Livestock Research for Rural Development 18 (12) 2006 Guidelines to authors LRRD News

Citation of this paper

On farm characterization of Butana and Kenana cattle breed production systems in Sudan

L M-A Musa*, K J Peters and M-K A Ahmed*

Department of Animal Breeding in the Tropics and Sub-Tropics, Humboldt University of Berlin,
Phillipstraat 13, Haus 9, 10115 Berlin,Germany
 lutfimusa@hotmail.com
*Department of Genetics and Animal Production, Faculty of Animal Production,
University of Khartoum, P. O. Box 13314 Shambat, Sudan

Abstract

This study aims at understanding the cattle production system and production constraints and identifying cattle breeding goals of breeders in Butana and Kenana cattle areas in central Sudan as the first step towards developing a sustainable breed improvement programme. A set of detailed structured questionnaires were used to collect information from Butana and Kenana cattle owners in one-visit-interviews. Butana and Kenana cattle are kept in a mixed crop-livestock production system and are the dominant livestock species.

The majority of Butana cattle owners indicated livestock to be their main activity while for the majority of Kenana owners both livestock and crop farming are important activities. Cattle have multi-functional roles in both production systems. Milk production is important for obtaining regular cash income and home-consumption needs. The unfavorable production conditions determine the rather low milk yield of Butana and Kenana herds in their habitats. Measures overcoming production constraints are given clear priority by cattle owners. However, the realization options are insecure unless a stronger market orientation can be developed. Breeding policies targeting Butana and Kenana cattle smallholder need to incorporate the multi-functional roles of cattle in these systems and should be focused to those areas where market oriented milk production is possible.

Keywords: Butana, cattle, farming system, Kenana


Introduction

The cattle population in Sudan was estimated to be 38.3 millions head (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2002). They are well adapted to the local environmental conditions (e.g. tolerance to heat stress and they are able to survive long periods of feed and water shortage but show correspondingly low performance level demonstrated by a low juvenile growth rate, late sexual maturity, low milk yield and long calving interval. Among the cattle population Kenana and Butana are promising indigenous milk breeds, which under improved feeding and management in research stations yield more than 1500 kg milk per lactation (Saeed et al 1987, El-Habeeb 1991 and Musa et al 2005).

Through experience, many herdsmen have come to understand that the best results are obtained by crossing the best local cattle (usually Butana and Kenana) with exotic breeds (usually Friesian) (Musa et al 2005). This process of fast upgrading aims at increasing local milk production in response to the raising demand in urban areas. This has raised concern over the fate of Butana and Kenana types and efforts for their conservation for both present and future use. This concern is motivated by the fact that the genotypes of the improved indigenous breeds may be required to upgrade or replace low producing cattle in harsh nomadic environments where exotic cattle cannot survive. Another cause for concern is the fact that the directions of future demand cannot be predicted with any certainty.

Recognizing the need to ensure that livestock production become more efficient, sustainable and responding to economic pressures, the FAO initiated the Global Programme and Strategy for Animal Genetic Resources. The programme aims to overcome the erosion of animal genetic resources through better development and use. Active and sustainable utilization' (i.e. in-situ conservation) , together with improving the production levels of adaptive breeds as central to the better management/ conservation of AnGR (FAO 1997). Therefore, improvement programmes are necessary to increase and sustain the productivity of these cattle breeds to meet the demands of the human population.

There are tendencies for genetic improvement programs to focus on single market driven traits such as milk or meat production in isolation from environmental constraints and broader livestock system functions which cattle perform in developing countries (Ouma et al 2004). It is extremely important that farmers get involved early in the process of breed improvement, in order to ensure that their breeding perceptions are taken into account and that they provide the support needed for the programme to work (Zumbach and Peters 2002). In addition, the development of genetic improvement programmes for cattle will only be successful when accompanied by a good understanding of the production systems and when simultaneously addressing several constrains - e.g.; feeding, health control and management (Baker and Gray 2003). This study was carried out in Butana and Kenana cattle areas in central Sudan with the objectives to understand the conditions of production systems and to identify breeding objectives, husbandry practices and production constrains as a first step toward development of a sustainable breed improvement programme.


