Thursday, 24 December 2015


Vitamin A is a required component in the beef cattle industry. 

Vitamin A, as a final product does not occur in green plant material.  It occurs in the forms of  carotenes and carotenoids in green plant matter.   Carotene is rapidly destroyed by sunlight and air, especially at higher temperatures (hot summer conditions/dry, bleached pastures).  The carotene in green matter is converted into Vitamin A by animals in their small intestines. The Vitamin A is than later stored in the animal’s liver for up to 3 months before it is eventually consumed and runs out.  The dry yellow grass cannot contain carotene/Vitamin A.  Consequently, it is recommended you vaccinate with Vitamin A during the dry months.  The following are Vitamin A deficiency consequences.

1. Vitamin A is associated with the maintenance of the protective mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive tracts resulting in the prevention of diarrhea and pneumonia. It is thought that a deficiency in vitamin A causes damage to these membranes which allows bacteria and viruses an opportunity for invasion.

2. It also helps with a compound in the eye needed for sight when an animal adapts from light to dark. One of the first easily detected signs of vitamin A deficiency in cattle is night blindness. An easy way to check for this condition is to place an obstacle in the pathway of cattle and notice if they stumble over it at twilight.

3. Vitamin A is also essential for proper kidney function and normal development of bones, teeth and nerve tissue.

4.  Signs of vitamin A deficiency in breeding herds include lowered fertility and calving percentagePregnant heifers and cows are especially sensitive to Vitamin A deprivation as this limits the development of the foetus, especially in the last trimester where the foetus grows the most.  This results to under developed foetus and stillbirth.   

5. Lameness stiffness tiredness, lose of appetite, rough hair coat, slowed grains and reduced feed efficiency, pneumonia (especially in calves)and watery eyes are additional symptoms.

Beef cattle requirements for vitamin A are 2200 IU/Kg dry feed for beef feedlot cattle, 2800 IU/Kg dry feed for pregnant beef heifers and cows, and 3900 IU/Kg dry feed for lactating cows and breeding bulls.  It is advisable to supply incoming feeders or other cattle under extreme stress conditions with 500 000 to 1 million IU of vitamin A.

Saturday, 29 August 2015


There are main types of injection areas that every farmer should be able to perform.  The easiest is the subcutaneous injections and intramuscular injections.   Subcutaneous injections have a longer absorption period in general.  The diagram below shows the skin, subcutaneous tissue and the muscle.  Below the muscle is the bone.  The subcutaneous injections are administered in the subcutaneous tissue (below skin) while the intramuscular injections are administered in the muscle.

Figure 1 showing the anatomy of injection sites

Area of injection 
Vaccines – Always use the recommended specifications for the vaccine.  In most cases, both intramuscular and subcutaneous should be given in the triangular mass of the muscle on the neck.  Take caution to avoid the top of the neck, which contains a ligament, and the bottom portion of the neck where the bones, windpipe and jugular vein are located (see below).

Antibiotics – The neck is usually the preferred location. Be sure to split the dose into two areas.  Do not administer more than 15ml on one side.  If large volumes are injected into one site, the medication will be absorbed too slowly through the body or to the infected area.

Figure 2 depicting vaccination sites

How to administer subcutaneous injections?
  1. Make sure that the area for injection is clean and dry.
  2. Lift a fold of the skin on the neck or shoulder where the skin is the loosest, and slip the needle between the skin and muscle (fig 3).  This should be nearly parallel (at 45°) to the surface so the needle goes under the skin and not into the muscle (fig 1).
  3.  Release the vaccine with the required dose.  Remember to use half the dose on one side, and the other half on the other side if it’s a big dosage i.e if 30 ml of dosage is required, use 15 ml on one side of the cow and 15 ml on the other side of cow, both subcutaneously.

Figure 3 showing how to administer subcutaneous injection

How to administer intramuscular injections?
  1. Make sure that the area for injection is clean and dry.
  2. Pat and stroke the spot where the injection will be administered to reduce sensitivity and irritation and keep animal from flinching.
  3. Thrust the needle in quickly and forcefully so it goes through the skin and all the way to the muscle.  If the animal jumps, wait till it settles down before attaching the syringe to the inserted needle to give the injection.  Be sure the needle used is not too long as this could penetrate through muscle and to the bone, which could be extremely painful.
  4. If the needle oozes blood, you have hit a vein.  Take out the needle and try again on a slightly different spot.  DO NOT INJECT AN INTRAMUSCULAR PRODUCT INTO A VEIN.
  5. After injecting the product into the muscle, rub the injection site to help distribute the product within the muscle.


