Research at UAF - On farm demonstration of technologies for accelerated growth of calves and weaners for reducing the age at first calving of replacement dairy heifers

PI                                Dr. Shaukat Ali Bhatti
Cost                             Rs. 1.3 Million
Initiation date             1.3.2009
Completion date         29.2.2012

Progress Reports


Interim Results
Calf raising:
The female Sahiwal calve were raised on whole milk. Eight Sahiwal female calves and one buffalo female calf was raised on whole milk. These animals were weaned at 8 weeks against the traditional weaning at the age of 12 weeks. These calves had a growth rate of 470 grams per day and their average weight at the age 12 weeks was 55 kg. This growth rate and weight at day 84 is excellent during the pre-weaning period of the Sahiwal calves. Thus, feeding milk up to 8 weeks instead of 12 weeks saved a lot of labour involved for feeding milk to the animals.

Effect of concentrate on age at puberty of available heifers: 
Sahiwal Heifers:
Twenty four Sahiwal heifers, ranging in live weight and age from 50 -100 kg and 6 to 16 months, respectively, were divided into three groups of 8 animals each. Theses heifers in each group were blocked according to their body weight. Thus, each animal in a treatment group acted as a block. Heifers were given iso-caloric and iso-nitrogenous rations varying in protein sources. These protein sources were canola meal, soybean meal or cotton seed cake. All these rations were having 50% sorghum silage on dry matter basis. The experiment lasted for 87 days.
Average initial weight of animals in each group ranged from 70- 75 kg. Average daily gain was 676 -710 gram per day, total weight gain ranged from 49 -51 kg and the dry matter intake of the animals ranged from 4.6- 4.9 and the feed conversion ratio ranged from 6.6 to 7.0 and were not different among treatments.

The average daily gain achieved in Sahiwal heifers in this trial is much higher than the existing growth rate of other similar animals at the Livestock management farm. The pre- and post experiment photographs of some of the animals are given below

Although, a parallel control group was not maintained with these better fed animals for direct comparison considering it wastage of resources, however, this is clear from the weight of animals with similar or higher age as  shown in the following pictures:

Age at calving:
The average age at calving of Sahiwal cows at the University farms during last three years has been 62 months, which is 22 months higher than the reported figures in the field. Under the EFS funded project, which is in the second year of its implementation, with better feeding of Sahiwal heifers, for less than a year, the heifers are coming into heat and being inseminated. So far, nine heifers have been inseminated and others are likely to be bred within a few months. Out of these, 3 heifers have been confirmed as pregnant. This has resulted in age at first conception of Sahiwal cows to less than two years and to have an age at calving of 30 months. This means saving of 32 months and adding the same in the productive life of the animals, in addition to saving feeding cost of animals for the same period.
This is a wonderful achievement. If the age at first calving of Sahiwal cows is brought to the figure of 30 months, which does not seem very far now, this will bring this neglected breed at competition with temperate dairy breeds (Friesian and Jersey). This will add value to our Sahiwal breed at international level.

Take home message for the farmers:
The farmers are advised to feed their dairy replacement calves and heifers according to their requirements for having accelerated growth so that they can be bred early and calve at a younger age than prevailing in the field. This will not only increase the productive life of the animals but will also bring more net returns to the farmers.