Materials and methods

The distribution and population size of Butana and Kenana cattle

Butana cattle are found in the Butana plain of central Sudan (figure 1) (between the River Nile, Atbara River and Blue Nile), a typical semi-arid ecological zone (300 mm rainfall, 8 months dry period).



      Figure 1.
  Locations of the study areas in Sudan.


This breed is also found in the Gezira between the Blue Nile and the White Nile and along the River Nile in the northern region. The population size as reported by Rege (1999) was one million head and thus, the breed is not at risk. However, the population shows a decreasing trend due to extensive crossbreeding with European cattle (since 1956) and due to effects of recurrent droughts in 1972/73, 1983/84 and 1989/90.

The Kenana cattle breed is mainly kept by the Kenana tribe in the southern central plain of the country (figure 1), between the Blue Nile and White Nile. Rege (1999) reported that the Kenana cattle population size was 1.5 million head and that the status of the population was not at risk. He also mentioned that the breed has been extensively crossed with other breeds during the past 20 years. The Kenana cattle habitat is a low rainfall savanna region (300 - 800 mm) with a dry season from November to April. This zone hosts some large scale irrigated agricultural schemes such as Gezira scheme which extends south into this zone, El-Suki, El-Rahad and Blue Nile Agricultural Corporation. Large scale commercial rain-fed cultivation is practised, particularly towards the southern part of the zone. In general, the northern parts are utilized by herders as wet season grazing areas and during the dry season they move towards the southern parts, where water and pasture are available.

Sampling and questionnaire methodology

The survey was conducted through questionnaire guided interviews with cattle owners (household survey) in selected districts in Butana and Kenana cattle habitats. One district for each breed was selected according to the distribution of breed population (figure 1). Five villages were selected according to the clustering of villages within the district and to accessibility and nine cattle owners were selected from each village (table 1). Due to the limited number of bull keepers in these villages (usually ranging from 1 - 4 bull keepers), all bull keepers were interviewed, while dairy cow owners were selected at random.


Table 1.  The villages selected for the survey in Butana and Kenana cattle areas

No.

Butana area

Kenana area

1

Banat

Ganofa

2

Wad-Godat

Um-Benein

3

Wad-Adam

Elamara-Rwag

4

Wad-Alfadul

Um-Biaga

5

Alawaida - East

Alsabonabi


A set of detailed structured questionnaires were prepared and used to collect information from a total of 90 cattle owners in both Butana and Kenana areas (45 interviews for each area) in one visit interviews (table 2).


Table 2.   Number of dairy cow owners and bull owners included in the study

Study area

Number of dairy cow owners

Number of breeding bull owners

Total

Butana area

31

14

45

Kenana area

32

13

45

Total

63

27

90


The questionnaires were pre-tested to check clarity and appropriateness of the questions. Some of the information collected during interviews were supported by observation. The questionnaires were designed to obtain information on general household characteristics, livestock and herd structure, herd management, breeding practices, disease prevalence, production objectives, feeding management and production constraints.

Data analysis

The SPSS statistical computer software (SPSS for windows, release 13.0, 2004) was used to analyze the data. The analysis was implemented separately for Butana cattle owners and Kenana cattle owners. Results are presented mainly in the form of descriptive tabular summaries. Chi-square (c2) or t tests were carried out as appropriate to assess the statistical significance or otherwise of particular comparisons. An index was calculated to provide overall ranking of the reasons of keeping cattle according to the formula:

Index = of (7 for rank 1 + 6 for rank 2 + 5 for rank 3 + 4 for rank 4 + 3 for rank 5 + 2 for rank 6 + 1 for rank 7) given for an individual reason divided by the sum of (7 for rank 1 + 6 for rank 2 + 5 for rank 3 + 4 for rank 4 + 3 for rank 5 + 2 for rank 6 + 1 for rank 7) summed over all reasons. A similar index was calculated for ranking importance of livestock by species.

Results

General household information

Of the ninety cattle owners (63 dairy cow owners and 27 breeding bull owners) interviewed 18 (29% and 11% of the corresponding totals for Butana and Kenana cattle owners, respectively) owned only cattle, 11 (7% and 18%) owned cattle and sheep, 22 (29% and 20%) owned cattle and goats and 39 (35% and 51%) owned cattle, sheep and goats.

