Reproductive management and performance in smallholder dairy farms in Tajikistan
Abstract: Tajikistan is classed as a lower-middle-income country with 1/3 of its population living in poverty, facing several challenges restraining its development. One contributing factor of restraining the development is the low level of income – individually and nationally. Agriculture constitutes a substantial percentage of the GDP of Tajikistan, and dairy production is important for the agricultural economic gain of the country. However, 95% of the dairy cows are held under smallholder conditions and dairy production levels are low in Tajikistan, both compared to high-income and neighbouring countries. With reproductive performance being a main pillar of a high-yielding dairy production, studies aiming at evaluating and improving reproductive performance would inarguably be beneficial to increase production in the country. No such studies have, to the author’s knowledge, previously been conducted in Tajikistan. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the reproductive- performance and management of smallholder dairy cows in Tajikistan. 70 farms and 88 individual cows were included in the study, distributed in 5 different districts around the capital Dushanbe. The study was performed by 1) interviewing the farmers regarding management routines with possible effects on reproduction and 2) performing a clinical evaluation on individual cows to assess the reproductive performance and occurrence of clinical disorders possibly affecting it. This clinical evaluation consisted of a reproductive and general anamnesis, a general observation of 6 parameters including Body Condition Scores (BCS), examination of the udder and milk, vaginal inspection and rectal palpation. If needed cow-side milk-progesterone test was also performed. The criteria to be included in the study was to have a farm with <20 dairy cows and for examined animals to be female cows with a history of ≥1 calf and ≥20 days postpartum. Results showed that the reproductive performance was affected with the most prominent challenge being a high proportion of cows with prolonged days open, leading to a prolonged calving interval and consequently production and economic losses. Prolonged days open was seen both in cows with a healthy, cyclic reproductive tract and in cows with the reproductive disorder of dominance: anoestrous. The general health of the cows was good with few overt signs of clinical disease. However, a majority of the cows had an abnormally low BCS and the cows with BCS 1 were significantly (p<0.009) less likely to be pregnant that cows with BCS 3. There was also a substantial mismatch regarding anamnestic statements and subsequent clinical findings, indicating possible gaps in management. In deed, interview answers revealed several basic management factors possibly contributing to the reduced performance and anoestrous. In conclusion, a reproductive inefficiency seems to be evident in the investigated cows in Tajikistan, leaving room for improvement in the management factors that may contribute to its existence. Improvement could lead to productive, nutritional and socioeconomic gains. However, the means to implement improvement need further investigation - even if the current results contain clues as to where one might start.
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