Livestock Research for Rural Development 27 (7) 2015 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Effect of breed and non-genetic factors on milk yield of dual-purpose cattle in Ashanti Region, Ghana

I Coffie, S Y Annor, J K Kagya-Agyemang and F R K Bonsu

Department of Animal Science Education, Faculty of Agriculture Education,University of Education, Winneba, P.O. Box 40, Mampong-Ashanti.


The objective of this study was to determine the effect of breed, parity, season of lactation, udder and teat sizes, and feed supplementation on milk yield of dual-purpose cattle in four districts of the Ashanti Region in Ghana. A total of 328 cows kept under farmers’ own management that calved and lactated were involved.  Milk yield was measured in litres per cow for three times at four weeks interval in three seasons. All the fixed factors, except udder size influenced (p<0.01) milk yield.


Average daily milk yield per cow across breeds was 2.0 litres. Average daily milk yield per cow for N’dama, West African Shorthorn,  Sanga, White Fulani, Sanga-Gudali crossbred and Sokoto Gudali were 1.5, 1.5, 1.9, 2.0, 2.8 and 3.5 litres (p<0.01), respectively. Milk yield increased with increasing parity and started dropping in the seventh parity. Cows that calved in the major season had the best (p<0.01) milk yield followed by those lactated in the minor season. Average daily milk yield for small, medium and large teat size were 2.0, 2.5, and 2.7 litres (p<0.01), respectively. Average daily milk yield per cow receiving no feed supplementation, occasional and regular feed supplementation were 2.1, 2.2 and 2.8 litres (p<0.01), respectively. Cows in good body condition performed better (p<0.01) than thin and over-conditioned cattle.


It was concluded that Zebus and their crosses had better average milk yield than Taurine breeds. Also regular feed supplementation, increased teat size, moderate to good body condition led to increased milk yield. Cows with reduced milk yield after the 6th parity should be replaced for higher economic returns.

Keywords: crossbred, parity, season of lactation, West African Shorthorn, Zebu cattle


In many West African countries, dairy production is extremely low (CAADP 2010). Estimates for Ghana are around 36,000 MT per annum (corresponding to only about 30% of the local milk consumed in the country), compared to local production of 244,000 MT in Burkina Faso (55% of local consumption) and 146,000 MT in Senegal (30-35% of local consumption) (CAADP 2010). This may be due to low genetic potential of local cattle and other non-genetic factors ((Pagot 1992 and Hatungumukama et al 2006). In Ghana, exotic breeds especially Friesian, Jersey and their crosses cannot withstand climatic/environmental test and thereby suffer from dermatophilosis and heartwater (Koney 1996). There is a suggestion that milk production in Ghana must be based on crosses of the Zebu and selected West African Shorthorn Cattle and Sanga (MOFA 2004),


A lot of studies have been done on the effects of non-genetic factors on the milk yield of exotic cattle in Ashanti Region (Kabuga and Agyemang 1983; Osei et al 1991) but little has been done on the effect of non genetic factors on local cattle and their crosses.


The objective of this study was to determine the effect of breed, parity, season of lactation, udder and teat sizes, and feed supplementation on milk yield of dual purpose cattle.

Materials and methods

The study was conducted in four Districts of Ashanti region from June 2012 to April 2013. The Ashanti Region is centrally located in the middle belt of Ghana. It lies between longitudes 0° 9'W and 2° 15'W, and latitudes 5° 30'N and 7° 27'N. The region has a population density of 148.1 persons per square kilometre. More than half of the region lies within the wet, semi-equatorial forest zone. Bushfires during the dry season has reduced the forest vegetation of parts of the region, to savannah, particularly the north-eastern portion. The region has an average annual rainfall of 1270 mm and two rainy seasons. The major rainy season starts from April to July. The minor rains occur in August to November.  December to March is dry, hot, and dusty. The average daily temperature is about 27oC (Ghana Districts 2006).


A total of 328 dual purpose cattle were purposively selected from 17 farms within 4 Districts (Atwima-Nwabiagya, Ejisu-Juaben, Sekyere South and Ejura-Sekyedumasi) in Ashanti region, based on availability of lactating dual purpose cows. The breeds of cattle used for the study included Sokoto Gudali (n=11), SangaXGudali crossbreed (n=10), White Fulani (n=121), Sanga (130), WASH (n=43) and N’dama (n=13).


