Communal cattle farming experience high mortality levels, general low reproduction rates and low calf weaning percentages. This result in a low beef off-take of less than 12% which is much lower in comparison to 25% in the commercial sector. The objective of the study was to assess cattle breeding management and production constraints in a communal farming system towards designing a livestock improvement program. A total of 100 households heads being cattle owners were randomly sampled using a pre-tested structured questionnaire at Nxaxo community in the Eastern Cape. The interviews were conducted using vernacular Xhosa language. The questionnaire included questions related to demographics and farm characteristics such as total land size, ownership, livestock management practices such as feeding, selection traits, the purpose of keeping cattle and constraints. Of the sampled households interviewed (n=100), male to female ratio was 0.69 to 0.31. The mean number of ruminant animals per herd was 1.98±2.63 sheep, 3.59±3.98 goats and 7±4.18 cattle. All of the respondents practice uncontrolled breeding which is attributed to a lack of infrastructure. Breeding parameters such as body size (37.8%) and growth (29.1%) were ranked high for beef production, whereas milk production (18.6%) was the most used parameter for selecting breeding cows. Mothering ability (11.6%) and coat colour (2.9%) were other traits used for selecting breeding animals. Major constraints of cattle production in the study area were lack of infrastructure, tick-borne diseases, feed shortage, stock theft as well as market accessibility. Poor breeding management contributes to low reproduction in the communal areas and more training on animal related aspects are required for farmers to enhance their knowledge.
Cattle production and breeding practice in communal farming system in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Author: S. Mthi, N. Nyangiwe, T. Thubela, N. Nyalambisa, Z. Madyibi, M. Yawa
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