The Sahiwal cattle is a breed of Zebu (indicine cattle or humped) cattle, mainly used for milk production. Among all Zebu cattle, the Sahiwal cattle produce the most amount of milk. It is also popular due to its ability to produce high quality of milk with high butter fat content. With that being said, the Sahiwal can also be used for commercial meat production, usually in ranches. The Sahiwal cattle originated from the Sahiwal district of Punjab province in Pakistan.
The Sahiwal cattle were originally from the dry Punjab area which lies along the Indian-Pakistan border. Back in the olden days, they were kept in large herds by professional herdsmen, then known as "Junglies". However, with the introduction of irrigation systems, the Sahiwal cattle were kept in smaller numbers by the farmers in the region where they used them as draught and dairy animals. In modern times, the Sahiwal cattle are considered one of the top dairy breeds in India and Pakistan mainly due to the high milk production as well as its resistance to tick borne diseases.
The Sahiwal's colour ranges from Brownish Red to Greyish Red, with varying amounts of white on the neck, and the underline. In males, the colour darkens towards the head, neck, legs, and tail. The tail ends with a black switch. The breed is also known for drooping ears. The hump is massive, but in the female it is nominal. Mature weight of the Sahiwal cows at Navaisha average at 425 kg and that of bulls 500 kg.
Compared to other local breeds, the Sahiwal is a very good milk producer. They are capable of producing an average of 8 - 10 kg of milk per day with a fat content of approximately 4.5 %, within an average lactation period of 10 months. The Sahiwal cattle also has larger teat compare to other Zebu breeds, hence milking is easier.
Due to many unique traits of the Sahiwal, they are exported to many other countries. They arrived in Australia via New Guinea in the early 1950s. They were initially selected as dual-purpose breed in Australia, however, today they are mainly used for beef production, as crossing high-grade Sahiwal sires with European breeds produced a carcass of lean quality with desirable fat cover.
The Sahiwals played an important role to adaptability in countries such as Kenya, Jamaica, Nigeria and several ecological zones of Africa where Sahiwals have been crossed with exotic Bos taurus breeds that have a high response capability of milk and beef production but lack the adaptability to local conditions. Today in Kenya, the Sahiwal cattle are descendants of around 60 bulls and 12 cows imported between 1939 and 1963. The Sahiwal breed also is exception in transmitted effects for milk production among Bos indicus breeds. Kenya is the main country in Africa with major resources of Bos indicus Sahiwal cattle and serves as an important source of stock and semen for the continent.
The Sahiwals thrives on natural pastures. This includes Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum), star grass (Cynodon plectostachyum) as well as raised fodder grasses like Boma Rhodes (Chloris gayana), Foxtail grass (Cenchrus Ciliaris) and Fodder Sorghum, among others. It is highly recommended that the cows are grazed rotationally in paddocks as this gives the grasses time to regrow.
Water and minerals lick are also important to the Sahiwal cattle. The Sahiwal kept for milk production can be supplemented with a protein legume and concentrate for more milk production.
Ticks are a major threat to the Sahiwals in pasture areas. In order to prevent tick bone diseases, it is encouraged to dip or spray the cows with acaricide once a week. As for internal parasites, deworm animals regularly approximately once every three months or whenever necessary depending on the hellminth feacal egg count.
In addition, routine vaccinations against diseases like Foot and Mouth, Anthrax, Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), and other epizoonotic diseases should be done.