Breed preferences and breeding practices in smallholder dairy systems of the central highlands of Kenya uri icon


  • This paper describes, for smallholder dairying in the central highlands of Kenya, the sources of foundation stock, farmers? breed preferences and breeding practices for the major dairy breeds. Data were obtained from a cross-sectional characterization study of smallholder dairy systems in the central highlands of Kenya. The study began with a pilot survey in Kiambu district during June-July 1996 where a random sample of 365 households was interviewed. For this study, respondents were asked to state the sources of their dairy foundation stock and the reasons for selecting their current breeds. Subsequently the survey was extended during March-April 1998 to another eight districts in the central Kenya when 1390 households were randomly sampled. Complementary information on herd breeding history was collected through targeted surveys of 50 sample households representative of the major dairy systems in the region. Respondents were asked about the breed of sire mated to the first dairy cow owned and the sire breeds mated to the heifer progeny. The respondents were asked to rate their preference for a breed on a scale of 1 (1=least preferred) to 4 (4=most preferred) for each of ten characteristics: milk yield, fat yield, body weight, growth rate, fertility, disease resistance, feeding behaviour, market demand, slaughter/butcher value, and longevity. Majority of the farmers (68%) indicated specifically selecting the breed of sire for mating but only 37% used AI service and 63% used bull service. High milk yield was the most important criteria for selecting a dairy breed. As result, Friesian and Ayrshire were the most preferred breeds. Ayrshire was favoured over Friesian for disease resistance and feeding behaviour but not for market value and body weight. Common breeding practice was pure breeding for Friesian, and upgrading of Guernsey to Friesian and to a lesser extent Ayrshire. Breeding practises reflected producers? efforts to maximise the proportion of Friesian genes in their herds

publication date

  • 2000