Friday, 21 August 2015


As farmers, we often have to give our cattle vaccines to prevent diseases.  Often, farmers ask what vaccines to use for what disease, but it is very important to know and understand how vaccines work and what their functions are.

What is a vaccine? what is the purpose? how do vaccines work?

A suspension containing live, modified or killed micro-organisms or toxins.  This suspension, when administered stimulates the animal’s immune system to produce antibodies/antigens which help fight the disease, should the disease occur.  For example, we are often told to vaccinate our herds against anthrax annually.  What the vaccines do, they contain anthrax causing organisms in the ‘harmless’ form that the body can fight against.  And in the process, when there is an outbreak of the disease, the body already recognizes the disease and has developed antibodies already to fight off the disease.

Boosters and immunity time frame

Vaccines give different lengths of immunity. Some vaccines such as the Brucella S19 which fights against the Brucella virus in heifers is only given once because it has a long term immunity response.  Most vaccines are reapplied every year as the immunity only last for a year.  This is what is called boosting (boosting animal’s immune system) i.e Supavax for anthrax, Blackleg/black quarter and botulism. The function of the booster is to optimize the effectiveness of the vaccine, by maximizing the possibly of the fight against disease. 

Colostrum is the thick milk that comes during the first few days after a cow has given birth.  This milk is very important, and it is always required that the cow should suckle.  Colostrum contain antibodies that the mother has produced, and this gets transferred to the calf and help with disease fighting.  As part of your management plan, insure that calves suckle colostrum. The process is passive immunity.

Why vaccines fail?

Sometimes vaccines fail.  There are several reasons why vaccines fail.

Improper administration
Dosage - wrong dosage may result in vaccination failure.  Always use the recommended dosage when vaccination cattle.  Some vaccines, the dosage is expressed in ml/kg of animal weight.  If the recommended dosage is 1ml/10kg of an animal, than the dose is 30ml for a weight of 300kg.  Using less will result in vaccination failure.
Area of vaccination – There are 3 main areas of vaccination.  Mainly, subcutaneous (SQ on some labels) is when you vaccination through the skin, between skin and flesh. The intravenous injections are giving through the vein (usually by very experience people/VET), and finally, intramuscular (IM) injection which is given through the muscle.

Needle hygiene – Using dirty needles will result in vaccination failure.   Always sterilize needles and syringe by boiling in water (for at least 15 minutes). 

Improper mixing of vaccines
Different pH and dilutents – could completely alter the chemical composition of the vaccine. 

Improper timing
Too early – if vaccines are given too early in calves, they will interfere with antibodies that were passed on from the mother to the calf via the colostrum. So follow directions on the vaccination label on what age to vaccine.

Too late - the disease is already in process.  Other vaccines such as antibiotics must be given.  Give the vaccines that help fight the disease, not the once that prevent the disease.

Animal factors
Environmental stress – animals that are stressed have weak immune systems.  As a result, vaccines that prevent diseases are not effective. Stress such as little grazing (in overstocked farms), long distance travel to drink water, climate change (no rain) all effect animals.

Transport - cattle movements from area to area is very stressful for animals.  If vaccinated, this could result in vaccination failure.
Weaning stress - Never vaccinate with weaning. This reduces the effectiveness of vaccine.  Vaccinate either before or after weaning.

Storage – improper storage, especially for live vaccines can destroy active ingredients, causing vaccination failure.  Store vaccines as instructed, keep away from direct sunlight, keep the temperature as recommended.

Use after expiration – will reduce effectiveness of vaccine.


Friday, 31 July 2015


The recording of livestock should not be taken for granted.  Every farmer should use this practice.  Records are not only used to identify animals, but also to select animals based on production levels.  As a farmer, we want animals that are productive and yield a calf every year (or as often as possible). 

