Tuesday, 7 June 2016


I have been noticing a few calves have developed warts recently.

What are warts?
Warts are unsightly skin growths caused by a virus and can be transmitted from one animal to another and it only affects cattle. The virus responsible for warts is papilloma virus. The growths often appear quickly and grow swiftly into rough-looking or smooth shaped mass.  They range from being small to being very large.  They mostly appear on the head, neck, shoulders, and opening of vagina, teats or penis of animal.

They can be quiet infectious. The virus may become a continual problem in a herd due to long incubation periods.  After the animal is infected, it can take about 2 months before the warts appear.  That is why it is hard to control.     

Warts can suddenly appear in a group of calves or weaners at once.  They mostly are common in calves because they have not developed immunity to the virus.  They crop up in places were the skin has been broken, allowing the virus to enter the deep layers of the skin.  They can also develop in ears after tagging, or any other body part where the skin is punctured or scraped.

The virus can be transmitted from one animal to another by instruments that puncture skin, needles, tagging and castrating tools. The virus is also transmitted by flies that feed on first one animal, than another.
The good news is that it is nothing serious.  The animal’s body need time to develop antibodies against the virus and build an immune defence against it.   As a result, the best treatment for warts is TIME.

It is also believed that farmers much pinch or scrap some warts with a plier.  In the process, blood vessels within the warts are ruptured.  The causative virus than enters the animal’s blood stream and immunity build-up happens faster.  The procedure is not very painful because warts do not have nerve endings.    

It is also important to isolate the animal when you first notice the warts. This is not much help, because of the long incubation periods, that animal may have infected others by the time the farmer notices the warts.

If the infection is very severe on your farm, than a vaccine should be administered.  You will need to sample the warts.  The warts get minced, the virus they contain is killed with formalin and then the mixture is filtered and put into a vaccine.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016


I am excited to be going to the farm once more. What a blessing!  I have a lot on my agenda.  

I have really been trying to stick to my vaccination schedule  for the year. 

The rains have caused a delay with the immunization.  As a result, I am behind schedule.  It has been 5 weeks since I last immunized my herd.  I need to to boost a few animals this time around. That is with duovax for the calves aged 6 months and more.  I am also very late with the Brucellosis inoculations.  Because of that, its costing me more money in terms of which vaccine to use. Instead of the usual cheaper S19, I must used RB51.  So it hurts alot. 

I really do not believe in mixing vaccines.  Especially the live vaccines (against anthrax, botulism, blackleg and brucella).  I can however add a multi-vitamin injection to a live vaccine on the same day.  For dewormers, I am yet to try dectomax.  And again, I can also add a multi-vitamin to that or a trace elements (Virbac multimin)if I like.  I do not even mix more than one live vaccine and immunize on the same day.  When using a booster (live) vaccination, it is safe to use that with another live vaccine e.g Duovax (booster) and Brucella RB51 can be vaccinated on one day in my herd.

I am still experimenting. Making changes and seeing what works. 

Weaning & Body Condition Scoring (BCS)
Its time to wean and kick those calves of their mothers not at 8 months. In 2014 I have made mistakes.   It took me long to wean. And I am still feeling the effects of that.  The cows were under conditioned (BCS less than 5).  As a result, the cows were not able to re-breed quick enough and have long Inter calving periods (ICPs). The calves below are ready for weaning.

Lesson learned: A cow in good condition will re-breed quicker after birth. 

Record keeping
Ongoing! On going!  Tag the animals and record!

Until next time...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


This is one post that is long overdue.   I experienced selling cattle myself for the very first time last year.  It was very interesting indeed.  And selling cattle is always something I look forward to because its reward for hard work. Consider the following,


It is always smart to see how prices are playing around.  Do research on market dynamics and pick the right time to sell your cattle.   Most auctioneers usually have auction summaries that you can request. I usually request summaries for the past 3 years and I investigate prices and see when prices are good roughly.  I often speak to livestock agents in my area.  With that I compare what the agent is saying with my research.  i.e  I noticed that oxen prices are usually the highest towards the end of year and the beginning of year.  I saw that from auction summaries.  I than call the livestock agent and ask him when is the best time to sell oxen with weight of 600kg.  A good agent gives great advice.


