Data relating to traditionally managed cattle for 1978-1984 were analysed. Characters included were calving interval, postpartum weight of cows, 365-day calf weight and mortality: from these, productivity indices relating to (i) total weight of young reared breeding cow-1 year-1, (ii) weight kg-1 and (iii) weight kg -0.73 were constructed. The random effects of management unit within system and fixed effects if rice and millet system, season and year of calving, parity of cow and sex of young were investigated. Calving interval (725 days) was not significantly affected by any variable. Cow postpartum weight (219 kg) was significantly affected by the management unit, the season and year of calving and by parity (P < 0.001). 365-day calf weight (78.3 kg) was significantly influenced by the management unit (P < 0.01) and by year of birth (P < 0.05). Mortality to 365 days (17.4%) was significantly affected by system (P < 0.05) and by year (P < 0.01). The index, weight of young produced cow-1 year-1 (36.0 kg), was affected significantly (P < 0.01) by parity but the values of the other indices (167 g kg-1 and 718 g kg-0.73) were not significantly affected by any of the variables. Significant correlations between calving interval, 365-day weight and mortality and all three indices indicated that some progress might be achieved in improving the indices. Lack of significant effects of the different variable on the indices themselves precluded easy constructed of appropriate improvement paths such as have been proposed for goats and sheep in this environment.