    Adapt a record system that is suitable for your production type.

  Beautiful herd drinking water.

They say a record system should only include data which can be used.  But I say, it’s better to have as much data as possible.  Perhaps, in the future, a great use for the data will be established.

The type of record one collects depends on what production system or line of farming one is involved in.  The diary farmer will have much different record than a beef producer (which can further be oxen production systems, weaner production systems etc).

I really suggest that as a farmer, YOU sit down and think long and hard what data you need to record. 

The following are the registers that I keep on the farm:

  1. Cow register and breeding/mating register and   vaccination register in one.

·         The main aim of my cow register is to be able to check the productivity of a cow.  Immediately.  When a cow is not productive, I can determine that from my records and waste no time in getting rid of her.
·         Record the ear tag.  Every tag is unique for every cow.
·         If the cattle are serviced by a bull, I indicate the month of service so I know when the calf is due. 
·         Amazingly.  Cows usually tent to give birth during round about the same time of the year.  For every cow, I know when to expect a calf.  Really good for planning purposes.
·         I regularly vaccinate against anthrax, black quarter and botulism.  I give inject able vitamins as well.  This is recorded on the cow register. I also keep record of animals with other problems such as udder problems, joint ill problems.  And the treatment of such cases is recorded too.

2.  Calve register and vaccination record
·         This is the record of all the calves in my herd, together with age, dam and sire, ear tag number and sex.
·         The date the calves are born is also important for recording (for breeding and weaning purposes).  I do not have breeding camps.  Therefore, I have a yearly production of calves.  I have divided by production cycle in 3 quarters of the year (January – April is quarter one, May – August is quarter two, September -December is quarter three).  I make sure I go to the farm at the end of every quarter (April, August and December) to conduct a thorough assessment on all my livestock.  I wean, vaccinate, dehorn, brand, tag and castrate in every quarter.  Remember not to wean and vaccinate, brand, dehorn at the same time.  This causes excessive stress on the calves and their heath weakens.
·         At one of these quarters, before weaning I vaccinate against brucellosis (which is mandatory for 4-11 months old female calves).
·         After every quarter I submit my ear tag information to Meatboard for recording into the Namlits database.

3.  Tolly or oxen register and vaccination register

4.  Heifer register and vaccination register
·         I consider a heifer anything female of the ages between weaning and bull servicing. I have a separate record book for this category.
·         I also vaccinate annually against anthrax, black quarter, botulism and inject able vitamins.

Templates are all over the net that can help you.  Some people used computer software tailor made for their needs. 

Recording is a good practice.  It saves me money and time.  Most importantly I can plan ahead. I can do some stuff without actually being at the farm. 


Friday, 17 July 2015


I had gone to an Agra auction last week…  This was my first time at an auction.  Previously, I would send someone to the auction to purchase livestock for me or I would simply make arrangements to purchase on someone’s farm (at their own set price).  The auction procedures are quite simple and straight forward.  It is all about being the highest bidder and obviously knowing what you are looking for.

Points to remember:
  • The cattle that are being auctioned are organised in various kraals/lots based on their weight, body condition and ownership (at times).  Cattle with more or less the same weight, regardless of age, go in one kraal.  Each kraal has a kraal number or a lot number. 
  • When you are purchasing cattle, you purchase per kraal. The kraals contain different numbers of cattle.  Some kraals contain just one cow/cow & calf/bull etc.  Other kraals have up to 15 cattle or so.
  •  Before the auction starts, you must present yourself at the auction office as a ‘buyer’.  You will then be given a number linked to your name.  Every time you are the highest bidder, the auctioneer will ask you for this number.  
  • Before the auction starts, have a look at the cattle and pick a kraal(s) you are interested in purchasing.  You will be bidding for these.
  • I think a single in a kraal is really expensive.  A lot of bidders are interested.
Obviously, you have a budget in mind.  You know how much you are willing to spend on a number of cattle that you would like to purchase.  The cattle are sent in the auctioning pen, kraal by kraal. A starting price is set by the auctioneer.  The price will go up, and the buyers will bit.  Until the last and highest bidder comes forth. 