Animals were reared under farmers’ own management with or without feed supplementation. These animals were kept in kraals after daily routine grazing of about 7 hours (9:30am to 4:30pm) per day. The common forage species grazed in the rangeland included elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), guinea grass (Panicum maximu) and Centro (Centrocaema pubescence). Three farms provided regular feed supplementation for morning and evening with available crop residues and agro-by-products; two farms provided occasional feed supplementation as and when crop residues/by-products were available, and twelve did not provide any feed supplementation. Animals were de-wormed with Albendazole 10% at three month interval. Records were not taken from sick animals undergoing treatment.


Each animal record included, district of origin, breed, parity, season of lactation, udder size, teat size, type of feed supplementation and milk yield. Milk yield was measured (once a day in the morning) in litres for mean lactation length of 246 days taking into account seasons of lactation (major and minor rains, and dry seasons). A 500 ml (0.5litre) graduated infusion rubber bottle and funnel was used milk measurement. Hand milking was used. Udder base circumference [UBC] and length [UL] from base of udder to the base of teat were measured and categorized into small (UBC≤69cm; UL ≤12cm), medium (UBC=70-80cm; UL=13-16cm) and large (UBC >80cm; UL≥17cm). Teat base circumference (TBC) and its length [TL] were measured and considered as small (TBC≤5cm; TL≤ 2cm), medium (TBC=6-8cm; TL=2.5-5cm) and large (TBC≥9cm; TL>5cm).


Data gathered were subjected to least squares analysis using Generalized Linear Models Type III procedure of SAS (SAS, 2008) on the following fixed model.


Yijklmnop = μ + Di + Bj + Pk + Sl + Um + Tn+ Xo + eijklmnop,   Where:


Yijklmnop = the dependent variable or milk yield; μ = the population mean; Di = the effect of the ith District, i = 1, 2, 3, 4;  Bj = the effect of the jth breed, j = 1, 2, …, 5;  Pk = the effect of kth parity of cow, k = 1, 2, …, 7;  Sl = the effect if lth season of lactation, l = 1, 2, 3; Um = the effect of mth udder size, m = 1, 2, 3; Tn = the effect of the nth teat size, n = 1, 2. 3; Xo = the effect of oth supplementation, o = 1, 2, 3; and  eijklmnop = the error term.


Two- way interactions among fixed variables were not significant and therefore ignored.

Result and discussion

The effects of all fixed factors studied on milk yield are shown in Table 1. The overall average milk yield per cow per day across breeds obtained was 2.0 litres (Table 1).


Table 1: Least square means and standard errors for the effects of fixed factors on milk yield

Fixed factors

Number of Animals

Average Milk yield  (litters/cow/day)



2.0 ± 0.02



P = 0.00691

     Ejura Sekyedumase


2.4 ± 0.11a

     Sekyere South


2.1 ± 0.10b

     Ejisu Juabeng


2.2 ± 0.13b



2.1 ± 0.12b



P< 0.00011

     Sokoto Gudali


3.5 ± 0.22a

     Sanga X Gudali


2.8 ±0.23b

     White Fulani


2.0 ± 0.09c



1.9 ± 0.09c



1.5  ± 0.11d



1.5 ± 0.15d



P = 0.00141



2.2 ±0.13b



2.5 ± 0.11a



2.7 ± 0.11a



2.5 ± 0.12a



2.5 ± 0.16a



2.6 ± 0.19a



1.9 ± 0.25b



P  ≤0.00011

     Major rains


3.0 ± 0.17a

     Minor rains


2.3 ± 0.13b

     Dry season


1.8 ± 0.14c



P = 0.34921



2.3 ± 0.20



2.4 ± 0.12



2.5 ± 0.13



P  ≤0.00011



2.0 ± 0.15c



2.5 ± 0.13b



2.7 ± 0.14a



P ≤0.00011



2.8 ± 0.15a



2.2 ± 0.11b

    No supplementation


1.9 ± 0.10c






1.6 ± 0.12c



2.4 ± 0.11b



3.0 ± 0.10a



1.7 ± 0.20c

1P value = probability of main effects

2WASH= West Africa shorthorn


The value is comparable to 1.8, and 2.3 litres reported by Annor (1996) and Millogo et al (2008)  respectively but is lower than that presented by Kamal et al (2009) (3.8 litres) in local breeds. The low yield gives an indication that majority of the smallholder cattle farmers manage their cows on sedentary, and/or traditional system where animals are exclusively kept on natural pasture (Millogo et al 2008). This is true because only 13 % of the farms studied provided regular feed supplementation to cows.


