High population growth and rising living standards are putting pressure on Ethiopia’s livestock owners to increase the productivity of their animals. Improving the genetic potential of the country’s livestock is one of the keys—with better feeds and better health—to achieving food and nutrition security, and better lives through livestock. This latest research brief by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Animal breeding and genetics in the Ethiopia livestock master plan, outlines how quick-win genetic-based technologies—including artificial insemination (AI) with oestrous synchronization and community-based schemes to improve indigenous breeds as well—can significantly contribute to transformed value chains for cattle, small ruminants and poultry.
Ethiopia will need to develop improvement strategies for each species: undertaking within-breed selection for best-performing breeds and crossing them with other indigenous breeds, and provide training to farmers on genetic improvement activities and improved animal husbandry practices.
Despite the abundance of livestock resources in Ethiopia, the depth of its research and the quantity of available technologies, there have so far been few sustained attempts to improve indigenous breeds using between- and within-breed selection procedures. Despite campaigns to encourage crossbreeding between local and exotic breeds of almost all domestic livestock, the number of crossbreds is still negligible. Even in species crossbred in Ethiopia for several decades, such as cattle and poultry, numbers do not exceed 1% of the total national populations.
Genetic gains can be obtained by crossbreeding Ethiopia’s local (generally hardy but low-yielding) animals with (high-yielding) exotic breeds and by improving local breeds through selection. Analyses by experts who developed Ethiopia’s livestock master plan (LMP) argue that sustained support will be needed from all stakeholders, particularly the Government of Ethiopia, to achieve these gains.
High on the list of national priorities, according to the authors of the LMP, will be the full implementation of the draft government livestock breeding policy to satisfy growing commercial demand, while ensuring animal importation and crossbreeding leads to improvements in the genetic pool and productivity increases; the development of resource maps of the country’s important livestock resources, and the establishment of a national database system. Genetic improvement and progress should also be monitored through monthly genetic evaluations and a feedback system for farmers developed to enable selection of superior bulls.
Ethiopia will need to develop improvement strategies for each species: undertaking within-breed selection for best-performing breeds and crossing them with other indigenous breeds, and provide training to farmers on genetic improvement activities and improved animal husbandry practices. Other priorities include the improvement of the genetic potential and productivity of indigenous breeds by producing synthetic or composite breeds; crossbreeding cattle using artificial insemination and bull services; training selected farmers as artificial inseminators; and testing and scaling up technologies to accelerate the genetic progress.
Since 2014, the Livestock Resources Development Sector (or Livestock State Ministry) of the Ethiopian MoA and ILRI have been collaborating to develop an LMP to provide guidance to the government of Ethiopia on future priorities for livestock research and development activities. The LMP project development process was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Beyond the plan itself, the project aims to build the capacity of the government to carry out data-driven, fact-based analytics and planning.
See a Storify post of articles, documents, links and pictures on the Ethiopia livestock master plan.