Here is a scenario.  A kraal comes into the auction pens.  This kraal contains 10 heifers.  You (the buyer) only have N$40 000.00 budgeted for this lot.  Your limit per head of heifer (in this specific lot) is N$40 000.00/10 heifers = N$4000.00/heifer.  The starting price of these heifers is N$3000.00.  The auctioneer will increase the prices gradually.  Buyers will keep bidding.  If you are the last bidder with N$4000.00 per head or less, you take the lot home.  Simple!...  Just know your budget, know your limit.  Know the worth of the lot.  And do not exceed it.

Soon after the auction, the payment must be made by bank transfer, cash or cheque.  You can organize your own transport.  In fact, there are a lot of transport trucks at the auction. All you need to do is make your pick and make arrangements.

  Cattle from one kraal/lot from our view point.

  Transportation truck.Charges are per head of cow or per kilometer.

  Heifers in an enclosed camp for monitoring

Upon arrival of the cattle, branding must take place.  There is new ownership, thus the new owner's brand number must be used. Below is where one must brand the cattle:

1st owner brand on left hind leg
2nd owner brand on left shoulder
3rd owner brand on left neck
4th owner brand on right hind leg
5th owner brand on right shoulder
6th owner brand on right neck

There is staff from veterinary service/office.  The cattle movement permit is issued.  This permit must be given to the truck driver. He/she shall keep it until destination is reached.  Upon arrival the permit must be given to the owner of the cattle.  This person must than return the permit to the veterinary offices before the expiry date indicated on document.

I inject the cattle with a multi-vitamin injection.  Than I place the cattle in an enclosed camp with lick. water and grazing.  This allows the animals to get used to their new environment.

Hope you make your way to the auction soon...


Monday, 15 June 2015


A few weeks ago our bull was sick.  I could tell that he was in a lot of pain and discomfort. He was breathing very shallow and making a loud noise with every breath.  He was also weak and could not walk.  Prior to that, a few days before, he was bleeding from his nose.  We actually thought that he had fought with other bulls and didn’t pay much attention, until the rest of the symptoms appeared.  But thanks to the VET, we managed to give him medication.  These were effective. Had a big scare, this would have been a huge lose.

 Recovery feels good...

VET diagnosis! Pneumonia…

Pneumonia is a lung disease that affects cattle, mostly in the eastern and northern parts of the country.  These affects are throughout the year, when several primary and secondary organisms work together to cause damage to the lungs.  It is also known as ‘lung disease’.

There are several factors that cause pneumonia.  But the critical issue is when the animal is not able to fight off the disease.  Factors that affect the ability of an animal to fight the disease are:

Stress reduces the animal’s ability to fight the disease by reducing the production of white blood cells.  The white blood cells aid in fighting infections and diseases.  OKB-12-677 was under stress truthfully speaking.  The animal was confined in an enclosed camp together with other bulls were he was being prepared for the market.  He would jump fences constantly, to attempt to get to the cows so he can mate. Raging testosterone levels.

Dust and cold
The colds and dust suppress the activity of the mucous membranes that help keep harmful organisms out of the mucus tract. This could be a cause.  Winter was approaching and it was getting cold.  And in addition, OKB-12-677 was on a supplementary lick programme to try and get him ready for the market.  According to VET, might be that the licks accumulated dust.  Storage of supplementary feeds is very important.  It is also believed that the great differences between day time temperatures and night time temperatures contributes to weakening the animals potential to fight pneumonia.

Nutritional shortages
Shortages of protein especially can have an effect in suppressing animal’s immune system.

Symptoms of pneumonia are,

Bleeding from nose
When autopsy conducted, accumulation of fluid in chest cavity occurs.

If you have any suspicions, contact your nearest VET.


Tuesday, 9 June 2015


Nutrients change constantly depending on the animal’s state of health, sex, age, breed, level of activity, parasite numbers and of course the environment.  The very basic nutrients are supplied by the environment via extensive grazing.  A seasonal strategy must be developed by farmers in order to ensure that the animals receive optimum nutrition by supplementation.

 Cattle grazing...

  Herd on licks

Protein is necessary for growth.  It is used for building body tissues and cells.  Sources of proteins are licks which are made from raw ingredients that contain proteins like cotton seed, sunflower and fish meal perhaps.  During the rainy months, the grass in the veld is plentiful and green.  Thus, protein levels are high in pastures.  Little to no supplementation is needed. During the winter months, when the veld is dry and yellow, the opposite arises.

