Module 4. General dairy farm practices

Lesson 6


6.1 Introduction

Dairy farm practices include identification of animals, dehorning, bedding, grooming, castration, exercising etc., Animal’s identification is essential for successful recording of data of a farm. Each and every calf born is identified as to its dam (mother) and sire (father). It also helps in differentiation of the superior and inferior animals in a herd. Several methods with different instruments are available for permanent individual identification of each animal in the herd. Animal handling measures are designed for overall working efficiency, better managerial practices and to reduce handling stress on animals.

6.2 Identification

Identification of each animal is necessary for the following purposes

1. To know the performance and history of each animal

2. To carry out the daily farm operations like feeding, breeding and health care of animals

3. To maintain accuracy in recording of animal data

4. To clear the disputes over the lost or stolen cattle

5. To claim insurance of animals

6. For entry into herd book of pedigree animals

The various methods of identification that are followed in Cattle and Buffalo are

* Branding
* Tattooing
* Tagging
* Photographing
* Electronic tagging with microchips

6.2.1 Branding

It involves putting numbers, letters, designs or a combination of these on the skin with hot iron or chemicals. Branding is used for marking cattle. Calves should be branded by the time they are one year old. Branding is of three types (1) hot iron branding (2) Chemical branding (3) Cryo branding.

Sets of branding irons are available comprising of letters A to Z and numbers from 0 to 9. The desired branding iron rod is heated to bright red hot and applied to skin on the sides of thigh with light pressure for not more than 3 seconds. Neem oil is mixed with Boric acid and zinc oxide and smeared over the burns for quick healing.

Chemical branding irons have a shallow groove to have better contact surface and to hold sufficient branding ink. Chemical branding is less permanent if carried out by inexperienced person. In Cryo branding liquid nitrogen is used for branding of animal.


6.2.2 Tattooing

It consists of piercing outlines of desired number or letter or a combination of both on inner side of ear and applying black vegetable pigment into the punctures. It is most suited for marking calves. Tattooing set comprises of Tattooing forceps, tattooing ink and series of letters and numbers.

The imprints should be made conveniently on inner side of ear avoiding ear veins. The part to be tattooed should be thoroughly scrubbed with soap and water, wiped dry and spirit is applied to remove grease. Later tattooing ink is liberally applied over the part. The desired number or letter is fixed into the tattooing forceps and firmly printed over the part by pressing the forceps. The desired tattoo number is to be checked on a leaf before applying the tattooing forceps on animal. After tattooing some more ink is rubbed into tattooed punctures with thumb finger to get into punctures deeply.


Fig. 6.2 Tattooing

6.2.3 Tagging

Tags are made of aluminum, brass, strong plastic with the numbers stamped on them and fixed to ear with tagging forceps. Two types of tags are available 1). Self-piercing type 2). Non-piercing type.

Self-piercing variety has sharp ends and can be directly fixed to the ear with a forceps. In non-piercing type, a hole is made with a tag punch. One end of tag is placed through the hole and locked in position with pincers. The hole is punctured in the upper edge of ear as close to head as possible. The hole should be far enough from edge so that the tag is neither tight on ear nor freely swinging leaving sufficient space for growth of ear. The numbered side of tag should be on top of ear. Several types of tags are available like Aluminum tags, plastic tags, bronze tags along with a separate tagging forceps suitable to each type.


Fig. 6.3 Tagging

6.2.4 Photographing

Generally animals are photographed to get side view, rear and hind views. The animal should be photographed in such a way the angle of vision of camera shouldn’t exceed the angled vision of human eye.

6.2.5 Electronic tags

Electronic tagging is carried with the help of a syringe. It is specially designed to push the chips just under the skin of the animal. The implanted chips bear a number which is read by a scanner.

