Animal Production Program

1. Background:

Sheep and goat productivity in Ethiopia is constrained by several factors among which periodic shortage of moderate to high quality feed is the most prominent. Lack of knowledge of available means of enhancing feed quality and how best to use available resources are also important considerations.

Simple technologies that can have marked impact on feed quality are available for use by smallholder farmers and other producers. However, these technologies need to be demonstrated to farmers. Technologies like urea-treatment of crop residues (Ammoniation) in predominantly cereal producing areas are options that have not yet been widely adopted by small ruminant producers. Thus, on-farm demonstrations, as well as assistance provided regarding optimal methods of incorporation of ammoniated crop residues in sheep and goat diets would be useful.

A variety of byproduct feedstuffs are available throughout Ethiopia, many of which have not been studied and/or are underutilized. Examples include leftover plant parts of chat, molasses, oilseed cakes, brewery wastes, sweet potato vines. In most cases there is a poor understanding about how best to use these resources for highest levels of production with minimal economic input. Although there are some research results regarding their nutritional value, most were from controlled experiments and do not reflect the real on-farm condition. Therefore, applied on-farm research and demonstration activities would be beneficial in achieving most efficient utilization of available feed resources.

The traditional fattening practice takes a long period of time and thus the system is inefficient in terms of nutrient utilization and turn over of cash money. There is inadequate knowledge concerning most appropriate management methods for short-term fattening programs. Specific management practices in need of applied research/demonstration attention include length of the feeding period, optimal dietary characteristics that may change during the fattening period, and effects of such factors on carcass quality. Other important considerations are influences of animal characteristics, notably origin (e.g., Highland versus Lowland areas), body weight, breed, and condition on responses to short-term fattening programs.

In densely populated areas where the availability of crop residues is limited, other options like backyard forage development and use of fodder trees need to be pursued. Supplementation schemes offer opportunities for maintenance and production of small ruminants during times of shortages of growing forage as well as for complementing nutrients from forages to improve productivity and enhance efficiency of production. One of the most significant limiting factors regarding how supplementation of ruminants is commonly practiced in Ethiopia is little or no consideration of nutrient requirements for desired, most profitable levels of production. Rather, in most cases supplementation is by simple offering of a standard or historically set amount of one conventional feedstuff that has been routinely used in the area. Therefore, applied on-farm research/demonstration activities concerning supplementation offer an opportunity to improve both small ruminant productivity and the efficiency with which basal dietary ingredients (i.e., grazed forages, crop residues, browse plant species) are used.
The export value of small ruminants from highland areas is said to be limited by short shelf-life of their carcasses, the cause of which is poorly understood and practical, preventative management practices need to be identified.

2. Project strategy:

  • conduct of applied on-farm research and(or) demonstration activities to address and increase the prevalence of use of practical, adoptable means of increasing feed quality, the quantity of feedstuffs available for use, and most appropriate feeding management strategies for high productivity and economic returns from small ruminant production.

3. Partners:

  • Universities
  • Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute
  • Regional Agricultural Research Institutes
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Regional and wereda extension officials
  • Kebele Development Agents
  • Export abattoirs
  • Farmers and pastoralists

4. Stakeholders:

  • NGOs working in the regions with producers and pastoralists
  • Abattoir owners
  • Feedlot owners
  • Producer associations and pastoralist cooperatives
  • PLI Project, LMM-SPS Project, Fintrac Hides and Skins Component
  • Kebele Development Agents
  • Farmers and pastoralists and associated producer groups

5. Key activities:

  • Improve crop residue quality through ammoniation;
  • Promotion of byproduct utilization through for instance approaches like making of urea molasses blocks and effective use of other by-products like brewery waste available in some target weredas in the Amhara region.
  • Development of Forage species
  • Feed Inventory:assisting partner institutions in compilation of existing feed inventory data and compile additional information in collaboration with partner institutions.
  • Strengthening FTCs:Activities include construction of ammoniation pits, introducing improved feeding troughs, provision of weighing scales, etc.
  • Strengthening Women Groups: Establish and/or work with at least one group per target wereda and provide assistance.

6. Progress Synopsis

6.1 Technology Demonstration:

6.1.1 Ammoniation:The ESGPIP has been promoting this technology in 4 regions, namely Amhara, Oromia, SNNPRs and Tigary. Farmers involved in demonstration activities have been selected by wereda experts using previously agreed upon selection criteria. Framers have shown great interest in this technology and have applied their own indigenous knowledge to reduce the cost of urea treatment. The adoption of this technology is evidenced by the fact that farmers are now purchasing inputs for ammoniation

6.1.2 Forage: The ESGPIP is trying to relate forage production with utilization by sheep and goats. Groups of farmers selected for forage development received training in basic forage production and at the end received forage seeds or planting materials. ESGPIP is focusing on strategically selected forage species especially those that have food and feed values and have higher biomass yield. The utilization aspect of on-farm produced forage is also given considerable attention. In areas where seeds from forage crops fetches higher price, farmers have sold seeds and used the residue for feed (e.g. oats).

