Stocking Management for Ruminant Animals

Sometimes, ruminant farmers ask: is it advisable for Cattle, Sheep and Goat to be kept in the same housing unit? Well, for better management, keeping them in the same housing unit is not advisable. It is better they are kept separately. At such, handling, disease management, feeds & feeding and all other management procedures will be done with ease.

However, in case you have limited space and your interest is in keeping all of them, they can be in the same housing unit pending the time when you will have space to separate them.

In case you will need an advice concerning your raising ruminants on the same parcel of land with other animals like pig and poultry, well in an ideal situation, it is always good to raise each of the animals on a separate plot of land. This will help in putting adequate biosecurity measures in place.

However, in cases where there are no options than to raise them on the same parcel of land, then the land must be properly demarcated so that the animals are not raised too close to each other. This will also help in disease prevention.

Read Also: Recommended Housing Design for Ruminant Animals

Stocking rate

Stocking rate refers to the number of livestock on a paddock or a whole farm and is expressed as an indication of number of a particular type of animal per unit area. The usual measure is dry sheep equivalents (DSE) per hectare (ha), however, this may also be expressed in terms of cattle per unit area, such as breeders (cattle) per ha or square kilometre.

Dry sheep equivalent and stocking density

A DSE is used as a method of standardising an animal unit and is the amount of feed required by a two year old, 50kg Merino wether to maintain its weight. Applying this principle, one 50kg dry goat is equivalent to one DSE and one yearling steer is equivalent to about 8 DSE, whereas a lactating cow may be equivalent to as much as 25 DSE.

Stocking density (head/ha) refers to the number of stock per hectare on a grazing area or unit at any one time and is usually used to describe the number of stock per unit area in a high-density grazing situation.

Stocking Management for Ruminant Animals

Identifying and implementing Ruminant Animals stocking rates

Identifying the stocking rate and stocking density that an enterprise can sustain to maximise green pasture utilisation is important in increasing the profitability of an enterprise.

The number of animals will depend on the nature of the enterprise eg breeding or trading, but should be sufficient to ensure high utilisation of the pasture grown while maintaining the long-term sustainability of the pasture and the grazing system.

A grazing management approach based on predicted seasonal plant growth patterns can help achieve optimal stocking rate and pasture utilisation.

This should involve:

  • Grazing enough animals to fully utilise available pasture without depressing animal intake to below target requirements or grazing new plant growing points.
  • Timing grazing to begin just before first leaf senescence (dying-off) occurs for desirable pasture species.
  • Monitoring grazing and removing livestock before critical limits for minimum pasture mass, height and ground cover are reached.
  • Accurately assessing the regrowth period before the next grazing occurs by monitoring pasture growth rates and the number of leaves per tiller.

The careful management of less intensively grazed land using the same approach leads to further gains in productivity.

The aim is for a sustainable production system that:

  • Operates at a stocking rate that optimises production
  • Remains weed-free
  • Has stable pastures
  • Has sufficient ground cover (generally greater than 70%) on flat land and low slopes to reduce run-off
  • Prevents erosion
  • Improves the quality of water entering waterways

Fodder Budgeting

Fodder budgeting is the practice of matching feed supply and animal demand.

It aids calculation of short and long-term stocking rates and answers the following questions:

  • How long will a paddock last with a particular number of livestock in it?
  • How many livestock can I put into a paddock while maintaining a residual pasture cover?

Related: The Concept of Animal Energy Balance in the Physical Environment

Important Considerations for Ruminant Housing

Windows

Place windows high enough so that animals can’t break them but they provide enough light for you to see to do chores. The animals need enough light to “feel alive.”

Have enough south-facing windows to provide heat in the winter.

Ventilation is critical. Animals that are forced to breath air with ammonia from urine have stressed respiratory systems, and stress results in disease.

Drafts of cold air can be just as damaging, though. Ensure good airflow without drafts by having large enough openings in the direction of prevailing winds. High windows that open in from the bottom work well.

Cleaning

If possible, arrange stalls or pens so that, in small operations, you can easily scrape manure and bedding into a wheelbarrow. Larger operations benefit from a central alley where manure and bedding can be collected with a tractor bucket.

