Usually, farmers keep cattle either for milk or beef, or both. Dairy cattle breeds like Friesian, Aryshire and Jersey are usually reared for milk in intensive systems.
In Kenya, the majority of small-scale farmers keep these breeds under zero-grazing or semi-zero grazing units. Some of the breeds that are bred specifically for beef include Boran, Sahiwal (and its crosses) and Fleckvieh. These do well in arid and semi-arid areas because they are tolerant to the harsh conditions, including tick- borne diseases.
Fleckvieh is one popular dual-purpose breed that has come into the market. It is possible to raise bull calves for meat, either as part of the dairy enterprise or as a separate enterprise. Usually dairy farms do not keep bull calves for long periods because they consume milk that would otherwise be sold or consumed at home and compete with heifers for careand management. Many farms, therefore, dispose-off bull calves in different ways, depending on the economics and type of production.
- Selling the bulls after birth
- Slaughtering them after birth, although the market for veal (calf meat) is not yet developed in Kenya.
- Those who slaughter them at birth usually do so to feed their dogs.
- Rearing them as beef steers.
- Rearing them as possible future sires (bulls kept for serving cows).
The decision to either sell off or keep bull calves is based mainly on the cost of rearing them – the price of milk versus disposal price and the genetic value of future sires. Most of the bull calves in Kenya found among dairy farmers are not of high genetic value because the farmers are still improving their animals. Bulls from well established dairy farms with pedigree animals would cost more.
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