Figure 1. Ammoniation of crop residues

6.1.3 Bag silage making: In some ESGPIP target weredas, where Napier grass is abundantly available and harvested at intervals of 30 days, ensiling chopped grass after adding molasses has yielded good results. On farms where sugar cane is produced, a few stocks of sugar cane can replace molasses. In systems where green maize is sold, stover could result in good silage.

6.1.4 Feed blocks (Urea Molasses blocks): The manufacture of urea molasses blocks is promoted in areas where molasses is available. The technology has been demonstrated to 150 beneficiaries in the Oromia and southern regions. The technology is catching up where it is taken as a business venture.

Figure 2. Demonstration of developed forage

6.1.5 Improved feeding and management: The ESGPIP encouraged farmers to construct practical feeding troughs from locally available materials. Some farmers have accepted the idea and constructed, feeding troughs and shelter for their sheep and goats.

Figure 3. Improved feeding management

6.2 Applied Research:

6.2.1 Support of applied research proposals by partner institutions: A total of 16 applied research proposals have been approved and supported by the ESGPIP. Six of these are already completed and the remaining ten are on-going. The advantage of short term feeding has been demonstrated through such exercise; supplementation of young animals (lambs & kids) has significantly reduced the age at which they could be marketed.

6.2.2 Applied research on meat darkening: Undertaken in collaboration with export abattoirs to identify possible causes for meat darkening of highland sheep and goats. ESGPIP took this initiative because this was a priority area for the government. This activity is now completed. Results of these studies have been communicated through a workshop.

6.2.3 Training in meat quality assessment: Training on meat quality was given to experts working on meat quality by meat scientist invited from Fort Valley State University, USA. The theoretical training was given at the Ethiopia Meat and Dairy Technology Institute (EMDTI), Debre-Zeit while the hands-on part of the training was conducted at the Organic Export Abattoir, Modjo. Twenty nine participants from all over the country, representing the meat and slaughter industry, educational and research institutes, and the private sector participated in the training.

Figure 4. Field day

6.3 Field days and farmers exchange visit:

Field days are organized to create opportunity for interaction and discussion among technology users, non- users and policy makers. The event is usually organized towards the end of an applied research, or during months where the technology is used on-farm (e.g., urea treatment when there is ample straw to be treated). The major actors of the field day are farmers who have benefited from the technology and discuss the benefits obtained, challenges faced and share their future plans. A brief report of ESGPIP activities within the wereda is also presented by wereda contact persons. In most cases brochures are prepared for distribution on the field day. To date, 17 field days have been organized and well over 3,200 participants have attended the field days. Exchange visits by model farmers (women) to other areas where technology have successfully been used has been undertaken on a limited scale.

6.4 Pilot buck distribution:

Distribution of crossbred bucks to producers has been carried out in three weredas, namely Alaba, Kedida Gemila and Shebedino on a pilot basis. Thus far, the 14 bucks distributed have bred 200 does. The only place where a service fee is being charged is the Kedida Gemila wereda, because of previous experience in use of crossbred bucks. In the other weredas service is provided free of charge. Buck handlers who do not charge a fee are optimistic that they would do so in the future once the performance of the offspring are evaluated by their customers and, thus, plan to do it step by step.

6.5 Strengthening of Farmers Training Centers (FTCs):

A strategy to enhance capacity of these FTCs includes construction of ammoniation pits, introduction of improved feeding troughs, provision of weighing scales, etc. It is believed that some of the technology demonstrations currently popularized by ESGPIP could be sustained by FTCs once such structures are put in place. In this regard, 10 ammoniation pits were constructed at 15 FTCs (4 in Amhara, 4 in Tigray, 2 in Oromia and 5 in SNNPRs).

6.6 Establishing women groups for income generation activities using sheep & goats:

Attempts were made to establish women groups to enhance productivity of sheep production. This idea emanated from the fact that in the food safety program in many weredas, credit is given to women to work with sheep and goats. An attempt was made to work with women groups in fattening sheep. In this regard, three women groups have contributed straw for treatment and continuously fed their sheep with ammoniated straw and developed forage. Utilization of UMB was also tried with some women groups. Furthermore, in one group where the members wanted to practice intensive fattening under partial confinement, members have contributed materials and labor for construction of a simple shade for their sheep.