I think this point should be on top.  In this business, trusting your inner gut feeling and being optimistic helps a great deal. I go to auction knowing that my cattle are worth this amount, and most of the time, I get that and beyond.   

What then?
After you have picked a time to sell your cattle, and you feel it’s time to sell you need to arrange the following.


Specifically a movement permit.   This is a document issued by the VET office which allows you to move cattle from your establishment to the auction.  The permit is valid for 7 days and has an expiry date.  So you must make sure that the ‘transport process’ is within the dates stipulated on the permit. On the permit, you will be asked how many cattle you want to sell, and from which establishment to which auction.   


The departure is written in the triplicate departure book.  This is a book that can be obtained from any VET office. On the departure book, information such as permit number, date of departure and arrival, and eartags of cattle must be completed. 


If you do not have your own means of transport, there is a solution.  There are people who own trucks and are in the business of transporting cattle to and from auctions.  Look out for this people and get quotations on their charges.   They usually charge per kilometre (km), or price per head of livestock.  If your farm is 100km away from auction point, and the pricing of truck service N$25/km than transport cost will total to 100km x N$25/km = N$2500.00 It is important to consider rate (price per kilo), reputation of the trucking service (some services do not even show up to pick up your cattle), and how big the truck is.  You can choose to pay in cash after the service, or the trucking service is paid by the auctioneer and the money deducted from seller after the sale is complete. 

There are deductions that are made.


Commission on the sale of cattle is payable to the auctioneer for the services provided.  This is 6% on the proceeds of the sale.  This commission is directed deducted by the auctioneer.  If you have an income of N$ 50 700.00, commission to auctioneer is 6% x N$50 700 = N$ 3042.00.


This rate is 0.6% deducted by auctioneer.

Once the cattle have been dropped at the auction pens (before sunset), the auctioneer staff separate them into different lots/kraals.  The day of auction, you can get statement printed at auctioneer office at pens.  This statement can tell you which lot your cattle have been placed in.

Now, it is time to sit on the viewing deck.  There you can have conversations with great people and eat lekker braai vleis while waiting for the presentation of your lot.  

Once all your cattle have been sold, your collect your cheque and invoice at the office at pens and disappear. If you like, you can arrange with auctioneer to deposit the money in your bank account.


Friday, 6 May 2016


After weeks of waiting, I was finally able to go to the farm. Owning cattle makes me complete.  I am still far from my goals, but I take it one step at a time. 

Have no words to express how happy I was there. lol.  I did all I said I would do.  Worked too hard. 

I vaccinated the herd against blackleg, anthrax and botulism.  Used Supervax for that inoculation. The calves at 6 months were also vaccinated. A multivitamin compound from Norbrook was used. In 4-6 weeks time, I shall boost with Duovax and than add RB51 with that. I still need to de-worm though but only in June. 

I assessed the body condition score (BSC) of the entire herd. Mostly between 4-6.  May is weaning month for calves born in quarter 2 of last year (May-August).

The grass still looks good.  50% green 50% yellow.  Starting with Winter lick supplementation soon. 

Below are some pictures from the past days.

Till next time....

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


I am very guilty of a herd with very long inter-calving periods (days between calves).  A productive cow should yield a calf every single year.   And as a beef producer, this should be one of our main goals. 

The low calf yields in my herd were due to limited bulls.  It is recommended for every 25 cows, 1 bull is required. 

The poor nutrition resulting to lower body condition scores can have low calve yields.  This is really unnecessary and with sound knowledge and good management practice, the problem can be eliminated.

Why BSC?
Body condition scoring (BCS) is a management tool that can be used to evaluate the nutritional status of cattle. The body condition is directly related to the fat cover of an animal. The score also gives an indication of the energy reserves of an animal.  In cattle, the highest priority is used for maintenance, growth, lactation, fetal growth, breeding and lastly body reserves which has the lowest priority. 

