Calf Production and Husbandry Practices of Agropastoralists in Peri-urban Centres of Southern Guinea Savannah of Nigeria
Keywords:Agropastoralists, calf, feeding methods, herd size, husbandry practices, prevalent diseases
A cross-sectional survey was done in four Local Governments Areas of Niger State in southern Guinea savannah of northern Nigeria to determine the calf production and husbandry practices of agropastoralists. The study was conducted using interview and administration of structured questionnaires to 100 randomly selected agropastoralists. Average herd size was 15.6 with more bull calves than heifer calves. The ratio of bull calf to heifer calf was 1:1. Bunaji calves were the dominant breed, while Sokoto Gudali calves were the minority. Whereas average number of suckling bull calves was lower than weaned bull calves, suckling heifer calves were more in number than weaned heifer calves. Overall mortality rate was 5.51% with majority (46.51%) occurring in the first three months of life. Mortality was higher in dry season (68.6%) than in wet season (34.4%) and there were more female deaths (65.12%) than male deaths (34.88%). Diarrhoea (48.86%) and helminthosis (39.77%) were the most prevalent diseases in wet season, while soil eating was the major disease in dry season. Few agropastoralists (23%) utilized veterinary services as against majority (77%) depending on self-medication and local herbs for treating their stock. Calves were maintained on free range grazing, browsing and crop residues without provision for housing. Rangelands were, however, the major source of feed for the calves which were rarely supplemented with concentrate even during the dry season. The most commonly used supplement was browse fodders, and Daniellia oliveri was the most lopped browse species for feeding the calves. Feed supplementation was common in dry season (100%) compared to wet season (16.67%). Only 4.5% of the agropastoralists practised castration. Calf husbandry was the exclusive responsible of male children. The age at which calves were separated from their dams overnight, in order to prevent overnight suckling, ranged from 2 to 2.5 months with an average of 2.25 months. Average age of calves at full grazing and weaning were 4.25 months and 9 months respectively. Most farmers (80%) preferred weaning their calves during the wet season. Calf production in the study area is a traditional smallholder affair with little or no input and poor husbandry practices. Improved feeding, and provision of infrastructure, affordable veterinary services and extension services to educate the farmers and assist them in adopting improved husbandry practices will improve the present calf production level.
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