In Uganda, livestock form an integral part of agriculture. In fact the country’s national economy is closely knit with agriculture and livestock.
It is therefore, a matter of great importance that the livestock are maintained in good health and provided proper management
The productive potentialities of livestock are controlled by three principal factors namely
i) Genetic make up
iii) Environment including the climatic conditions
What is management?
Management is the art and science of combining ideas, facilities, processes, materials and labors to produce and market a worthwhile product for service successfully. Management is the center of all livestock production.
A manager is an organizer and a converter. He converts resources in to product. This is just as true for our dairy farm as for our biggest industries; he converts labor soil fertility hay silage and other inputs in to milk. These transformations do not occur by happenstance. They are the results of a purposeful and premeditated force called management.
Function of management:
A manager must perform five major functions. He must plan, organize, coordinate, direct and control. The manager’s role is that of a ‘decision maker’ i.e. who must decide what to do., how to do it, when to do it.
Livestock management requires strong business sense and a firm understanding of how farms and ranches operate. If you enjoy working with animals and leading people, you might find a rewarding career in this field.
Inside Livestock Management
Livestock managers are responsible for running the business of poultry farms, dairy farms, cattle ranches or other livestock-related agribusinesses. They must keep accurate financial records, supervise workers and ensure proper care and feeding of animals. Managers on smaller farms may be responsible for doing some physical labor as well, like assisting with animal births or repairing machinery.
There are various ways through which you can manage your livestock in a sustainable way. These are:
Before selecting a breed, determine the type and quantity of feed and water available. Discuss any proposed selection with people who know the local area. Consider the way in which the livestock might need to be managed (eg. fencing requirements, frequency of moving animals, etc). You need to have the manpower, equipment and
financial resources to manage the chosen breed in a sustainable way. If you don’t have adequate resources, you might be better to choose a different type of animal (eg. Goats are good in a paddock for a while to eradicate weeds; but at a certain stage, they can start to cause degradation of land).
- This refers to the number of animals that can be supported by a specified area (ie. head per hectare). The optimum stocking rate of a property may vary from month to month and year to year, according to seasonal changes and unproductive periods such as drought.
- Supplementary feeding and watering may allow stocking rates to be increased on a property, or at least maintained during periods of poor pasture growth. Animals may also be put elsewhere under agistment at times, to relieve their influence on the property.
- Problems can develop if animals are allowed total freedom on a property,. For example, they may congregate in one particular area, causing erosion, or they might only eat one particular pasture species, causing a change in the pasture composition. Generally animals are restricted to different areas at different times.
- Fencing is necessary to contain stock, but it can also injure stock. Fencing is traditionally six strands of barbed wire,
however most vets oppose using barbed wire because it injures stock, affects their health, and damages hides
(making them less valuable for the hide industry). One or two strands of barbed wire will generally be adequate, with
the remaining strands being plain wire.
- The best fence is post and rail (four rails for small animals or two to three for large animals). In most instances, post and rail fencing is too expensive to be economically viable, except for intensive areas such as stock yards or feed lots.
- Post and rail may also be used to contain particularly strong or valuable animals, such as stud horses or bulls.
- Electric fences are relatively inexpensive and increasingly popular. They can be moved with relative ease, providing much greater flexibility and allowing paddocks to be reconfigured frequently. Electric fences can, however, be a fire risk if the fence lines are not routinely checked.
- All types of fencing require maintenance. Fences do move and need straightening, gates deteriorate and need to be repaired and restrung. Electric fences perhaps take less effort to maintain them than others.
Control Livestock Disease
For successful performance of management process, the manager must
- Observe: Gather information about all resources technologies, alternative market outlet Sources of capital credit needed and items affecting successful operation
- Establish goals: Clearly set and the objectives to be achieved.
- Identify problems: Find the obstacles or stumbling blocks which. Hinder the progress to goals.
- Analyze: Compare alternative methods of reaching goals, in terms of capital labor and other assets.
- Decide: Choose a plan of action and set out clear-cut procedure.