The questionnaire survey showed that, 97.8 % and 93.3 % of Butana and Kenana cattle owners grow crops (mainly Sorghum, Sesame and Ground nut), respectively. However, only 22.2 % of Butana owners reported sales of crops within 12 months preceding the interview, which was significantly lower (c2 = 10.76, P < 0.001) than the corresponding percentage of 68.9% for Kenana owners. The majority of Butana cattle owners (64.4%) indicated livestock to be their main activity (table 3). The corresponding percentage of 6.7% for Kenana owners was significantly lower (c2 = 21.13, P < 0.0001).


Table 3.  The importance of livestock and crop farming in Butana and Kenana cattle areas

 

Butana cattle owners, %

Kenana cattle owners, %

Livestock only

64.4

6.7

Crop farming only

0

11.1

Livestock and farming

35.6

82.2


Also the results showed that, the majority of Kenana cattle owners (82.2%) indicated both livestock and farming to be their main activity. 11.1 % of Kenana cattle owners put crop farming first, while none of the Butana cattle owners indicated crop farming to be a main activity.

In general, the ranking of livestock was comparable in Butana and Kenana cattle areas (table 4).


Table 4.   Importance of livestock species in surveyed areas

Livestock species

Butana cattle area

Kenana cattle area

householdsa

Rankingb

householdsa

Rankingb

Cattle, sheep and goats

(n = 16)

 

(n = 23)

 

                        Cattle

9

0.43

17

0.46

                        Sheep

7

0.40

5

0.36

                        Goats

-

0.17

-

0.18

Cattle and sheep

(n = 3)

 

(n = 8)

 

                        Cattle

3

0.67

4

0.50

                        Sheep

-

0.33

4

0.50

Cattle and goats

(n = 13)

 

(n = 9)

 

                        Cattle

13

0.67

9

0.67

                        Goats

-

0.33

-

0.33

aHouseholds ranking livestock species first.

bIndex = sum of (3 for rank 1 + 2 for rank 2 + 1 for rank 3) divided by sum (3 for rank 1 + 2 for rank 2 + 1 for rank 3) for all species for a breed surveyed area


In both areas cattle received a higher ranking in cases when both sheep and goats were kept alongside cattle and in cases where just one of them was kept. The only exception was in Kenana area when just cattle and sheep were kept and both received a similar ranking. Where both sheep and goats were kept sheep were ranked directly after cattle.

Livestock and cattle herd composition

Cattle comprised more than 70% of all livestock TLU kept by Butana and Kenana farmers. The average cattle herd size in Kenana area (13.82 ± 3.54 TLU) was significantly higher than that in Butana area (9.52 ± 1.37 TLU) (P < 0.05), Sheep flocks are similar and mean goat flocks size kept by Kenana breeders was significantly lower than that for Butana breeders (P < 0.05) (table 5).


Table 5.   Livestock herd size in Butana and Kenana cattle habitats

Livestock species

Butana cattle area Herd size (TLU)

Kenana cattle area Herd size (TLU)

n

Mean (SE)

%

n

Mean (SE)

%

Cattle

45

9.52 1.37

71

45

13.82 3.54

70.4

Sheep

19

7.23 1.71

22.1

31

7.17 2.19

25.2

Goat

29

1.03 0.17

5

32

0.74 0.10

2.7

Donkey

21

0.45 0.05

1.6

32

0.44 0.03

1.6

Horse

 

-

-

1

0.80 0.00

0.1

Camel

2

1.20 0.00

0.3

 

 

 

TLU= Tropical livestock unit, 1 TLU= 250 kg, adopted from Gryseels (1988) and Abdinasir (2000)

SE= Standard error


Donkeys, which are mainly kept in the household for transportation and packing, also comprised a significant proportion of the livestock holding in both areas (1.6%).

The cattle herd composition in Butana and Kenana (table 6) was dominated by cows with a higher proportion cows kept in Kenana cattle herds. While the proportion of heifers was higher in Butana than in Kenana.