Effect of District on a milk yield


District had influence (p<0.01) on milk yield (Table 1). Ejura Sekyedumase District recorded the highest average milk yield, followed by Sekyere South, Ejisu Juaben and Atwima Nwabiagya in descending order. This corresponds with the trend of results reported by Rege at al (2001).  These variations in average yield are characteristics of different geographical location with respect to quality and quantity of forage available (Ngongoni et al 2006), management, plane of nutrition and breeds (Rege et al 2001; Millogo 2010).


Effect of breed on average milk yield


There were breed differences (p< 0.01) in average milk yield (Table 1). Sokoto Gudali crossbred recorded the highest average milk yield, but this was lower than the 5.3 kg/litres reported for the same breed (Aboagye 2002). The current findings on WASH and Sanga fall within the ranges of 1.1 to 2.6 and 0.87 to 2.1 reported by Annor (1996) and Aboagye (2002), respectively. The observed differences in milk yield among breeds might be due to their genetic potential and environmental effects with regard to individuality of cows’ milk production. According to Annor (1996) crossing of low milk production potential breeds (e.g. WASH and N’dama) with the high milk production ones (e.g. Jersey and Zebu) leads to a dramatic improvement in the quantity of milk yield, presumably due to heterosis and breed complementarity (Lopez-Villalobos and Garrick 2002).


Effect of parity on average milk yield


Parity of birth had a great influence (p<0.01) on average milk yield. Milk yield at the first parity was relatively low (Table 1). Thereafter, average milk yield assumed a sustained increase from second to sixth parities and then sharply declined at the seventh parity. This is consistent with the trend of the findings reported by Epaphras et al (2004), and Darfour-Oduro et al (2010) in local breeds. Holmes et al (1984) stated that at parity 1 the udder and teat structural growth have not yet fully developed to assume their peak function. Cows’ udder and teat development increases with increasing parity. Good udder and teat anatomy and milk flow rate have positively corresponded with the daily milk yield (Holmes et al 1984).


Effect of season of lactation on average milk yield


Season of lactation had large effect (p< 0.01) on average milk yield (Table 1). The highest milk yield was recorded in the major rainy season, followed by the minor rains, with the dry season recording the least. This observation agrees with the finding of Epaphras et al (2004) and Hatungumukama et al (2006). This can be explained by the availability and quality of pasture. In the dryer and hotter periods, as a result of feed inadequacy and low nutritive value of the natural pastures, milk yield tend to be low (Epaphras et al 2004).


Effect of udder and teat sizes on average milk yield


Udder size had little (p>0.05) effect on milk yield. However, milk yield increased with increasing teat size (p< 0.01) (Table 1). This observation was also made by Kukovics et al (2006). Holmes et al (1984) stated that large teat size facilitates the ease at which milking is done manually or mechanically.


Effect of supplementation on average milk yield


Regular feed supplementation gave the highest (p<0.01) milk yield. Occasional and no feed supplementation gave similar (p>0.05) yield. Similar results were observed in local cattle and local x exotic crosses in Ghana (Annor 1996), Burkina Faso (Millogo et al 2008) and Bangladesh (Kamal et al 2009). According to FAO (2013), adequate nourishment through supplementation provides benefits in twofold: less health issues (i.e., builds cows immunity), and more milk production combined with equal or even lower rearing costs. Better daily yields exhibited by cows supplemented with feed might be attributed to the enhancement in nutrients during the lean seasons and also improvement of utilization, as it was also observed by Epaphras et al (2004).

Conclusion and recommendations


 The authors are most grateful to the Edulink II project for providing the funds for this study.


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Received 8 March 2015; Accepted 23 March 2015; Published 2 July 2015

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