Smallholder experiences with dairy cattle crossbreeding in the tropics: from introduction to impact. uri icon

abstract

  • Crossbreeding of indigenous tropical and improved western dairy cattle breeds as tool to improve dairy cattle performance on smallholder farms has been widely advocated, criticised and yet applied. The government of Ethiopia supported this technology for decades but adoption rate is low. Constraints are documented but there is little information about farm level introduction and development of crossbreeding. A total 122 smallholders with mixed crop livestock farms and at least 8 years of successful crossbreeding were interviewed using a pre-tested questionnaire in two contexts in Amhara Regional state in north-western Ethiopia. Crossbreeding initiator was either uncoordinated government extension or a coordinated development project, also implemented with governmental support. Qualitative and quantitative data on farmers' motivations, crossbreeding introduction, initiator support, breeding adaptation and impacts at farm level were analysed. Results show that even though motives vary between contexts the underlying reason to introduce crossbreeding was economic profit. To be able to introduce crossbreeding support of initiators (e.g. extension) and other farmers was essential. The crossbreeding introduction context had some influence. Governmental actors were the main source of support and supplier of exotic genetics but the farmer network acted as safety net filling gaps of government support. Breeding strategies focused on performance increase. A lack of basic understanding of crossbreeding has been identified. A surprising, probably biased, result was general satisfaction with initiator support and with breeding services. It was challenged by the high proportion of farmers unable to follow a breeding strategy due to insufficient bull and/or semen supply. Crossbreeding changed the smallholder production system to a high input - high output system. Except for crossbred adaptation problems, challenges were ranked context specific and influenced by the initiator. Farmers perceived crossbreeding as success and recommended it. We conclude that farmers can realize income increase with crossbreeding. The complexity of this technology, high initial investment and the need for support services and external production inputs are probable reasons why crossbreeding uptake is low. Improving the availability of semen and/or bulls must be the top priority for breeding service providers to enable farmers to follow a breeding strategy and reach a suitable and sustainable herd performance. Access to investment capital, input supply, strong technical support and market linkages are crucial for successful crossbreeding.

publication date

  • 2015
  • 2015