Cattle belongs to the group of animals known as Bovidae. They are ruminants, having hollow horns and hoofs with an even number of toes. Cattle are reared for their meat, milk, hide and skin, manure and as draught animals for work on the farm.


Breeds of Cattle

  1. Azawal.
  2. Sokoto Gudali.
  3. Wadara (Shuwa).
  4. White Fulani.
  5. Red Bororo.
  6. Muturu.
  7. N’dama.
  8. Keteku (Borgu).
  9. Kuri.
  10. Brown Swiss.
  11. Holstein.
  12. Jersey.


The breeds of cattle can also be categorised into three groups.

These groups are:

a) Beef Cattle: Beef cattle are the cattle which have the ability to produce meat. Examples are:

  1. N’dama.
  2. Red Bororo.
  3. Sokoto Gudali.
  4. Keteku (Borgu).
  5. Kuri.
  6. Brown Swiss.
  7. Rahaji.


b) Dairy Cattle: These are cattle which are reared mainly to produce milk. Examples are:

  1. White Fulani.
  2. Jersey.
  3. Red poll.
  4. Kerry.
  5. Guernsey.
  6. Dexter.
  7. Holstein / Friesian.
  8. Ayshere.
  9. South devon.
  10. Dairy short horn.


c) Dual Purpose Cattle: These are cattle capable of producing milk and meat. Examples are:

  1. Azawal.
  2. Muturu.
  3. Biu.
  4. Wadara (shuwa).


Terminologies Used in Cattle

  1. Bull – An adult male cattle.
  2. Cow –  An adult female cattle.
  3. Calf – A young or baby cattle.
  4. Heifer – A growing female up to her first calving.
  5. Bull Calf – A young male cattle.
  6. Heifer Calf – A young female cattle.
  7. Steer – A castrated male cattle.
  8. Ox – A castrated adult male cattle.
  9. Vealer – A castrated female cattle.
  10. Serving – Act of mating in cattle.
  11. Calving – Act of giving birth (parturition).
  12. Beef – Meat of cattle.
  13. Dairy cattle – Cattle kept for milk production.
  14. Beef Cattle – Cattle reared for meat production.
  15. Herd – A group of cattle.
  16. Polled – Cattle without horns.
  17. Horned – Cattle with horns.
  18. Humped – Cattle with hump.
  19. Humpless – Cattle without hump.


Characteristics of West African Breed of Cattle

  1. Very hardy.
  2. Have greater tolerance to heat and humidity.
  3. Tolerant to some diseases e.g. trypanosomiasis.
  4. Can withstand stress and travel long distances without water.
  5. Late maturing.
  6. Have compact/blocky shaped body.
  7. Are mostly of dual purpose (produce meat and milk).
  8. Generally long legged animals.
  9. Some are humped.
  10. Powerful shoulder for use as draught animals.
  11. Loose, thin and pigmented skin.
  12. Low milk yields/small udder.
  13. Slow growth rate.
  14. Small body weight.


Economic Importance of Cattle

  1. Cattle provide meat and milk for man.
  2. Some cattle help to pull ploughs and work as draught animals.
  3. They provide hides and skin.
  4. They provide blood meal and bone meal for farm animals as feed.
  5. Fertilizers can be obtained from blood, bones, and offals of cattle.
  6. Cattle dung (faeces) is a very good source of manure.
  7. Cattle provide employment and income to people.
  8. Cattle are also a source of revenue to some countries.
  9. Cattle are also used for religious purposes as well as festivals in some places.
  10. Cattle are used for research work or educational purposes.


Systems of Rearing Cattle: There are three systems of rearing cattle. These are extensive, semi-intensive and intensive systems.