6.3 General Dairy Farm Practices

The general management practices that help the animals to be active, healthy, cleanliness and comfortable are –

1. Exercising

2. Grooming

3. Bedding

4. Dehorning

5. Castration

6.3.1. Exercising

Minimum exercise is necessary for all animals. It keeps the animals thrifty and active. It helps in normal metabolic process and maintenance of good health. Exercising is to make muscles active and the animal physically fit. Outdoor exercise by exposure to sunlight helps in supply of vitamin D. Breeding bulls are to be provided loafing area of about 120 square meters for each bull to keep them in good condition. In large livestock farms and semen banks, a bull exerciser is used to exercise a number of bulls simultaneously avoiding obesity in animals.

6.3.2. Grooming

Grooming comprises of brushing the hair coat of animals. It is essential for all the show animals. It is done for cleanliness, improve appearance, massage and stimulate cutaneous and lymph blood circulation, removal of waste products like skin secretions, loose hair, skin parasites from hair. It helps in keeping the skin pliable and brings out natural oil in the hair. Cows are regularly groomed before milking to avoid falling of dust in milk. Before milking, brushing of rump, sides of thigh and buttocks should be done.

Dandy brush made of stiff fibres, whisks of paddy straw or any brush with stiff bristles can be used for grooming the animal. Start grooming at the neck behind the ears and is carried out in same direction as the flow of hair. At times, brushing has to be carried out against flow of hair to remove dirt sticking to hair. Work bullocks are also groomed to keep them active and to make them recover from tiredness and fatigue quickly.


Fig.6.4 Grooming

6.3.3. Bedding

During winter suitable bedding should be provided to young calves to provide warmth. In tropical countries like India, provision of bedding is not important as in western countries. Bedding is used primarily for keeping animals clean and comfortable. Bedding soils up the urine and makes manure handling easier.

6.3.4. Dehorning / Disbudding

Dehorning is removal of horns of animals. Disbudding means arresting the growth of horn buds at an early age. Horns serve no useful purpose on dairy cattle. They can cause many body and udder injuries on other animals. Horned cattle require more space. Dehorn calves as early as possible, when horn buds are very small, causing little discomfort to animal. Dehorn the calf when it is four to 10 days old or as soon as horn buds can be easily detected. Dehorning is done mostly in spring or post monsoon season to avoid flies.

There are several ways of dehorning by using chemicals, saws, clippers, hot iron, Chemical method

Chemicals like caustic soda (NaOH) or caustic potash (KOH) are commonly used chemicals available in form of sticks, paste. Clip the hair around the horn bud of calves and surround the area with grease or Vaseline to protect the eyes from chemicals. Rub the chemical over the horn bud until blood appears resulting in arrest of growth of horn buds. Hot iron method

A specially designed hot iron rod is applied on horn buds of young calves. The dehorning irons are heated in portable forge. The hot iron method is bloodless and used in any season of year for young calves only. Electric dehorner is also available which has even temperature of iron rod.


Fig.6.5 Electrical dehorner Dehorning saw or clippers

Clippers are useful for removing horns of young cattle whereas, dehorning saw is used to remove brittle horns of adult cattle. Elastrator

It is an instrument of specially made rubber ring for dehorning cattle with horns of 5 to 10 cm long. Smaller horns drop off in 3 to 6 weeks, where as longer horns may take 2 months to drop off. Castration

It is the removal of testicles which produce male germ cells. Male cattle & buffaloes used for work are castrated so that they are docile and amenable. Male calves are castrated at one year of age. Castration should be performed during cold season, strictly avoiding rainy season for fear of fly menace. Under Indian conditions the best method for castrating cattle and buffaloes is with pair of Burdizzo castrator.

Burdizzo method of castration is bloodless in which the testicles are made functionless by destroying nourishment to them. When using Burdizzo castrator, see that the spermatic cord does not slip out and one cord is clamped at a time for few seconds. Complete atrophy of testicle occurs. A simple castration knife can also be used for the purpose. The knife as well as the operators hand should be clean and disinfected. Grasp the tip of scrotum and hold it tight while cutting off the lower end. Draw out the exposed testicles together with the surrounding membranes with hands and tear off.


