Best ways to fatten cattle

Cattle at a watering hole. Farmers who intend to have high beef yields are encouraged to pay attention to the nutrition needs. PHOTO BY LOMINDA AFEDRARU

What you need to know:

There are two main types of beef production enterprises to engage in; production of weaner calves for sale and fattening young stock for slaughter, writes Lominda Afedraru

Farmers engaged in animal husbandry to be specific, bull fattening in Mubende District seized the opportunity to learn innovative new technologies. They learnt from scientists working under the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) in Uganda implemented by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other partners.
Bull fattening and cattle pen fattening involves the feeding of beef cattle with a protein balanced, high energy diet for specific period, usually 90 days, under confinement to increase weight and improve animal health to obtain better quality of beef.

Some farmers prefer to fatten only bulls while others may choose to fatten both sexes but for farmers in Lukaaya village Mubende district they chosen to fatten bulls.
Dr Emmanuel Zziwa who is involved in implementing the GCCA project explains that the bull fattening initiative is under a larger project on water for agriculture, and adaptation to climate change for farming communities in the cattle corridor districts.

The districts include Mubende, Luwero, Kiboga, Nakasongola, Nakaseke and Sembabule, among others, where 15 valley tanks which are powered using solar power were established, 10 of which were newly constructed and five rehabilitated. This is to provide water for farming for communities across the districts.
The valley tanks each have a capacity of 10,000 cubic metres and in total there are 220,000 cubic metres of water to serve 40,000 heads of cattle across the benefiting districts.

Dr Zziwa notes that previously, the cattle keeping communities in the cattle corridor districts had the challenge of severe prolonged dry spells every year leading to farmers losing 40 per cent of livestock as a result of lack of water. This would force them to sell their cattle prematurely and with the increasing demand for beef, the valley tanks should come in handy.
The tanks can last up to 50 years or more and communities have taken charge in maintaining them in a bid to avoid siltation.

Farmer perspective
Livingstone Senabulya from Rwagabo village, Bungonza Subcounty, Mubende District belongs to Lukaaya Dam Tukwatanise group comprising 60 cattle keeping members.
Each member contributes Shs17,000 every month for maintenance of the dam and there is security 24 hours. Senabulya owns four cross bred bulls and is concentrating on bull fattening.

“Before the construction of the dam in 2016, we were suffering and we used to walk miles in search of water coupled with infections. Sometimes the cattle would die along the way. Now the situation is different. This made me purchase a bull at Shs500,000 which I kept for four months and I sold at Shs1.2m to purchase four more,” he narrates.
At the time of purchase, the bulls weighed 100kg and by four months, they were weighing between 150kg – 200kg.

He feeds them on common local grass but occasionally gives high quality pasture which he purchases from farmers growing varieties such as Chloris gayana (Rhodes grass), Brachiaria grass and other leguminous animal feeding pasture. He also sprays the bulls using the recommended acaricides.
He values bull fattening because it is a source of quick income and he wants to increase the number of bulls to more than 20.

Fattening guidelines
In a 2013 publication by the Department of Animal Production and Technology Chinhoyi University of Technology Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, Eddington Gororo gives some guidelines for good pen fattening.
He states that feeding cattle in order to obtain the right amount of fat in the muscle and in a higher carcass mass, this can be done in many ways.
Framers can use planted pastures for fattening as well as achieve better growth rates.
Some farmers keep animals in pens or small paddocks and feed on high grain diets over 90-150 days before they are taken for slaughter.
The animals for fattening can be home produced or purchased from fellow farmers.
On arrival at a feeding point, it is good practice to group animals according to sex, size and type and breed because bigger animals tend to bully smaller ones.

British and continental breeds such as Angus, Sussex, Hereford, Charolais and Limousine and their crossbreeds are better performing at the feeding points compared to the Zebu types. But for the case of Uganda, Ankole breeds and Zebu crossbreeds, including Friesians are preferred by farmers.
Cows are earlier maturing than steers (castrated male animals) and steers in turn are earlier maturing than bulls.
Heifers (female animals that have never had calves) have a voluntary feed intake 7 per cent lower than that of steers of the same age and breed but have a higher feed conversion ratio. Their corresponding masses are 10 - 15 per cent lower than that of steers, therefore, they should be fed for a shorter time to reduce fat deposition.

The feed rations must be balanced in respect of nutrient content and must be matched to the type of animal fed, which is cost effective to the farmer. Dietary aspects bearing on the success of pen fattening include feed composition, digestibility, palatability and intake.
Energy sources include maize grain, snap corn, sorghum, wheat bran and maize bran. Optimum performance in pens can be achieved by obtaining diets containing 13 per cent crude protein.
For maize-based diets, 20 per cent roughage is required for good performance. It can also be included at higher levels of 30-35 per cent for older animals or laminitis prone animals.
Keeping records of animal performance for monitoring results is important.

A floor space allocation of 9-14m square is ideal depending on size and breed. However, for large groups of animals, one can go down to a stocking density of 7.5 square metres.
Feeding space allocation should be 30-50cm depending on whether the animals are poled or horned. Feed must be offered free choice and drinking water must be available.
A water reserve that carries two to three days’ supply must be installed in case of pump or borehole failure. Water troughs must be easy to clean and drained.

Diseases such as rumenstasis, acidosis, laminitis and urinary calculi can be a problem in feeding points. Prevention is always better and these can be done by spraying recommended acaricides
The services of a veterinarian scientist to advise on disease prevention and the treatment of sick animals must be sought by farmers.
Crowded accommodation can cause rapid spread of infectious diseases so it is important not to crowd the animals. Keep the feeding environment clean


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