What does a livestock farmer desire when he wants to improve the genetics of his cattle? Possibly the production of more meat or milk and maybe he is not satisfied with what he is producing. However, improved genetics requires better management or improving nutrition, among other aspects. Therefore, should he be aiming to improve genetics – or first of all, he should observe what he has, the condition of what he has and how much he has.
It is, therefore, from these observations that he will be able to find the best way of improving production. The nutrition of cattle here in Namibia is based mainly on pasture, given that most of these are degraded or in the process of deterioration. Such a situation affects the productivity of cattle – in return negatively affecting the family livelihood and the environment.
In recent years, this situation has been compounded due to variations in the climate, some which are much more intense and critical in certain seasons of the year. Climatic variations can be evident in such a short period – but of course, we can adapt ourselves to produce better under those conditions. The major impact of these climatic changes is reflected in the nutrition of the cattle, especially when the nutrition of the animal is solely dependent on grass or pasture.
My experience has taught me that the first step is to observe the condition of the animal – not from the health standpoint but whether the animal is comfortable, is in good, regular or bad condition – which can be the equivalent of fat, lean or regular.
The cow/cattle needs nutrients, such as water, protein, energy, minerals and vitamins to grow, produce milk or meat, reproduce, carry out physical activity and maintain itself in good condition regardless the season of the year.
Cattle can eat everything but not everything is the best that the animal can eat. Before answering the question regarding what a cow should eat, ask yourself why do I have cattle? The answer could be because you like to have animals or for generating income.
If the latter is closer to your answer, you should carefully review what the cow is eating and what it should eat so that you can accomplish your objective of generating profits.
It is, therefore, vital that you decide the type of farming mode you are into and the main reasons for farming with livestock.
This is vital, as it will also determine the kind of breeds to farm with. There is no logic in farming with a breed that has a lean carcass weight when you farm for meat or having a breed with low milk yield if milk production is your business.
Choose wisely, for your decision could mean the difference between profits and losses.