Beef cattle or feedlots are cattle raised for meat production (as distinguished from dairy cattle, used for milk production). The production cycle of the animals starts at cow-calf operations; this operation is designed specifically to breed cows for their offspring. From here the calves are backgrounded for a feedlot.
The beef production systems practiced in Africa include
- Nomadic Pastoralism
- Feedlot system
- Nomadic Pastoralism
- Intensive farming
Involves a seasonal pattern of movement around a more or less regular pattern. It is the most environmentally sustainable livelihood in the arid and semi-arid areas. This system is practiced predominantly in Souther Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, and Northern Kenya, and southern rangelands.
Ranching is a form of beef production system practiced within a defined unit of land. In a ranch, it is possible to maintain optimal stocking rates conserve and preserve pasture and develop livestock support facilities such as dips and water points. This system is practiced in both arid and semi-arid areas
This is a production system practiced in semi- arid parts of the country where beef farming is practiced alongside crop farming. Beef farming and crop farming complement each other through livestock feeding on crop residues and crop farming benefiting from manure and animal draught power.
These are units where immature are intensively put on a feeding regime purposely to fatten so as to attain a specific market weight prior to being sold. The animals are confined like in the zero grazing units in dairy production and are fed on high-energy concentrates. This system is not in use in the arid lands of Kenya.
General Management of the Beef Herd
Breeding involves the selection of highly performing animals in the herd and introducing superior qualities/characteristics into the herd for the purpose of increased production.
Cattle production in the ASAL areas is free range, often in communal grazing and shared water points. In order to improve the herd productivity, it is important that livestock keepers control and manage the breeding calendar.
In order to make decisions on breeding the most important prerequisite would be keeping records of the animals involved. The following are some of the important records.
These are records that trace the lineage of an animal both parents.
These records reflect an animal’s performance in their lifetime.
Improvement of beef cattle by selection Animals can be improved significantly by selecting superior traits within the herd and multiplying them so as to preserve them.
This is important because it determines the intensity of selection. The higher the population from which the selection is to be done, the higher the section intensity, hence the higher their genetic gain per unit time.
This is the age of the parents at the birth of their first calf. The smaller the generation interval, the higher the genetic gain within a given time.
In order to maximize economic gains in the selection programme, the management levels of the herd should be optimal. This will reduce the environmental variances, which suppress the expression of the genotype.
Selection of the Bull
- The bull to be selected should have the following qualities:
- Be from a good dam and sire,
- Have evenly placed teats and well hanging
- Not related to cows in the herd to avoid
- Have good conformation for beef
Beef cattle are cattle raised for meat production (as distinguished from dairy cattle, used for milk production). The meat of mature or almost mature cattle is mostly known as beef. In beef production there are three main stages: cow-calf operations, backgrounding, and feedlot operations. The production cycle of the animals start at cow-calf operations; this operation is designed specifically to breed cows for their offspring. From here the calves are backgrounded for a feedlot. Animals grown specifically for the feedlot are known as feeder cattle, the goal of these animals is fattening. Animals not grown for a feedlot are typically female and are commonly known as replacement heifers. While the principal use of beef cattle is meat production, other uses include leather, and beef by-products used in candy, shampoo, cosmetics, insulin and inhalers.
Feed And Nutrition in Feedlot management of beef cattle
It’s very essential that you give the right quantity and type of feed to your cattle. The success of your cattle fattening business depends on the ability of the cattle to gain weight and to produce high quality beef. These factors are affected by the quality and quantity of feed. The proper feeding techniques will ensure that the cattle will grow and utilize the feed efficiently and produce good quality beef. This will maximize your profits of the cattle fattening farming business. Failing to properly feed the cattle will lead to losses. The losses will be due to failure to meet the target slaughter weights and beef quality grade.
There are companies which sell cattle fattening stock feeds. These are complete, balanced feeds, which are designed for fattening cattle in feedlots over 90 days. The stock feeds are high energy fattening meals which contain all the nutrients necessary for ad lib cattle pen fattening. You can also make your own home made cattle beef fattening feeds. The amount of feed consumed by the cattle daily will depend on factors such as live weight and age of the cattle. Normally, it averages between 8-15kg per head per day or 3.4% of a steer’s live mass per day. The average daily weight gain at 350Kg live mass is about 1.6Kg.
When you sell your cattle to the abattoir or butcher, they will slaughter it and grade the beef according to its quality.Beef is graded in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass. After fattening cattle in feedlots for 90 days, its beef should fetch the highest quality grade. This grade is usually called Prime beef or Super beef. This is the beef which fetches the highest price on the market. The purpose of cattle fattening is to increase the weight of the cattle over 90 days (more weight, more money when you sell) and to increase the quality of the beef (higher grade of beef, more money when you sell).
What are feedlots?
Keeping animals in ranches or open pastures requires a lot of space and one has to wait for quite a while for the animals to attain requisite market weight. The feedlot system as the names suggests is an intensive feeding regime with a goal for the animals to quickly acquire market body weight.
Animals are kept in confinement and fed quality feed to attain a market weight within a given time frame (usually much shorter than those purely on pasture).
In Australia, for example, this form of beef production is widely practiced and there are associations that give guidelines and work towards their enforcement.
These associations work to ensure the market’s preferences are met because with the feedlot system, a farmer is able to produce quality and consistent beef even during lean times. Other forms of feedlots involve rearing animals in pastures then finishing them in feedlots.
Those in the feedlot system will either raise their own stock or can outsource them from other farmers. The few farmers who are engaged in this kind of production in Africa will in most cases buy their stock from other farmers at a relatively lower price; then fatten them within a short period and sell them off. Such farmers normally target farmers who have large numbers of animals during the dry seasons when pastures are inadequate and the animals have wasted away.
Although farmers tend to source for an animal with relatively poor body condition to get lower prices, this is a tricky area that requires due diligence – many farmers tend to assume thinness is only caused by inadequate feeding. This isn’t entirely true, many diseases manifest clinically through reduced body weight. In addition, in that state, the animal is vulnerable to diseases.
Rearing cattle on natural pasture normally has one disadvantage of wasting whenever pastures dwindle. This is a common phenomenon in Kenya; especially where a farmer hasn’t invested in good feed management – seasonality of feeds – hence you find fat animals in one season and thin animals in the other. This makes a good point for one to try the feedlot system.
When sourcing animals there is normally an induction period where deworming, vaccinations, external parasite control, and mineral supplementation is done. This means that successful feedlot management requires that you have your vet close by to advise on which diseases to vaccinate against, which dewormers are effective and the nutrition regime to restore the animals back to their healthy state.
Getting it right
Nutrition regime is of paramount importance and will vary according to many factors – genetic, environmental, the current body status, and market preferences. You need feed formulations that are nutritionally adequate, economic, and palatable. You will have to invest heavily in quality feeds if you choose this system in addition to the infrastructure and labor.
To maximize intake, the feed and clean water should be available at all times – note that at the finishing stage appetite falls relative to bodyweight. Stress is likely to happen as animals are put together; minimize this by grouping animals of the same age and size and provide good ventilation.
The feedlot system has been a concern for animal welfare activists; if not well planned it can raise concerns and can have negative effects on the environment. In the developed world, farmers who plan to engage in this system must pass an animal welfare audit and have an environmental impact assessment done prior to feedlot production.
Don’t forget that you must identify and secure a good market because you have already invested too much and you need to get a good price for your product to cover the costs and make a profit.