Table 6.  Cattle herd composition in Butana and Kenana cattle areas

Variable

Butana cattle area

Kenana cattle area

Mean S.E

%

Mean S.E

%

Herd size

17.42 2.42

100%

23.13 5.73

100%

Cows

7.07 1.00

40.3

11.67 3.11

48.7

          Indigenous

 

(95.6)

 

(100)

          Crosses*

 

(04.4)

 

 

Heifers

5.32 0.85

27.6

6.68 1.63

22.9

Bulls

1.14 0.10

2.0

1.46 0.22

1.8

          Indigenous bull

 

(86.0)

 

(89.5)

          Crossbred bull*

 

(07.0)

 

 

          Other indigenous bull**

 

(07.0)

 

(10.5)

Calves

5.53 1.49

30.1

6.52 1.49

26.6

*   = Butana x Friesian              ** = Baggara breed


The survey also found a small proportion of crossbred cows (Butana x Friesian) in the Butana area, and some indigenous breed bulls such as Baggara breed in Kenana.

Purposes of keeping cattle

Most Butana and Kenana breeders consider that the primary reason for keeping cattle to generate income from the sale of milk and animals, milk for home-consumption or as insurance against financial problems. Traction (animal for work) received a lower ranking among both Butana and Kenana cattle breeders (table 7).


Table 7.   Production objectives of keeping cattle and the ranking of the importance of these objectives by breeders

Production objectives

Butana area

Kenana area

householdsa

Ranking

householdsa

Ranking

Income from sale of milk

16

0.22

14

0.21

Milk for home-consumption

17

0.21

13

0.20

Income from sale of animal

2

0.16

1

0.16

Traction (animal for work)

 

0.04

 

0.04

Manure

 

0.07

 

0.07

Insurance against financial problems

10

0.18

14

0.18

Investment (like a bank)

0

0.12

3

0.14

aHouseholds ranking reason of keeping cattle  first


58% and 73% of Butana and Kenana cattle owners, respectively reported cattle sales within the 12 months preceding the interview (table 8).


Table 8.   Reported cattle sales within 12 months (preceding the interview).

Items

Butana cattle area, %

Kenana cattle area, %

Farmers reported cattle sales

58.0

73.3

Reasons of cattle sales:

 

 

          Purchase of animal feed

30.0

27.4

          Financial problems

48.0

25.0

          Finance agriculture

18.0

40.0

          Age

04.0

 

          Social activities

 

03.8

          Investment

 

03.8

   Period preceding the interview = 2004


In the Butana area the major portion of income was spent to solve financial problems (48%), while Kenana cattle breeders spent the major part of their income to finance agricultural operations (40%).

Breeding practices

Bull owners in Butana and Kenana selected villages provide mating service to cattle owners (1 - 4 bull owners/ village). The existence of few breeding bull keepers was explained by the high cost of keeping a bull in small herds (51.5% for Butana breeders and 70% for Kenana breeders) and the need to sell bull calves to solve recurrent financial problems (17% for Butana breeders and 12.5% for Kenana breeders). The indigenous bulls were generally selected from the own herd, but the crossbred bulls were bought mostly from markets or commercial farms. Most of the breeding bulls were of the Butana (86%) and Kenana (89%). Friesian-crossbred bulls were kept in Butana for crossbreeding purposes in the respective area (table 6).

All Butana and Kenana bull owners were planning to replace their breeding bull through its offspring. Breeding bulls were kept on average 6.5 years for service (productive period) in both areas (maximum of 12 and 14 years in Kenana and butane, respectively). Cows were kept for production in both areas on average about 10 years and up to a maximum of 13 and 15 years. Dam reproduction and milk performance, health and vigour were the most important characteristics for Butana and Kenana bull owners when selecting a breeding bull (table 9).


Table 9.  Characteristics used to select breeding bull in Butana and Kenana cattle areas

Characteristics

Butana cattle area, %

Kenana cattle area, %

% of bull owners

% of bull owners

     Dam performance

93

100

     Sire performance

14.3

84.6

     Health

64.3

77

     Colour

57.1

46.2

     Activity

35.7

77

     Vigour

57.1

54

     Body size

35.7

23.1

     Shape (similarity to dam or sire)

7.1

7.7


The sire performance was more important for Kenana cattle bull owners (84.6%) than for Butana cattle bull owners (14.3%), the difference being highly significant (p < 0.001). Other characteristics such as body size and the shape of selected animal ranked relatively low in importance. In both areas, animals were herded on communal grazing areas, and most of matings took place within the herds. However, only 42% and 53% of Butana and Kenana dairy cow owners mentioned that they know the bull serving their cows, respectively. On average 44 cows in Butana area and 48 cows in Kenana area were served by one bull per year. Options for improving milk production were identified by 86.7% of interviewed Butana cattle farmers and 69% of interviewed Kenana cattle farmers through feed improvement (74.4% Butana keepers and 80.6% Kenana keepers), selection of bulls (20.5% of Butana and 45.1% of Kenana) or crossbreeding with Friesian (23.1% of Butana and 9.7% of Kenana).