1) Extensive system: Extensive system of rearing ruminants, e.g ., cattle, sheep and goat is the same. It involves the following:

Cattle are allowed to move freely from one place to another in search of pastures for grazing or browsing. The cattle fend for themselves and graze on a wide range of pastures. There is no special housing unit provided. In most cases, animals are not provided with medication. It is a very cheap system of rearing livestock. No supplementary feed is usually provided. Animals are exposed to weather hazards such as excessive heat, heavy rainfall and strong windstorm. Disease outbreak cannot be easily controlled. Animals can be stolen or killed by wild animals. There is also indiscriminate mating and the cow deliver their young ones in the field. Cattle and other ruminants generally destroy cultivated crops; thereby causing community disputes.


2) Semi-Intensive System: Under this system, housing is provided for the cattle and they are also allowed to move out and graze on pasture. The animals spend more time outside their pens. Houses are built with suitable materials that can permit free circulation of air. The houses are not completely walled, and rails are preferred to solid walls which should be about 2m high.

The grasses or pasture must be managed properly to provide the necessary food for the cattle. The system needs less capital investment but large labour requirements, disease and parasite incidence are slightly high.


3) Intensive system: In this system, the cattle are confined within a building with limited access to grazing. Grasses (by zero grazing), water, medications are supplied daily to the cattle.

Advantages of the intensive system of rearing ruminants

  1. It gives animals protection against environmental hazards and exposure to adverse weather conditions.
  2. There is proper supervision of animals.
  3. Record keeping is made easier.
  4. It allows for automation e.g. use of automatic feeders and drinkers.
  5. Protection against theft.
  6. Protection against predators.
  7. Indiscriminate mating is reduced.
  8. Sick animals are easily identified.
  9. Reduces incidence of disease infection.
  10. Reduces incidence of pest infestation.
  11. Ensures adequate and balance feeding.
  12. Ensures provision of better health-care.
  13. Animals do not destroy farmers’ crops.
  14. Allows efficient use of labour.
  15. High stocking density for all species of animals.
  16. It gives animals protection against physical hazards.
  17. It enhances performance of the animals.



  1. In West Africa, cattle are reared by peasant farmers especially the normadic Fulanis who roam about with their cattle.
  2. Under the system, there are no formal houses erected for the cattle. The animals are kept in a kraal at night to prevent wandering about.
  3. Open shed with a thatched roof made of strong timber posts and railings is provided as houses for the cattle in some areas.
  4. In modern animal husbandry, houses are built with suitable materials that can permit free circulation of air.
  5. The houses should not be completely walled. Rails are preferred to solid walls.
  6. The floor should be made of concrete to enhance easy cleaning.
  7. The roof should be constructed with galvanised roofing sheets for durability.
  8. The house should be partitioned into breeding house or pen, calving pen, weaner’s pen and rearing pen.
  9. Houses for dairy cattle may be slightly different in design from that of the beef cattle because of their differences in the type of production.



  1. The feed for cattle must be a balanced diet, i.e ., it should contain all the nutrients required for growth and production.
  2. Cattle, being ruminants, feed mainly on roughages (grasses and legumes) because of the nature of their stomach.
  3. Common grasses that can be fed on by cattle are elephant grass, guinea grass, giant star grass, etc, and also leguminous plants which include Centrosema spp, Calopogonium spp, etc.
  4. Cattle can be fed on concentrate feed to provide the required nutrients in their diet.
  5. Cattle may be involved in pastoral nomadism in which the cattle rearers (Fulanis) move about with their cattle in search of pasture and water.
  6. In some cases, zero-grazing (soilage) is practised whereby grasses are cut and taken to the cattle in their pens.
  7. In some other cases, rational grazing is practised whereby cattle are moved about in paddocks as they graze on the pasture.
  8. Other preserved feeds like hay, silage and straw can be fed on by cattle especially during the dry season, when green pastures are not available.
  9. Diary cattle should be given more concentrates than beef because, as the former require concentrates for milk production.


Health Care and Sanitation

  1. Good housing and feeding tend to reduce the rate of disease attack on cattle.
  2. The houses should be cleaned regularly.
  3. Sick animals should be isolated and treated.
  4. Cattle should be dewormed regularly to get rid of endoparasites such as tapeworms, round worms and liverflukes.
  5. Cattle should be allowed to pass through water chemicals to eradicate ectoparasites like ticks and mites.
  6. Regular vaccination should be carried out against certain known diseases of cattle at the right time.
  7. Cleaning of the pens, watering and feeding equipment should be done daily.
  8. Rotational grazing should be practised to avoid the build-up of parasites.