Symptoms of protein deficiency in animals
  • The hair stands up and skin is hard
  • The body condition and weight worsen.
  • The animal walks with curved backs
  • The stop of grazing arises
  • The animals are constantly thirsty, lie down next to water troughs and drink a lot of water.
  • The animals manure is dry, black and hard.
  • The animals intestines can be clogged easily.

Protein is an important requirement, especially in cows.  An animal stresses the most when calving.  This is when the protein requirements increase drastically because the milk is full of protein to sustain the calve and help it grow. Supplementation is necessary during this time.  In addition the animal also needs to maintain body condition because within three months after calving, the cows are on the bull again.  The closer the cow comes to her target weight, the sooner she will be pregnant and the earlier she will calve.


Saturday, 6 June 2015


I have taken a few days to visit the farm.  I usually have a through visit every quarter.  My first production quarter has come and gone by so quickly.  I am surely looking forward to this current quarter.

    Heifers looking good...

    Brahman mom and swiss calf plus a big weaned calf.  Nose ring works wonders.

    Pure breed Santa Gertrudis heifer.

  OKB677-12 still adjusting to the new environment.

Purpose of the visit was to conduct a livestock inventory. Specifically, a cattle inventory.  This should be part of every farmers management regimen.  I was not only able to count the animals physically, but I was also able to record their production histories.  This is very important.  Every cow should calf every year. The cows that are not productive will be marketed.

So why conduct a livestock inventory?

To identify any missing livestock.  This livestock can either be stolen, dead and never found or perhaps they could be roaming around in neighbors camps.  

To track the production histories of your cows.  Are the cows producing calves yearly.  If not, what could be the reason. Consider the bull to cow ratio.  They say for every 25 cows, 1 bull is needed.  This will increase the calving rate (ratio/percentage of calves born to the total cows in a production system).  My goal is to have more than an 80% calving rate.

To budget.  It is important to know how much one is spending on the operation for water, diesel, licks/supplements, vaccines.  One should also know their expecting income from marketing of livestock. And to do such, figures are needed to work with.

Following my hard copies, I type my data up into a long excel spreadsheet.


Sunday, 26 April 2015


There is a proportional connection between teeth and age of an animal, specifically cattle.  

Ok... Ok...Most of our herds are composed of cattle of various ages, from newborn calves to fully grown cows and oxen.  Each one on those compositions differs in age.

Soo! What does teething have to do with age?  Cattle have 8 temporary/baby teeth which develop during the first month of their life span after being born.  This teeth will eventually disappear. As they disappear, they are replaced by permanent teeth. As cattle get older and older, the permanent teeth get worn off.  Some teeth even fall off.  In instances like this the animal cannot eat properly.  Due to malnutrition, body condition deteriorates.  Such animals can be auctioned off or slaughtered.  Or if you like, you can simply change the animals diet and find strategies related to that.  

Using permanent teeth, we can than determine the ages of cattle.

Open the cattle's mouth and start counting.

Permanent teeth in comparison to the milk teeth are much bigger in size.  They are also darker and dirty looking in color compared to milk teeth, which are much whiter. 

Figure showing how we can use teeth to determine ages of cattle

Figure showing 6 permanent teeth in a cow.  Thus 30-42 months of age (2.5 years to 3.5 years)

So we do we need to know the age of our cattle? 

As a farmer, you need to put your heifers on the bull at the right time.  When the heifers are not too small, and when they also not too big because you want them to calve as early as possible for purpose of selling offspring.  On my ranch, mother nature makes all the decisions as I do not have multiple camps for breeding seasons. Depending on the breed of cattle, I would place my heifers on the bull at 18 to 24 months (1 year 6 months to 2 years).  During pregnancy, they should be able to gain the rest of the weight in order to attain a minimum of about 300-320kg.

Secondly, if you choose to market to an abattoir like meatco age matters.  That's when  grading is really important.  The grades are A grade, AB grade and C grade. So find out more about these from meatco.

Watch the video to see what I mean exactly.