Animal health and feeding management

80% and 84% percent of Butana and Kenana cattle owners reported diseases incidences within the last 12 months (table 10). Contagious bovine pleura pneumonia, trypanosomosis, theileriosis, foot and mouth disease, diarrhoea, mastitis and brucellosis were most commonly reported.


Table 10.   Prevalent diseases as reported by farmers (within a 12 months period)

Items

Butana cattle area, %

Kenana cattle area, %

Farmers reported incidences of diseases

80

85

Diseases:

 

 

        Diarrhoea 

20

21.1

        Trypanosomosis

 

60.5

        Theileriosis

28

10.5

        Mastitis

20

21.1

        Foot and mouth disease

24

7.9

        Contagious bovine pleura pneumonia

40

21.1

        Brucellosis

12

2.6

% of 45 farmers in each area


All these diseases were prevalent among Butana and Kenana areas, except for trypanosomosis, which was reported in the more southerly Kenana cattle area only. The results show that contagious bovine pleura pneumonia was the most important disease (40%) in the Butana area, while trypanosomosis was the most important one (60.5%) in the Kenana area.

Free grazing of communal rangelands is the most common feeding system, especially during the short wet season. The results showed that cattle were grazing between 10 to 18 hours per day in Butana and between 10 to 12 hours in Kenana. With the onset of the dry season, the farmers in both areas supplement range grazing with stored hay, farm grown crop residues, agro-industrial by-products, irrigated fodder and purchased concentrates. 90% and 93% of Butana and Kenana breeders purchased concentrates to supplement the lactating cows during the dry season. They also fed minerals (on average 38% of Butana cattle breeders and 53% of Kenana cattle breeders).

Reproductive and milk performance

All information were obtained by recall interviews on the basis of the animal history method. The reproductive performance and milk performance during the beginning, middle and end of lactation are compiled in table 11. Though not significantly different (p>0.05), Kenana cattle seem to have a slightly higher milk yield in all stages of lactation and a slightly longer lactation period than Butana cattle.


Table 11.  Production and reproduction performance of Butana and Kenana cattle under field conditions

Parameters

Butana cattle

Kenana cattle

n

Mean S.E

n

Mean S.E

Milk yield, Kg

 

 

 

 

          Beginning of lactation

204

2.25 0.08a

176

2.27 0.08a

          Middle of lactation

204

4.51 0.16a

176

4.86 0.17a

          End of lactation

204

1.73 0.08a

176

1.74 0.07a

Lactation length, days

204

190.20 4.20a

176

202.50 4.50a

Age at first calving, years

204

4.35 0.04a

176

4.23 0.05a

Calving interval, months

204

20.63 0.54a

172

17.01 0.39b

Number of service per conception

204

1.73 0.06a

170

1.49 0.05b

Service period, months

204

3.47 0.91a

171

2.89 0.76b

Means without a common superscript differ significantly (p < 0.05)

Based on animal history interviews


The Mean age at first calving for Butana and Kenana cattle was reported as 4.3 ± 0.04and 4.2 ± 0.05years, respectively. Kenana cattle had a significantly (p< 0.05) shorter calving interval, service period and a lower number of services per conception than Butana cattle.

Production constraints

Production constraints, which were defined by the cattle owners in both areas, are presented in table 12.


Table 12.   Production constraints in Butana and Kenana cattle areas (% reported)

Constraints

Butana cattle area, %

Kenana cattle area, %

Lack of cattle feed

96

93

Disease prevalence

36

71

Water shortage

27

24


Lack of livestock feed was mentioned as the most important constraint by most of the cattle owners (96% and 93%, respectively). Disease was the second most important constraint particularly in Kenana area. A significant proportion of Butana and Kenana farmers (27% and 24%, respectively) also considered water shortage as a constraint.


