Ensure future of native livestock breeds

What you need to know:

  • They can live and reproduce without depending on expensive feeds, medicines or other care.
  • But the past two decades have caused great changes among  livestock farmers in Africa.

There is more livestock diversity in Africa than in any part of the world. These animals are adapted to a wide range of harsh environment.

They can live and reproduce without depending on expensive feeds, medicines or other care.

But the past two decades have caused great changes among  livestock farmers in Africa.

Some indigenous breeds are disease -resistant and others can stand feed and water shortages. However, most of them are small, give little milk and meat and so don’t meet the farmers need for food and cash.

Millions of livestock keepers are importing or cross breeding to get more productive livestock. This is happening so quick that some pure local breeds of animals are increasingly hard to find.

Today, problems like climate extremes, crop failures, and diseases outbreaks mean the less resilient imported or cross bred animals are perishing and more frequently leaving growing numbers of people hungrier.

In the past, the hardy indigenous animals provided food security for their owners, now there is real danger that many of African indigenous breeds will disappear just as their hardy traits become more and more important for food security across the region.

A journey through rural Africa is a journey through indigenous cattle, for example indigenous livestock evolved alongside human cultures, suiting specific environments, and providing a wide range of necessities.

But today, global forces are reaching even into the villages changing the life styles and our natural resources are being depleted due to the demands of the mushrooming populations. Most people in the region still support themselves through small scale agriculture, but as communities take on more elements of modern life, farmers now need to generate regular incomes from their farms.

The search for new agricultural land and alternative work opportunities is speeding up deforestation; this is resulting in dry environments thereby pushing farmers in places where diseases and pests had formed natural barriers

Desperate for higher incomes and unable to keep a big number of herds, most farmers now are replacing their local livestock with the imported or cross bred livestock.

These changes are affecting many areas in Uganda and other parts of Africa. Populations of less hardy imported and cross bred animals are growing quickly, these animals need good feeds and water. But forest clearance and pressure on natural resources are degrading the environments.

Large numbers of animals are increasingly vulnerable to diseases and harsh environments therefore millions of livestock die annually.

To keep expensive imported breeds or cross breeds alive, complex drug treatments are needed. But veterinary services also cost a lot, imported breeds also need better quality of feeds and other care. These herds are proving costly for farmers.

What is missing is the understanding that a stock of pure bred tolerant cattle is key to their continued success as daily milk and meat producers.

By working to improve indigenous livestock breeds, feeding and health care as well as their environments to increase productivity, farmers will be convinced to go on with these breeds.

Muzinga Jamilu

Msc Animal Science

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