Cross-Breed Calf Mortality and Farm Management Practices of Smallholder Dairy Farms

Awol Assen


A cross-sectional study was conducted from November 2015 to April 2016 with the objective of determining the annual calf mortality, investigating its major causes and assessing the effect of potential host and management related risk factors on the occurrence of cross-breed calf mortality. Purposive sampling method was used to select smallholder dairy farms of Dessie town and its environs. Retrospective data of one year (November 2014-November 2015) was obtained using structured questionnaire format. Total of 227 respondents engaged in smallholder cross-breed dairying were personally interviewed about their calf management practices and major calf health problems encountered. About 307 cross-breed calves were considered for this study. Majority of the respondents were educated and use dairy farm as secondary source of income The mean annual calf mortality was 10.2% (95% CI: 6.6, 14.2). Live born to weaning mortality accounted 8.1% (95% CI: 5.1, 11.2) and stillbirth 2.2%. Age specific mortality revealed high mortality at the first 3 months of age. The causes of calf mortality recorded during the study period were diarrhea (44%), pneumonia (28%), septicemia (4%), umbilical abscess (4%), bloat (8%) and unknown cause (12%). Among the risk factors delivery condition (OR=8.23, p=0.001) and method of colostrums feeding (OR=4.33, P=0.002) were found to be associated significantly. Majority of respondents (92.1%) responded that they allow free calf colostrums feeding of their new-born calves and 78% farm owner practice colostrums feeding of their calves before 3 hours. None of the farmers practiced navel treatment during birth of calves. In conclusion mean annual cross-breed calf mortality rate recorded was high, above tolerable range. The major causes appeared to be calf diarrhea followed by pneumonia. Improved calf management practices should be implemented to reduce cross-breed calf mortality to the optimum level.

Keywords: Calf mortality, diarrhea, pneumonia, smallholder dairy farm

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3208 ISSN (Online)2225-093X

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