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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beef Cattle Farming


The following are the common breeds with potential for beef production available locally or through imports:

Commercial Beef Cross Imported from Australia mainly for feedlot / fattening
Friesian-Sahiwal Cross Limited no., available from DVS & local farms, mainly imported (Australia & New Zealand)
Droughtmaster Limited no., available from DVS and local farms, mainly from imports (Australia)
Kedah Kelantan Beef Cross Limited no., available from local farms & integration areas
Kedah Kelantan (KK) Available locally, but the demand is high
Brahman Limited no., available locally,but main source is from imports (Australia, USA)
Local Indian Dairy Available locally, but the numbers are limited and scarce
Nelore Limited no. available from DVS, can import ( Brazil )

Breeds commonly reared in Malaysia by beef farmers include:

Kedah Kelantan (K-K)
Commercial Beef Cross
Friesian-Sahiwal Cross (Mafriwal)
Local Indian Dairy (LID)

Other popular and well known breeds of Beef Cattle include the following :



There are 4 management methods applicable:

Free Grazing Method
Cattle are allowed to freely graze in grass fields. This includes grazing on the roadsides. This is not suitable because:

disturbs other people's gardens
possibilities of cattle being hit or hurt by vehicles
dependent on poor and unsuitable pastures
difficult to keep track of individual animals.

Feedlot or Enclosed Method
Reared cattle are always kept in the shed, constatntly provided with sufficient quality feeds, clean water and sufficient minerals. Feed, either as cut grass or concentrates or a mixture of both, is supplied at a daily dry weight ration of 3 - 5% of the animal's body weight. Usually, cut grass is given in the morning and concentrates in the afternoon. Approximately 30 square feet of floor space per animal is required. Additional labour is required for washing the shed floors and keeping the surroundings clean.

Semi-Intensive Grazing
This method is more practical for our country. Cattle are allowed to graze freely either in a fenced pasture or in a public pasture for a fixed period. The cattle are then herded back to the cattle sheds for supplementary feeding and shelter during the night. This means the farmer must have cattle sheds and sufficient grazing grounds.

Intergration with Major Crops
In our country, large areas are cultivated with major crops like oil palm, rubber, coconut and fruit orchards. Usually, these plantations are covered with undergrowth that require chemical control. Integration with livestock will reduce herbicide costs as well as fertiliser costs. With controlled grazing, one hectare of oil palm can support one head of cattle.


Selection of Area

Integrated cattle farming with oil palm is one of the most suitable ways of beef cattle farming. Normally, the cattle will not destroy the plantation or the fruits. The area must have sufficient undergrowth to support the numbers of livestock. There should be good quality perimeter fencing to prevent poaching or straying into other areas. This highly recommended method only requires an unshaded paddock for the livestock during the night.

Although land planted with grass is the most suitable, it however incurs high development costs. Unless the land area is sufficiently large to support a commercial unit, it would not be profitable. The size of the area is dependent on the type of management and the number of livestock reared.

Grazing Area
The land must be tilled prior to grass cultivation to ensure proper growth. After tilling, the land must be left aside for 2 weeks before being harrowed and limed at a rate of 1 ton per acre. After 2 weeks, the land is ploughed. After that, TSP fertiliser (100 kg/acre) and grass seeds (5 kg/acre) are broadcasted.

Fertilisers, lime and seeds are mixed with the preparation phase to save time since the 2-week resting periods between each process are important. Grass cuttings may also be planted in rows or scattered, but the process of land preparation is similar.

In integrated livestock farming, there is no requirement for land preparation because natural vegetation is already available.

Housing Guide

Cattle Shed Preparation

A good cattle shed only requires a waterproof roof and an easily cleaned floor with satisfactory drainage. A shed size of 30 square feet is sufficient for one head of cattle. This means a shed of 20 feet by 15 feet and 8-10 feet high is sufficient for 10 head of cattle. Local materials like bamboo, jungle wood, palm fronds may be used to reduce building costs.

Feed and Water Troughs

Each cattle shed must have sufficient feed and water troughs. Feeding space is 1.5 feet per animal and drinking space is 1 foot per animal.

There are a few types of feed and drinking troughs available.


A Trevis is required to restrain the animal for examinations, treatment or artificial insemination. It is basically a strong fence the size of a cow whereby on entering, the animal is restrained.

Feed and Drink

A head of cattle requires about 20-30 kg of grass daily. The animal may only survive on grass if it is of a high quality. Otherwise, supplementary feed and mineral salts are required. Supplementary feed can reduce the amount of grass consumed but this is expensive. Agricultural wastes that are cheaper can be used as supplementary feeds; for example, cocoa husks, oil palm kernal, pineapple skins and fiber, sugar cane, padi straw and sago. Rock salt or ordinary salt and clean drinking water must be constantly available.

Disease Control

Prevention is better than cure. Healthy cattle will ease management and increase productivity.

The correct way to control disease is to have a good management system including clean cattle sheds and sufficient quality feed.

Common health problems in this country are sores, worm infestations including external and blood-borne parasites. To overcome these problems, keep the cattle away from sharp objects, deworm 2-3 times a year and spray with tickicide every 2 months.

Calfs, in turn, get umbilicus infections. This is prevented by treatments to the umbilicus and the umbilical cord at birth.

General Signs of early infections in cattle:

loss of appetite
fluid/mucus secretions at the mouth or nose
lameness or abnormal gait.
If some of the above symptoms appear, contact the nearest Veterinary Services Department for advice, examination and treatment.

Breeding Process

Only mature heifers or breeders who are on heat may be mated. A heat period of 24 hours must be correctly observed to avoid errors. If this period has passed, the animal will come back on heat within 18-24 dayes, averaging 21 days.

Signs of being on heat:

Always noisy
The vulva is swollen and red
Mucus from the vulva
Mounting each other
Isolating itself, uneasy and feeding poorly
Successfully mated cows will not exhibit heat. After 2 months, Veterinary Department officers may be called to perform pregnancy diagnosis.

After birth, the cow can be mated once it goes on heat again after 40-60 days. A cow may not be suitable for breeding after 5-6 births or at 8-10 years of age.

Caring for Pregnant Cows

The pregnancy period is 283 days. The cow must be well looked after during pregnancy. Quality feed and sufficient clean drinking water should be provided for the pregnant cow that is separated in the shed.

Signs of impending birth:

Nipples are enlarged
Milk can be extracted and it is yellowish
Base of the tail is bent towards the hips
Vulval lips are swollen
Moves away from the herd
At this stage, the cow should be put into a special shed with hay-lined flooring. The farmer may observe but should not approach the cow. If the cow has birth difficulties, Veterinary Department officers should be informed to provide assistance where necessary. Similarly, after 24 hours of birth, if the placenta is not released naturally, an experienced Veterinary Department officer should attend to the situation.

Calves born in a clean environment has less chance of umbilical infections but it is good to treat the umbilicus with iodine to avoid any complications.

After Birth Care

Newly born calves must be given colostrum at least for the first 4 days. Milk may be fed for 3 months after which the calf must be weaned. The calf must be slowly taught to consume grass and concentrates before being completely weaned.

Early weaning ensures that the cow's uterus is quickly prepared for the next pregnancy.

Calves should be well looked after to ensure complete development.

Care for the Growing Calf

Male calves that are not required for breeding must be neutered so as not to disturb the breeding of breeder cows. This disturbance will result in the production of poor quality calves. After neutering, the male calves will grow faster and can be fattened easily for slaughter. They also need to be de-horned so that they are easily handled at the adult stage.

Female calves that are growing need to be monitored so that they get good feed and are not mated until they reach an age of about 2 years.

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