As part of its efforts to include more women in livestock production, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Safe Agriculture and Food Export Project (SAFE) in the Dominican Republic is offering calf-rearing workshops aimed at women cattle ranchers.
In the Dominican Republic, there are two components of calf management that face serious challenges: hygiene and nutrition. Calf disease and mortality rates are still high in many farms even with the apparent sanitary programs in place.
The project’s technical team trainers from local Dominican organization JAD-Megaleche, which partners with NCBA CLUSA on the project, designed the training to encourage more women farmers. Training on calf-rearing techniques has brought more women into the industry in other Caribbean countries, so the team looked to replicate that success in the DR.
Workshop topics covered cow management during labor and delivery, umbilical cord disinfection at birth and on subsequent days, weaning, appropriate calf habitat and calf feeding after weaning.
A common practice in the Dominican Republic—contrary to expert recommendation—is offering calves hay very early. This is problematic because it is generally low quality hay that qualifies more as animal bedding than food due to its low levels of protein (less than 3 percent) and its high levels (more than 70 percent) of neutral detergent fiber (NDF). To ensure good nutrition and rapid growth in calves, hay should be at least 7 percent protein and less than 50 percent NDF.
The training also includes safe ways to house and shelter the calves, including calf hutches, which have been shown to reduce the growth time by 25 percent because the calves do not have to compete for food.
Workshop facilitators emphasize that proper nutrition and shelter during upbringing can reduce calf mortality by reducing illnesses linked to poor hygiene. Properly disinfecting the calf at birth, cutting the umbilical cord and monitoring newborn calves for abnormalities are key to calf rearing health both for the mother cow and the newborn.
“In order for the sector to grow, we need the participation of both men and women,” said Dionisio Rodríguez, President of the Viterbo Sanchez Producer Association, at a recent workshop. Calf rearing and the nutrition and hygiene of young livestock has proven to a be a popular training for new women farmers looking to get involved in livestock.