The sustainable breeding strategies for ruminants in Eastern and Southern Africa project carried out by the Biotech’s BT03 (improving the utilization of farm animal genetic resources) team at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi in collaboration with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) held an enlightening and successful farmer’s workshop on October 12 at FARAJA institute in Isinya town, Kenya. The main aim of this workshop was to develop and strengthen the capacity of livestock keepers participating in the project to appreciate and adopt the practice of routine livestock recording.
Picture the health clinic records that a new mother keeps and carries every time she takes her new born baby to the clinic where the growth of the new born baby is recorded until the baby is 9 months old.This project employs a similar approach in the production of sheep in pastoral communities. With the assistance of the field extension workers, participating farmers begin a new animal record sheet whenever their sheep lamb down. They then record the date of birth for the lamb, its weight and various body measurements, and its sire and dam with their respective breed. Information on weight, height and length of the lambs is subsequently recorded every 3 months over one year. Additionally, information on any diseases, treatments given, reproduction or change in management practice that affect the sheep is noted.
Using the information generated, the project aims to develop sustainable breeding strategies for the Red Maasai sheep, an indigenous animal genetic resource, well adapted to the arid lands and known to exhibit genetic resilience to intestinal worm infections.
What do the farmers think about record keeping?
James Audho, the project technician working with ILRI who is responsible for practical training on animal handling and field data collection in the project areas noted that prior to this project, farmers kept all information on their animals in their heads, often giving estimates rather than real figures when asked for information. However, changing lifestyles in pastoral areas and an increase in the harshness and frequency of droughts has meant that more reliable and accurate information is required in order for better planning and targeted intervention to avoid catastrophes of famine and loss of livelihoods.
Long term benefits that the farmers get from record keeping include: better prices for animals with documented information, improved access to both national and international markets for their animal products due to their traceability, improved services due to better use of communal bargaining power, strong collaboration between farmers for their regional development, better livelihoods for the livestock keepers.
The 4 year project, currently in its second year is being in implemented in Amboseli and Isinya in Kajiando District, Rift Valley Province in Kenya. For more information about the study contact: Julie Ojango PI (J.Ojango(at)cgiar.org) and Emelie Zonabend PhD (Emelie.Zonabend(at)slu.se)