My dream chicken house would be far enough off the ground that I could use a shovel to scrape manure and bedding from the floor into a wheelbarrow sitting under the door opening. The area under the coop would also give birds a shady place.

A chicken house with a removable droppings board under the roost, or a board that can be easily scraped into a bucket, makes frequent cleaning a breeze.

Drainage

Install gutters that move water away from the building.

On wet sites, put gravel or tiles around the foundation or footings.

Flooring

Soil, sand or gravel is easier on animals’ legs than concrete and works well with a deep bedding system or bedded pack system – i.e., starting winter with a good 6 inches of mulch hay (but not moldy hay), straw or shavings and adding more bedding as the initial bedding becomes soiled over the season. Using this system, housing needs to be cleaned only yearly.

The system works well if you can aerate the bedding with a pitch fork (in small areas) or a tiller or tractor with a tine (in bigger areas).

A wood floor can be scraped clean but becomes slippery, and rodents live happily under wooden floors – especially if you’re feeding grain. Rubber mats, available in various sizes, make a non-porous surface that is easy to clean.

Concrete is the easiest floor to clean but is hard on animals’ feet and legs and is more expensive to install. Rubber mats can make concrete more comfortable for animals and can reduce the amount of bedding they need to lie on.

Construction and Layout

Lee Pelley’s book In One Barn (Countryman Press, 1984) has extensive information about barns for rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows and horses, housed separately and in combination.

Pelley thinks that poultry should not be housed with milking animals, because they can expose the mammals to avian TB, which will cause the milking animals to test positive to TB and require that they be euthanized.

A pole building is the least expensive option. The other extreme for beauty and expense is a post and beam barn. You can build a simple three-sided shed with pole construction for animals that need minimal protection only in the worst weather. Pole construction is strong and simple and allows for a second story for hay storage.

The poles eliminate the need for a concrete foundation, but protect the poles from rotting somehow if you plan to have a bedded pack. Cedar or locust makes good, rot-resistant poles. Remember that if you use chemically-treated wood, animals must not come in contact with it, or they cannot be part of a certified organic farm.

Read Also: Find out which of the Ruminant Breeds is better to raise

Common Ruminant Animals Management Practices

Stocking Management for Ruminant Animals

Colostrum feeding

  1. Colostrum is the first milk secreted after parturition.
  2. It contains large amount of gamma globulins which are anti-bodies produced by the cow against antigens encounter during her life including those against many disease producing organisms.
  3. Colostrum is highly fortified source of nutrient having 7 times the protein and twice the total solids of normal milk, thus it gives an early boost in portion and solid intake.
  4. It contain higher amount of minerals and vitamin A which are essential to combat disease. Ingestion of these through colostrum substantially increases the calf’s survivability.
  5. Absorption of these antibodies provides the calf with an umbrella of passive immunity.
  6. Colostrum gives a laxative effect which is helpful in expulsion of muconium (first faeces).
  7. It will be highly useful to feed colostrum in the first 15-30 minutes followed by a second dose in approximately 10-12 hours.
  8. First ½ hour to 12 hours of life, calf should be given with colostrum of its 5-8 % of body weight. Then 2nd and 3rd day, it should be of 10% of its body weight.
  9. The excess colostrum can be stored by refrigeration and can be used to other calves or orphan calves.

Weaning

  1. Separation of calf and making independent of its mother for food is known as weaning.
  2. Now days, early weaning is recommended for better management.
  3. Under early weaning system, weaned calves housed separately and scientific feeding schedule and managemental practices followed.
  4. In this method, the cow is not allowed to suckle by its calf after colostrum feeding.
  5. Instead, the cow is completely milked out and required quantities of whole milk or skim milk are fed to the calf.
  6. Weaned calves should be trained to drink milk from pails / nipple pail so that feeding management is easier.
  7. Weaned calves should be weighed every week and the quantity of milk to be fed is calculated accordingly.