Discussion

General overview

Good understanding of a production system and the relative importance of the different constraints is essential prior to initiating any genetic improvement programme (Baker and Gray 2003). The objectives of this study were to understand the production system and production constraints and to identify cattle breeding goals and practices of breeders in Butana and Kenana cattle areas in central Sudan as the first step towards developing a sustainable breed improvement programme.

Butana and Kenana cattle are kept in a mixed crop-livestock production system. In Butana area the annual rain fall is relatively low (semi-desert), and limited cultivation is practised to meet all or part of the household grain requirements, the majority of Butana cattle owners indicated the livestock to be their main activity. However, in Kenana area (low rainfall savanna) where there are large scale mechanized crop production schemes, the majority of Kenana owners indicated that both livestock and crop farming were their main activity, since both parts contributed equally to their income. Cattle are the most important livestock species in both areas.

Cattle play multi-functional roles in both production systems with similar production objectives in both areas. In Gambia, Steglich (2006) studied the production objectives of agro-pastoralists. They reported that cattle have primarily saving functions. However, milk production is important, but so are manure and traction power. In these systems as stated by Peters (1991) the targets of breed improvement programs should not be focused on few traits such as lactation yield but overall performance including reproduction efficiency to obtain a sustainable performance. Functions like traction (animal for work) and manure received relatively low ranking among the reasons for keeping cattle in both production systems. This might be a result of the use of machinery in all or part of agricultural operations and that the chemical fertilizers are widely adopted in these areas.

Breeding practices

An efficient recording system is a prerequisite for any breeding programme. Though the farmers in both areas generally give reliable information about the performance of their cows, this study showed a total absence of record keeping. None of the interviewed farmers reported that he recorded the performances of his herd.

As the individual herd size was quite small in both areas, achievement of measurable genetic gain is likely to require the formation of group breeding schemes, which in turn will require the full participation and long-term commitment of the livestock keepers (Mwacharo and Drucker 2005). The effect of high cost of keeping a bull in small herd size was also reported in Kenya by Bebe et al (2003) who explained that farmers preferred to use their limited fodder supplies for cows for milk production. Also Sidibe et al (2004) mentioned an influence of the herd size on the presence of bulls in Burkina Faso. With respect to inbreeding, it might be of concern that almost all of these bulls are born within their respective herds. As cows also usually stay in the herds as long as they are producing calves, farmers sell adult males and to lesser extent older cows, the degree of inbreeding between the animals of one herd might be quite high. Similar findings were reported by Itty et al (1997) in Gambia.

The average service duration of 6.5 years may not cause additional increase of inbreeding since generation interval in Butana and Kenana herds is also rather long (about 5 years).

Breeding bull owners are selecting breeding bulls without any additional advice by breeding specialists. They depended on information about the performance of potential bull dams and growth performance and appraisal of young bull. The knowledge about the dam of the breeding sire and her milk yield indicates both that herd owners are well aware of their stock. Selection of bulls born by high yielding cows was also reported in Gambia (Jaitner et al 2003 and Steglich 2006).

The average number of cows attended per bull was close to general bull-cow ratio recommendation (Lee et al 1998).

The majority of the farmers in this study in both areas was not in favor of the idea of introducing high grade exotic dairy cows and did not have the plan to introduce crossbred cows, rather they stressed the importance of improving the performance of their cows through feed improvement. Again this assessment compares well with breeders views found in Gambia (Steglich and Peters 2002).

Reproductive and milk yield

The estimated lactation milk yield for Butana cattle (538.26 kg) and for Kenana cattle (598.73 kg) showed that both breeds had a comparable milk performance under field condition which was much lower than their yield under station condition. However, Butana cattle in Atbara Livestock Research Station yielded 1662.57 ± 108.96 kg/ lactation (Musa et al 2005) and Kenana cattle in Um-Benein Livestock Research Station yielded 1423.58 ± 551.70/ lactation (El-Habeeb 1991). For both breeds the lactation period was also much shorter under field condition.

Regarding reproductive performance, the present survey showed a similar age at first calving and a longer calving interval for Butana and for Kenana cattle when compared to those results reported by Musa et al (2005) and by El-Habeeb (1991) for research stations.

The large differences between the performance of village herds obtained in this study and the performance of the research station herds clearly indicate the effect of feeding management and the possible scope for performance potential exploitation of Butana and Kenana cattle with the improvement of the production system.

