growth rate and larger carcass weight, as well as removes competition at the feed trough which must be designed to operate efficiently to minimize waste. Both restricted and ad-lib feeding methods should be combined to yield the most desirable result.
(ii) Meal or Pellets: Pelleted feeds have consistently shown to be superior to meals by as much as about 5% in promoting live weight gain and food conversion efficiency. The marginal gains must be compared with the extra cost of pellets above the cost of meals.
(iii) Separate Feeding System: Handling bulky feed separately from protein concentrate has proven to optimize the economic efficiency of production. In such a system for example bulky feed such as fresh cassava roots are dry and fed directly to pigs to appetite twice weekly.
Protein concentrate is then fed daily according to a fixed rate (500g for weaners up to 50kg live weight, 75g for finishers above 50kg). The system maximizes added value from farm production. Nutrient balance may be sub-optimal but it is highly efficient in terms of economic production.
(iv) Special Feeding or Lifecycle Feeding Techniques are widely gaining importance due to their timely effectiveness. Examples of such techniques are:
• Creep Feeding – As the name implies feeding young animals, especially piglets in the nest or creeps where the dams have no access to consume the feed. Weaning feed for a young animal can be easily consumed by adults if enough protection is not provided to deter the adult pen mates.
Creep feeding enhances the growth of the piglets, helps the digestive system to adjust to the change from milk to a solid diet prior to weaning, and prevents nutritional stress associated with the suckling pressure of the dam.
• Topping: This is another form of feeding specially applied to dry animals in preparation for breeding. It is offered three-four weeks prior to breeding.
The feed is required to be of relatively high quality in terms of energy, protein, and mineral vitamins to enable the growth and development of body tissues needed for efficient reproduction.
Both breeding males and females may benefit from the top at the beginning of the breeding season. It may also be extended to pregnant females during fetus growth.