Disbudding

  1. Arresting the horn growth at an early age, when the horn root is in the bud stage is called disbudding.
  2. This is practiced mainly in exotic and cross breeds of cattle.
  3. Cattle with horns inflict bruises on each other that may result in heavy economic losses.
  4. Horned animals are a danger to the operator and without horns, handling becomes easy.
  5. Disbudding also essential to reduce the space for animals in the sheds.
  6. Disbudding should be done for calf at the age of 15-20 days itself.
  7. It is carried out through using hot iron and chemicals.
  8. Electric hot iron is bloodless method it may be used at any season.
  9. The iron rod heated with electricity has an automatic control that maintain the temperature at about 10000 F, applying it to the horn bud for l0 seconds is sufficient to destroy the horn tissue.
  10. Caustic potash or caustic soda is the common chemical used for disbudding.
  11. These are available in the form of paste or solution.
  12. Clip the hair around the horn buds and surrounding area, a ring of Vaseline to protect the eyes against chemicals.
  13. Rub the chemical over the buds until bleeding occurs.

Read Also: Fattening Ruminants vs Raising them for Production: Find out which is more Economical

Ear tagging

  1. It is the most popular method of identification of farm animals.
  2. It facilitates easy supervision, management and accurate record maintenance.
  3. It requires tagging forceps and tags
  4. The numbers in the tags should be contrast and clear style based on the skin colour of the animal.
  5. Location of tag in the ear for tagging should be half the way between base and tip of the ear.
  6. The ear tag is applied in the ear by puncturing the ear with the applicator.

Castration

  1. To render the animal docile, to control indiscriminate breeding and to prevent certain genital diseases castration is performed.
  2. It is also performed to induce faster gain in body weight and to improve the quality of meat.
  3. Castration also results in lean and slender neck which facilitates the correct fitness of yoke especially in work cattle.
  4. It is performed in young animals within 2-3 months through surgical method and elastrator method.
  5. In adult animals within one year of age, castration performed through closed method using Burdizzo castrators.
  6. The Burdizzo castrator crushes the spermatic cord and thus stopping the blood to the testes and results in atrophy of the testes and stoppage of spermatozoa production.
  7. Castration should be performed during cold season and strictly avoid rainy season for fear of fly problems.
  8. Castrated animals should be rested for few days in clean and comfortable pens.
  9. Burdizzo castrator method is safe, quick and less chance of getting infection.
  10. Elastrator rings are very painful to the animal and so it is not usually recommended.

Vaccination Schedule for Adult Animals

VaccineMonths
Foot and mouthJanuary to February
Abortion causing brucellosisMarch to April
Anthrax diseaseApril to may
Foot and mouth disease( twice a year)June to July
Black quarterAugust to September( before monsoon)
Hemorrhagic septicemiaSeptember to October

Disinfection

  1. Disinfection means destruction of pathogenic microorganisms from a place so that the place becomes free from infection.
  2. Disinfection can be brought about with the help of physical, chemical and gaseous agents.
  3. Chemical disinfectants are very widely used in veterinary practice, as their aqueous solutions are easy to prepare.
  4. Chemical disinfectants are cheap and have a broad spectrum of activity.
  5. Chemical disinfectants are good disinfectant neither stains nor damages materials and are free of undesirable odours.
  6. Boric acid (4-6%), Sodium hydroxide (1, 2 and 5%) and Calcium hydroxide (lime water, slaked lime) are commonly available for disinfection of animal houses.
  7. Formaldehyde (5-10%) can be used for washing floor of animal houses.
  8. Glutaraldehyde 2% aqueous solution is useful for sterilization of instruments.
  9. Quarternary ammonium compounds; cetavlon; savlon are detergents and soaps, are used mainly for washing. They remove grease, dirt and other organic matter.
  10. Bleaching powder (calcium hypochlorite), Copper sulfate (5mg/lit) and Potassium permanganate (1-2mg/lit) are commonly used disinfectants.
  11. Calcium oxide is used in the burial pits to dispose the carcass and for land application.
  12. Calcium hydroxide (slaked) mixed with 5% phenol is commonly used in white washing of the walls of farm houses as disinfectant.
  13. 1 kg of bleaching powder (chlorinated lime) can be used with 25 litres of water makes a very good deodorant.
  14. Phenol (0.5 to 5%) and Sodium carbonate (2.5-4%) can be used for farm buildings.