The production objective of Butana and Kenana cattle owners is directed to milk production as a source of regular cash income and home-consumption. Therefore, any management measures to improve the performance level and any selection of best performing bull dams will go a long way to improve the economic and social condition, but also the food security of the people in these areas.

Production constraints

In both areas, farmers stressed the lack of livestock feed to be the most important limiting factor for productivity of their cattle, and indicated the importance of improving their feeding regime as an essential step towards any improvement program. Free grazing of rangelands is the most common feeding system. During the short wet season grasses grow rapidly producing abundant biomass. The body condition of the grazing animal is at its best during this period, but with the onset of the dry season both quantity and quality of the pasture herbage decline and fail to support any performance demand. In fact, in most cases cattle catabolise body reserves and loose body weight during this period to meet maintenance requirement, but compensate body weight during the next rainy season (Ryan 1990 and Barash et al 1994). However, with a market oriented dairy production system opportunities for investing in active forage production and conservation methods can be an option. Such methods can be pursued for forages adapted to the prevailing ecological conditions. Elsewhere, legumes and fodder trees have been developed and tested by ILRI, similar work can be done in Sudan. All these feed sources can be integrated into improving crop-residue utilization and for complementing dry season rations. Additional use of agri-industrial by-products available in the region (e.g. Molasses and Sugar cane residue) can also be considered. Supplementation with concentrates should be the last resort and only if it is economically viable.

Water supply during the dry season is a constraint to the breeders in both areas. However, able breeders tend to transport water by trucks to where pasture is abundant. Poor breeders tend to prolong watering intervals (once per day or longer). Nicholson and Sayers (1987), cited from Doerfler (2005), investigated the body condition of lactating and dry cows watered every 24, 48 and 72 hours by scoring. They reported that while the dry cows in the African environment were almost unaffected by water restriction, lactating animals were faced with severe metabolic problems. Compared with frequently watered animals, lactating animals watered only every 72 hours were in a worse body state, but the dramatic loss of condition in the early dry season gradually stabilized and even improved at the end of lactation. Also their trial revealed that despite effective water conservation mechanisms in tropical species, detrimental effects on body condition cannot be eliminated. Thus it is strongly supposed that during prolonged dry periods animals suffer from severe dehydration.

Most farmers in both areas also reported incidences of diseases. Starting in the mid-eighties the veterinary services in the country declined and then witnessed a degree of collapse. This is attributed to the liberalization of the economy and the sudden shift from complete government sponsorship to private veterinary services which provide care at market prices (El-Sammani et al 1996). As a result, the high cost of veterinary services and drugs put the service beyond the reach of poor herders and rural areas. Most of those cattle breeders used private veterinarians. Cattle trypanosomosis is endemic inside and outside the tsetse belt (Yagi 1968).Nomadic cattle movements maintain the transmission cycle between the parasite and the vector. Moreover, trade animals destined for export which trek from the tsetse fringes to Khartoum play an important role in disease dissemination (Karim 1991). All cattle keepers in Kenana area recognized trypanosomosis as the most important disease. This result was in agreement with the results reported by Abdalla et al (2005). The authors, based on reports of excessive mortality and abortion affecting dairy cattle of the Sudanese Arab Kenaf Company situated near Abu Naama village in Sinar State (same area of the present study) examined 177 samples for trypanosomosis. A total of 89 animals were found to be infected with trypanosomes. As the result of a major decline in annual rainfall and an increase in intensity, frequency and duration of drought in the Western Sudan region, particularly the drought of 1983, a large number of displaced people of Baggara cattle keepers moved with their animals and settled in Kenana cattle area in the southern central part of the country. The Baggara tribes normally encroach deeper into the tsetse habitat, this could have compounded the problem of trypanosomosis in Kenana area.

This study highlighted some key elements for developing a sustainable breed improvement programme for Butana and Kenana cattle smallholders, which were also suggested by Zumbach and Peters (2002) for smallholder dairy production in the tropics.

Conclusions

Acknowledgements

We greatly acknowledge the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for financial support of this study. Special thanks to the staff of Um-Benein Livestock Research Station and staff of the Veterinary Services in Tamboul Locality in Gezira State. Co-operation of the farmers from the districts surveyed is warmly acknowledged.

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Received 25 October 2006; Accepted 26 October 2006; Published 6 December 2006

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