ULRIKE JANSSEN-TAPKEN1, HAJA N. KADARMIDEEN1, JOHN GIBSON2
1Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Institute of Animal Sciences, Statistical Animal Genetics, Switzerland
2International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya
Food security and a balanced diet with animal products are not guaranteed. The demand for milk and meat from livestock in Sub-Saharan Africa has almost doubled over the past two decades. One possibility to overcome this gap between demand and supply would be the introduction of an adapted cattle breed with higher production level. Infrastructural and environmental constraints as well as non-market functions of livestock influence the existing breeding structures. The objective of this study is to evaluate the breeding practices of cattle keepers in pastoral, agro-pastoral and crop-livestock systems of selected sites in Kenya and Ethiopia. The knowledge of this basis will offer the possibility to develop an adapted and therefore sustainable breeding program. Local Zebu is the most commonly used breed in the low-input systems of the study sites with high prevalence of several cattle diseases (e.g. Trypanosomosis). This study indicates that the selection of the specific breed is mainly due to its adaptability to harsh environmental conditions and disease challenge, and difficult access to other breeds. Although a difference in disease tolerance and production traits is observed, controlled mating is rarely used. On the contrary, communal grazing is the most frequently used feeding system resulting in non controlled mating. Since farmers mainly lack the knowledge about inbreeding and its consequences, no measurements are taken for prevention. However, the farmers have a clear idea about traits of breeding bulls, and a non"=monetary exchange system for favourite bulls exists. AI service for upgrading the local breed is rarely used due to infrastructural and information constraints. Therefore willingness to use AI depends on the education of the farmers and their contact with the technique. Nonetheless, the actual use is restricted by the accessibility of the service and the offer of adequate semen. Locally adapted and well organised breeding structures offer possibilities for sustainable improvement in production traits and disease resistance of cattle. Therefore, the development of breeding programs with special regard to the environmental conditions offer an opportunity for the improvement of livelihood of small"=holder farmers through genetic improvement of their production animals.
Keywords: Breeding program, farmer preference traits, pastoralists, production system, small-holders, Sub-Saharan Africa