Read Also: Farm Animals (Livestock production): Benefits and Economic Importance

Quarantine

  1. Quarantine is the process of segregating apparently healthy animals (especially animal being introduced into a herd or into the country for the first time) which have been exposed to the risk of infection.
  2. Quarantine period depends on the incubation period of diseases.
  3. In practice, a minimum period of 30 to 40 days has been generally accepted as the reasonable period; but in case of diseases like rabies this period is up to 6 months.
  4. Normally newly purchased animals and animals returned from show should be kept in the quarantine shed.
  5. The shed should be constructed at the entrance of the farm.
  6. They should be dipped or sprayed on the 25th / 26th day to remove the ectoparasites.

Isolation of sick animals

  1. Isolation is the process of segregation of affected and in contact animals from the apparently healthy ones, in the event of outbreak of a contagious disease.
  2. Such segregated animals should preferably be housed in a separate isolation shed situated far away from the normal animal house.
  3. If a separate shed is not available the animals for isolation should be tied at one end of the shed as far away from the apparently healthy stock as possible.
  4. Attendants and equipment for sick animals should be ideally separate.
  5. If due to practical reasons this is not possible the sick animals should be attended only after the healthy stock.
  6. The equipment should be thoroughly disinfected after use in the isolation group.
  7. The attendant should wash his hands, feet and gumboots in antiseptic lotions and change his cloths.
  8. The isolated animals are brought back to the healthy herd only after they are fully recovered and the chance of passing on infection is removed.

Insuring the animals

  1. It provides protection mechanism to the farmers and cattle rearers against any eventual loss of their animals due to death and to attaining qualitative improvement of livestock and their products.
  2. Farmers (small/ large/ marginal) and cattle rearers having the cross breed and high yielding cattle and buffaloes are the eligible beneficiaries.
  3. Covered risks are death of cattle due to accident inclusive of flood, cyclone, famine or any other fortuitous circumstances, diseases, surgical operations, riot, strike, terrorism and earthquake.
  4. Animals can be insured for maximum (100%) of their current market value.
  5. The General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC), New India Insurance and Oriental insurance are the major insurance companies providing cattle and buffalo insurance.
  6. For insuring animals, the farmers and animal owners first have to contact their nearest government veterinary doctors / qualified veterinary practitioners / Animal Husbandry department.

Read Also: How to Neuter (Castrate) Ruminant Male Animals: Risks and Benefits

Disposal of carcass

  1. The primary purpose of safe disposal of carcass is to ensure the check and spread of disease either to other susceptible animals or humans.
  2. Carcasses of animals may be disposed of by sending them to knackeries or by burial or burning.
  3. The carcass must be buried in its skin, be covered with a sufficient quantity of quicklime or other disinfectants.
  4. The dead animals should be arranged upon its back with feet upwards.
  5. The skin is slashed inside the pit all cases except in the case of anthrax.
  6. Burning of carcass can be done by surface burning and flame gun methods.

Record maintenance

  1. Record keeping is an essential practice in animal husbandry.
  2. It needs daily, regular recording the details in the farm office by manager or farmer.
  3. Each animal in the herd is identified with respect to their production performance by using available records.
  4. With the help of records close management and appropriate feeding levels can be provided on the basis of production level.
  5. It also facilitates increased efficiency of culling and selection which in turn will increase the profit rate.
  6. Relative influence of feeding, management and breeding can be assessed on production performance.
  7. Livestock marketing can be promoted on the basis of performance records.
  8. Comparison of herd performance between and within breeds is possible.
  9. Superior stock can be identified for extensive use in breeding programmes.
  10. Herd and breed registration programmes can be implemented more effectively.

Registers to be maintained in a dairy farm

  1. Daily stock register
  2. Birth/calving register
  3. Calf / young stock register
  4. Adult stock register
  5. Breeding register/ AI register
  6. Weighment / growth register
  7. Milk yield and distribution register
  8. Sales/ disposal register
  9. Fodder/ feed stock register
  10. Receipt/ Income register
  11. Herd health register
  12. Mortality register

Read Also: How to Raise Ruminant Animals for Fattening and Reproduction together

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Benadine Nonye

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