Livestock Production: Cattle Breeds - Form 1 Agriculture Notes

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- The term livestock is used to refer to all domesticated animals.

- These animals include cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, pigs, rabbits, camels, bees, fish and donkeys.


The Importance of Keeping Livestock:

  • Source of food.
  • Source of income.
  • Cultural values.
  • Source of animal power.
  • Provision of raw materials for industries.
  • Farmyard manure from the animals is used in maintaining soil fertility.
  • Cattle dung is used in the production of biogas.

Cattle Breeds

- Cattle can be classified into two groups based on their origin.

These are;

  • Indigenous cattle.
  • Exotic cattle.

Indigenous Cattle

Zebus –

- They are small in size and with a distinct hump and include:

  • Nandi,
  • Bukedi
  • Maasai cattle.

The Borana

- These are the cattle kept in the Northern parts of Kenya.

- They are larger than the Zebus.

- Indigenous cattle are hardy hence able to tolerate the harsh environmental conditions in the tropics.

- They are the major suppliers of beef in Kenya.

Exotic Cattle

- Foreign cattle from the temperate regions.

- They have distinct breed characteristics and are classified into various breeds.

General characteristics:

  • They have no humps.
  • They have low tolerance to high temperatures hence popular in cool climates of the Kenya highlands ..
  • They are highly susceptible to tropical diseases.
  • They have fast growth rates leading to early maturity.
  • They are good producers of both meat and milk.
  • They cannot walk for long distances.
  • They have short calving intervals of one calf per year if well managed.

Exotic cattle breeds fall under the following groups:

  • Dairy cattle breeds.
  • Beef cattle breeds.
  • Dual purpose breeds.

Dairy Cattle Breeds

- They include;

  • Friesian,
  • Ayrshire,
  • Guernsey
  • Jersey.
Characteristics of Dairy Cattle
  • Wedge or triangular in shape.
  • Large stomach.
  • Docile with mild temperament.
  • Large, well suspended udders and teats.
  • Lean bodies.
  • Lean and smooth neck.
  • Large and long mammary milk wells and veins.
  • Cylindrical; uniform and well spaced teats.
  • Wide and well set hindquarters to accommodate the udder.

Friesian-Holstein (largest of all dairy breeds)

  • Origin: Holland
  • Colour: Black and white
  • Size: Cow weighs 550-680kgs Bull weighs 950 kg.
  • Highest milk producers of all dairy breeds about 9150 kg per lactation but with least butterfat content; 3.5%



  • Origin: Scotland
  • Colour: White with brown markings.
  • Size: Cow weighs 360-590kgs Bulls weighs 500-720kg.
  • Conformation:
    • Straight top lines, horns are long and face upwards.
    • Milk production is second to Friesian about 6100kg per lactation with butter content of about 4%.


  • Origin: Guernsey Island off the coast of France.
  • Colour: Yellowish brown to red with white legs, switch and girth ..
  • Size: Bulls 540-770kg. Cow weighs 450- 500kgs
  • Conformation:
    • Udders are less symmetrical.
    • Average milk production is about 5185kg per lactation with a butterfat content of 4.5% hence the yellow colour of milk.

Jersey (smallest of all the dairy breeds)

  • Origin: England
  • Colour: Yellow brown with black muzzle and switch.
  • Size: Bulls weigh 540-700kg. Cow weighs 350-450kgs
  • Conformation:
    • Dished forehead, have straight top-line and level rumps with sharp withers.
    • Have protruding black eyes.
    • Average milk production 1270kg per lactation of butterfat content 5%.
    • They tolerate high temperatures.

Beef Cattle


  • Aberdeen Angus,
  • Hereford,
  • Shorthorns,
  • Galloway,
  • American Brahman,
  • charolais
  • Santa Getrudis.

Characteristics of Beef Cattle

  • Blocky or square conformation.
  • Have thick muscles or are well fleshed.
  • Early maturing.
  • Deep chest and girth and short legs.
  • Straight top and lower lines.

Aberdeen Angus

  • Origin: North East Scotland.
  • Colour: Black
  • Shape: Cylindrical, compact and deep; It is polled.
  • Size:
    • Mature bulls weigh 900kg.
    • Mature cows weigh 840kgs.
    • It is found in Timau area of Kenya


  • Origin: England.
  • Colour: Deep red and white-faced.
  • Size:
    • Average weight of bulls is 1000kg.
    • Cows weigh 840kgs.
    • It is found in areas such as Naivasha.


  • Origin: England.
  • Has easy fleshing ability
  • Colour: Red, Roan or white
  • Shape: Cylindrical, compact and deep.
  • It is polled.
  • Size:
    • Bulls weigh 700-900kg,
    • cows weigh 545-630kgs.


  • Origin: Scotland.
  • Colour: Black
  • Kept in the highland areas like Molo in Kenya.


  • Origin: France.
  • Colour: Creamy white.
  • Size: Bulls weigh 1200kg, cows weigh 1000kgs.
  • It is found in ranches in Laikipia District.

Dual Purpose Breeds

Examples: Sahiwal, Red Poll and Simmental.


  • Origin: India and Pakistan ..
  • Colour: reddish brown.
  • Size: Bulls weigh 650kg, and cows 400kg.
  • Milk production averages 2700-3000 per lactation with a butter fat content of 3.7%.
  • It has a pendulous udders which does not let down milk easily.
  • It is therefore said to be a difficult milker.
  • It is kept in semi-arid areas such as Naivasha.

Red Poll

  • Origin: England.
  • Colour: Deep red with a white nose.
  • Conformation: Polled-deep girth and short legs.
  • Kept in semi-arid areas such as Nakuru, Mogotio.


  • Origin: Switzerland.
  • Colour: Light red and white patches on the head.
  • Conformation:
    • It has broad and straight back, with well-sprung ribs and deep girth.
    • It is well fleshed at rear quarters, well suspended udders and large teats.
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