Fig. 6.6 Castration

6.4 Weighing of animals

Weighing of animals is an important operation in a dairy farm to know the growth rate of calves, to calculate the amount of feed and fodder to be offered to animals and for calculation of drug dosage of animals. Weighing of the animals can be done by two ways,

1. Direct Method

2. Indirect Method

6.4.1 Direct method

The animals are passed through the weighing yard and weighing is carried out on the platform balances. Allow the animal to stand for a while on the platform before recording the weight.

Weighments of the animals are to be done in the morning before feeding and watering to get the accurate weights. This method is followed mostly in organized farms.


Fig. 6.7 Direct Method

6.4.2 Indirect method

The weight of the animal can be obtained indirectly by measuring the girth and length of the animal using a measuring tape. The length of the animal is obtained by measuring the distance between the points of shoulder to the point of pin bones. The girth of the animal can be obtained by measuring the circumference of the chest of the animal just behind the elbows. After obtaining the length and girth of the animal, the following formulae are applied to get the weight of animal.

1. Shaeffers formula: It is commonly used for cattle and buffaloes.

Live weight in lbs = Length × (Girth)2 / 300

2. Aggarwal’s modified Shaeffers formula

Live weight in seers = (Girth × length) / Y

Where 1 seer is equal to 0.93kg

Where Y is equal 9.0 if girth is less than 65”

Y is equal to 8.5 if girth is between 65-80”

Y is equal to 8.0 if girth is over 80”.

3. Mullick’s formula buffaloes

X = 25.156(Y) – 960.232

X = estimate of body weight in lbs

Y = Heart girth in inches.

6.5 Farm Record Maintenance

Record keeping is key operation to know the progress of dairy farm. It is maintained for the following purposes.

1. To know the pedigree and history of the animals maintained.

2. It helps in knowing the dairy activities carried out in the farm like deworming, Vaccination, deticking, castration, identification etc.

3. It helps in identification of each animal in the herd and knowing the production performance of the animals.

4. It helps in knowing the herd average, milch average, average daily milk yield, lactation number, lactation length etc.

5. It aids in breed wise improvement of herd.

6. It helps in culling and removal of the unproductive stock from the farm.

7. The economics of the farm can be worked out.

8. It helps in selection of the animals for future breeding purposes.

9. It helps in identifying the elite animals and registration of animals in central herd registration book.

Some of the registers which are essential in the dairy farm are livestock register, calving register, lactation record, mortality register, morbidity register, feed register, breeding register, day book, vaccination register etc.

Table 6.1 Stock register of cattle

Stock Register of cattle

Name of the farm……………………………..Address……………………………

For the Year………………………….

Serial No. and name of the animal

Tattoo No.



Date of



Approximate age

When purchased


How disposed


Page of

Herd Register




Table 6.2 Lactation Record

Lactation Record

Name of the farm……………………………..Address……………………………

For the Year…………………………

Animals particular number

Months of the year

Yield lit during lactation period


Fat %

No. in days in a lactation

Date and days dry off














Table 6.3 Calf register

Calf Register

Name of the farm……………………………..Address……………………………

For the Year………………………….

Serial No.

Date of numbering

Ear No.

Sex of the calf





How the calf was disposed


Table 6.4 Service register

Service Register

Name of the farm……………………………..Address……………………………

For the Year………………………….

S. No.

No. of


Date of



Date of


Time of


No. of


Expected date to calve

Date to be dried off

Date of calving

Weight of

The calf

Sex of



Time taken for the expulsion of placenta


Table 6.5 Feed register

Feed Register

Name of the farm……………………………..Address……………………………

For the Year………………………….

Number of Cows




Other feed

Grain Ration No…………









Table 6.6 Milk record sheet

Milk Record Sheet

Name of the farm……………………………..Address……………………………

For the Year………………………….

Owner of the berd…………………………………… Post office ………………………………….. District



Name and number of cows

Name and number of cows

Name and number of cows

Name and number of cows

Name and number of cows







Last modified: Monday, 1 October 2012, 10:28 AM