- Act: Put chosen plan into operation.
- Be responsible: Assume responsibilities for the consequences, of the actions taken.
- Evaluate: Measure results and compare with goals.
- Control: Keep a careful check on production level.
- Adjust: Keep the operating system flexible to take the advantage of new development tools and management
Tools and management:
Some of the tools which are helpful in acquiring accurate information about dairy business and in guiding management decision are as follows:
- Farm records: No business can be operated successfully without a good system of accounting for a dairy farm. The account should include the following
- Complete inventories: At the beginning and end of the year including a summary of all assets, debts and net worth.
- Production records (including main animal products – and their byproducts.
- Current expenditure and receipts-including quantity sold
- Annual production and financial summary.
- Analysis of year’s records to determine strong and weak points.
Possible problems of livestock production
- Degradation of pasture through trampling, introducing weeds (eg. in feeds).
- Destruction of habitats.
- Competition of forage material between domesticated animals and wild animals.
- Loss of biodiversity.
- Pests eg. foxes, escaped domestic stock (camels, pigs, horses, goats, cats, dogs, etc).
To sustain livestock production on a property, the following must be done:
- Select breeds of livestock appropriate to the site
- Control overstocking
- Use an appropriate production system
- Apply appropriate land care practices to sustain the condition of the land (eg. subdivision fencing according to soil types and land use).
Castration: Removing the testes to prevent unwanted breeding,
- Leads to better meat
- Results in less fighting and aggressive behavior among males
Dehorning: To remove or prevent the growth of horns to protect humans and other animals from being injured
Vaccination: Administering microorganisms to increase immunity to a particular disease
Identification: Method used to label livestock for the purpose of individual recognition. Examples:
- Ear tag
- Ear notch
- Electronic id
- Neck chains
- Nose prints
There are no hard and fast rules about what production system is most sustainable for a particular type of animal. The following examples provide an insight into systems which have been used in the past; however the system you choose for your property is better tailor-made to suit the conditions on your property.
1. Rotating Uses of a Paddock
This involves using a paddock for different purposes at different times; for example, growing a cash crop in one season; grazing in the next, followed by a growing a green manure cover crop before planting another cash crop.
2. Multiple Use of a Paddock
This involves using a paddock for two or more different uses at the same time; for example, grazing under a tree crop, or inter cropping annual crops between permanent plantings such as fruit trees or vines.
3. Low Intensity Stocking
This involves keeping stock numbers at a level to be sustained by the poorest seasonal conditions. It works well on large properties where land is cheap, but may not be financially viable elsewhere.
4. Free Range
This involves allowing animals to run free on a property, or part of a property. Productivity levels might not be as high, but it is a low input system, usually with significant cost savings on manpower, equipment and buildings. Predators can be a problem, particularly with smaller animals, and animals may be more difficult to handle because they are handled less. Pigs and poultry farmed under a free range system are often healthier, less susceptible to passing diseases from one animal to the next, and able to exercise better than in intensive systems.
5. Intensive Confinement
This involves keeping animals in a confined area (eg. poultry in sheds or cages, pigs in sties, beef and dairy in feed lots). This system requires high inputs. With animals living close together, diseases can spread fast, so chemical controls are frequently used, water and feed needs to be brought to the animals, wastes need to be removed and disposed of, areas need to be cleaned and perhaps sterilised, and animals may need to be exercised periodically. Intensive systems do not use as much land, but they use more of just about everything else, and have a greater potential to develop problems such as epidemics or land degradation.
6. Integrated Farming-Grazing Crop Residues
Grow a crop such as maize or wheat, harvest the crop, then bring animals onto the paddock to graze on the crop residue. Concern is sometimes expressed that grazing between crops may result in excessive use of the land resource, resulting in degradation effects such as soil compaction, reduced soil organic content, and reduced crop productivity.
In cold winter climates, animals are confined over winter to protect them from extreme cold, then let out to graze in spring. Pigs or beef raised in paddocks are sometimes confined for a short period prior to slaughter to ‘finish’ and improve the final meat product.