Common Diseases of Cattle

Common diseases of cattle include: foot and mouth disease, rinderpest disease, anthrax, tuberculosis, trypanosomiasis and red water fever. These diseases should be prevented through the use of appropriate drugs and vaccines.


Management of Cattle

The management of cattle from breeding to market size can be grouped into three phases:

  • from breeding to calving;
  • from birth of calf to weaning;
  • from weaning to finishing (market size).


a) Breeding to Calving or Birth: Breeders (bulls and heifer or cow) are housed in the breeder houses made of railed walls, concrete floors and galvanised roofing sheets. Bulls and heifers should be at least 24 months old before they are bred. Prior to mating, the heifer or cow should be properly fed on concentrate as well as on roughages such as grasses. The bull is brought to mate or serve the cow when it is on heat. The gestation period for cattle is about 283 days. During the gestation period, the cow is allowed to feed in the ranch in order to take some exercises.

About eight weeks to parturition (calving), the cow is put on a special (rich) diet to set all her organs in good order for milk production after birth. This special system is called steaming up.

Constipation should be avoided by giving the animal plenty of roughages and bran in the diet. The cow is separated from the rest of the herd and is taken to calving pen a week to calving. Adequate sanitation, comfortable beddings and clean water must be provided. At calving, the cow should not be disturbed. The cow normally stands while calving without any difficulty.


b) Birth of Calf to Weaning: As soon as the calf is born, the mucus membrane should be wiped off from the nostril to facilitate normal breathing of the calf. The cord from the navel should be allowed to break on its own. The cow should also be allowed to lick up the mucus membrane on the calf body as the cow derives satisfaction from it. It also stimulates the cow’s circulatory system and milk let-down. A tincture of iodine solution should be applied to the navel stump to prevent infection. The calf should be helped to take milk from the teat of the cow. This milk called colostrum should be taken for the first three days because colostrum provides (antibodies) immunity to the calf. It is also rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins.

If the farmer’s aim is to produce beef cattle, the calf is allowed to follow the dam and suckle it without restriction. The calf is left with the dam until the weaning time (six months). During this period, the calf is vaccinated against diseases like foot and mouth disease, rinderpest, anthrax, etc.

The calf is also dewormed at regular intervals.

Another calf management is castration of the bull calf that is not going to be used for breeding. This helps to control indiscriminate mating. The calf is finally weaned and is separated from its mother when it is about six months of age.


c) Weaning to Finishing or Market Size: The calf just separated from the dam can now feed on concentrate feed as well as roughages (grasses) on its own. The calf is also housed separately from the older cattle but in different building of the same design. However, semi-intensive system is the best method of rearing the calf till market size.

One other operation that can be performed on the calf is dehorning or disbudding. Disbudding is the removal of the horn. Its advantages include: easy management of the cattle when they grow up as it reduces the risk of damage which horns can cause to the hides of animal. It also makes it safer to handle animal when innoculating or deworming. This can be done either by using a hot iron to burn out the horn bud, by applying caustic soda to the horn bud, or use of saw to cut it off if it is allowed to fully grow and later treat with iodine solution.

Another operation on the calf is branding or tattooing. Branding is done for the identification of the calf. This can be done by using hot iron to mark numbers on the animal skin, especially on the cheek or on the forelegs below the shank. Tattooing is a practice whereby numerals and letters are formed from metal pins which are then pressed onto the ears of the animals. Both branding and tattooing are different methods that can be used for the identification of the cattle. Ear notching small cuttings) on the ear can also be used for identification.

In order to achieve early market weight or size, the calf can be fattened up by placing it on a special diet of high concentrates and low roughages with restricted movement within the building, and by maintaining a high level of sanitation and health care through regular vaccination, deworming and dipping to control diseases and parasites.

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