BCS is very important in beef production because it influences reproductive and growth performance. How?  Cows and heifers in thin body condition at calving time are slower to rebreed, produce less colostrum, may not have sufficient nutrient reserves for maximum milk production and wean calves that are under weight.

Over conditioned cattle are also not recommended.  It is expensive and unnecessary to over conditioned cows and heifers. It can also result in conceiving problems as females do not come on heat easily.  Under conditioned females do not come on heat easily.

Body condition is a more reliable indication of nutritional status of a breeding herd.  The females in the herd should fall within a range of 5 to 7 from the beginning of the calving season throughout the breeding season (to rebreed sooner). If scores are less than 5, one should adjust forage and feeding programs, and consider weaning sooner.  Remember a cow with a good BCS can rebreed sooner after calving, consequently reducing inter-calving period.

The following are ideal times to body condition score in cattle:

When calves are weaned
60 days prior to calving
At calving
At the beginning of the breeding season
BSC is done visually, with scores ranging from 1 (extremely emaciated) to 9 (very obese). This images are represented in photos 1-9.  There are several key places to assess body condition in beef cattle. Overall body fat should be evaluated along with fat cover over the tail head, ribs, and shoulder, and in the brisket (see figure below).

Body condition score is related to pregnancy or conception rate.  BCS 4 = 50% , BCS 5 =  81 %, BCS 6 = 88%, BCS 7 = 90%.  Farmers attain BCS of 5 through 7 to yield more calves. 

Look out for next post on how to maintain good BCS in cattle.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


There is no doubt about it, a cow on heat can be spotted easily.  It is really important to notice when a cow is on heat. 

Estrus or heat is a certain time out of a 21 day cycle when a cow/heifer is receptive to breeding with a bull.  This time is approximately 6-24 hours.  The hormones play a role in the estrus process.

There are different behavioral and physical signs that indicate that a cow might be on estrus/heat. 

Behavioral signs
  • The cow is very restless.  They are unable to rest or relax as a result of anxiety or boredom.  They move around back and forth looking for attention.

  • The cow wanders around searching for a male, sniffing other cattle.  She does three to four times as much travel in that day.

  • The cow will sniff the vulva of other cows, and other cows will also sniff her back.  Thus, sensing that she smells different.

  • The cow interacts more with other herd mates, licking them and showing aggression. As a result, she picks fights with them.

  • If there are several cows on heat, they gather together and ride each other like bulls. In the process, making bull sounds and fighting each other.

  • More importantly, she will stand for other cattle to ride/mount her.  She places her chin on the back or rump of another cow to test whether the cow will stand to be mounted.  Bulls use this technique all the time.  They often rest their chins on the cow’s rump or loin to test whether she will stand before he tries to mount/ride her. 

  • The cows on heat spend most of their time in these activities and spend less time eating or lying down, chewing the cud.  The milk production drops significantly.  In some cases, she may have a full udder if she is lactating.  This time is very stressful for calve because it does not get to suckle much. 

Figure showing white cow on heat being mounted and followed.

Physical signs
  • A cow that is on heat secretes mucus from glands in the uterus, cervix and vagina.  This mucus aids in letting sperm swim up the tract to fertilize the egg.

  • The cervix is relaxed and open in order to enable sperm from bull enter the uterus.

  • There may be a discharge from the vulva (see figure below), transparent mucus that has the consistency of egg white.  It is viscous that it holds together in a long string.  This mucus is usually smeared on the cow’s buttocks and tail.

  • The cow’s tail may be slightly raised and her vulva may be a bit enlarged and red in colour.

  • If the cow was bred, she will hold her tail out afterwards for several hours or days due to vaginal irritations. 

  • The thrusting of the bull during mating and the irritation of the vagina will cause cause her back to be arched or curved.

  • There may be a discharge from the bull’s seminal fluid on the cow’s vulva.  There is also sometimes a whitish yellow discharge from cow’s vulva a day or two after she is breed.