How To Upgrade Nigeria Indigenous Breeds Of Beef And Dairy Cattle

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Cattle breeds indigenous to Nigeria is one of the problems of beef and dairy production in Nigeria . Most Nigeria breeds of cattle are kept for both beef and milk. These breeds do not produce much quality and quantity of beef and milk. The Nigerian indigenous cows produce about 5 litres of milk per day, while those indigenous to many other countries produce between 25 – 50 litres per day. The breed found in Southern Nigeria known as African Dwarf do not produce milk. 

Nigeria Cattle Breeds 

The breeds indigenous to Nigeria are: 

White Fulani (Bunaji or Yakanaji): This breed is the highest breed available in Nigeria. It makes up to 51% of national production. It’s dual purpose cattle 

Red Fulani (Rahaji): This is just like White Fulani; the difference are their colours and sizes. Red Fulani is a little larger than White Fulani – the bulls weigh about 620 kg and the cows 446 kg. It’s said to be  most used for beef. 

Kuri: This breed was brought to Nigeria from the French speaking Countries of Lake Chad. It’s used for both beef and milk production 

Muturu (West African Dwarf): This breed is found in the rainforest area of Nigeria. It doesn’t produce milk 

Sokoto Gudali: It’s most found in Sokoto,  Zamfara and others North Western states.

Wadara: Wadara breed is mostly found in Bornu area, and it’s kept for both beef and dairy production. 

Other breeds include: Red Bororo, N’dama 

 How To Upgrade Nigeria Indigenous Cattle Breeds 

1. Cross breeding

The Nigeria indigenous breeds of beef and dairy cattle can be improved or upgraded by cross breeding with the exotic foreign breeds. Cross breeding is the process of allowing genetics of a breed of animal to pass to another breed of animal. This is done by allowing the male breed mate the female of another so that the offspring reproduced carry the genetics of both breeds. Cross breeding helps to improve the genes of livestock breeds which are not hybrids or exotic by transferring the genetics of the hybrid of exotic breeds to them. Some of these exotic breeds especially for dairy production are: Holstein-Friesian, Brown Swiss, Jersey, Ayrshire, Guernsey. Friesian, Brown Swiss and Jersey had been imported into Nigeria for crossbreeding with the Nigerian indigenous cattle to improve the Nigerian breeds for diary production. 

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Friesian X Bunaji crossbred bull 


2. Artificial insemination 

Artificial Insemination, AI is a breeding procedure in which sperm cells of a male animal is collected and injected in the female reproductive track at the right time of conception using special equipment. With artificial insemination, sperm cells of the exotic breed can be collected and manually deposited in the vagina of the non exotic female breed. We have said that the Nigeria indigenous beef and dairy cattle can be upgraded by cross breeding with foreign exotic beef and dairy cattle, but it may be difficult to import these foreign breeds for natural mating. Therefore, Artificial Insemination is recommended because semen from bulls can be collected stored and transported to inseminate cows in different locations. In artificial insemination, bulls with the best genetics are selected, this helps to improve the quality of their offspring. Upgrading of animal breeds is one of the conditions to recommend use of artificial insemination.

3. Abolition of nomadic method of cattle rearing

Nigerian cattle farmers practice traditional cattle rearing system. Under the extensive system, the animals rely on grazing on the open range grounds with the change of seasons. There are no cultivated pasture on which to feed the animals and there is no supply of feed. The cattle are moved from one location to another by nomadic husbandmen covering long distances in search of pasture. In most cases, this results in a very low level of production (both beef and milk) because the cattle lose weight (average weight of Nigerian breed is 550kg for bulls and 463kg for cows), milk and their maturity is delayed. 

The Nigerian breeds that are raised in extensive system are poor beef and dairy producers when compared with the ones raised in intensive system. Nigerian cow breeds produce average of 1 litre of milk per day. While South African cows produce average of 50 litres per day. 

Nigerian indigenous beef and dairy cattle can still be upgraded without cross breeding, if Nigeria cattle farmers can abolish the nomadic system and adopt  zero ranching. Under nomadic system, even the cross breed cattle will not show much improvement. South Africa upgraded its indigenous breeds by cross breeding as well as by adoption of zero ranching. Today, South Africa’s breeds produce up to 50 litres of milk per day. 

4. Improved Nutrition in Cattle Feeds and Feeding Ration

Improved nutrition in cattle feeds and feeding ration is another way Nigerian indigenous cattle breeds can be upgraded. Feeding plays important role in development and performance of cattle both for beef and dairy. Additives can be added to the feeds to improve the feed nutrients. The use of feed additives improves cattle performance. Such additives are phytogenics, prebiotics, probiotics,  hormones like steroids which improve cattle’s growth rate and milk production. 

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