Livestock Research for Rural Development 24 (6) 2012 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

On farm characterization of Horro cattle breed production systems in western Oromia, Ethiopia

A Mekonnen*, A Haile**, T Dessie*** and Y Mekasha*

* Haramaya University, PO Box 138, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia
** ICARDA PO Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria
*** ILRI, PO Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ayantumekonnen@gmail.com

Abstract

The survey was carried out in Horro district of Horro Guduru zone, west part of Ethiopia. The objectives of the survey were: to describe cattle production system, trait preferences, breeding practices, and constraints in utilization of the breed and to use the information generated as baseline data to design breeding strategy of the breed. Data were collected through in-depth interviews, group discussions and secondary data collections from different sources. Statistical Package for Social Science was employed to analyze data. Horro cattle are kept in a mixed crop-livestock production system and are the dominant livestock species in the area. Cattle have multi-functional roles in the production systems. Among reason of keeping cattle, draught power was ranked first followed by milk production. Farmers prefer composite traits from their male and female cattle. Draught power performance, body size, hump size, adaptability and coat color were among the higher ranked preferred traits for male cattle in that order. Preferred traits for female cattle include milk yield, fat yield, calving interval, adaptability and coat color.

Reported productivity of animals in terms of milk production and reproductive performance is generally low. The breeding system is pure breeding and cattle owners have developed a culling mechanism for maintaining the desired quality of their animals. Among the problems of cattle production in the area, seasonal feed shortage, diseases, labor shortage and lack of exotic bull were the major ones. Therefore, addressing these constraints is very essential to develop a successful genetic improvement programme in this area for cattle. It is concluded that breed improvement should consider the multipurpose utility of Horro breed, where it is feasible with improved feeding and proper management systems. 

Key words: Breeding practices, cattle management system, trait preferences


Introduction

Agriculture in Ethiopia is the foundation of the country's economy, accounting for 43 percent of GDP and 86 percent of export earnings, and the sector employs about 85% of the population (CSA 2009). Livestock production is an integral part of the country's agricultural production system. A recent study by CSA (2009) indicated that the livestock sector contributes 26% of the agricultural GDP and 12% to the national GDP. Among livestock species, cattle have significant contributions to the livelihoods of the farmers. They serve as a source of draught power for the rural farming population, supply farm families with milk, meat, manure, serve as source of cash income, and play significant role in the social and cultural values of the society. Cattle contribute nearly all the draught power for agricultural production at smallholder level in Ethiopia (Melaku 2011). Cattle are also used to generate critical cash in times of scarcity, provide collateral for local informal credit and serve other socio-cultural functions in Ethiopia (Ulfina et al 2005). Despite the importance of cattle to the farming community in particular and to the national economy at large, the sector has remained underdeveloped and underutilized. 

The Horro cattle breed, on which this study focused, also known as Wollega (name of a zone in western Ethiopia) breed, is one of the 27 cattle breeds identified so far in Ethiopia (DAGRIS 2007). The breed inhabits the highland of western Ethiopia, mainly in the Horro Guduru area of eastern Wollega as well as adjoining parts of western Showa and Illubabor (DAGRIS 2007). They are characterized as large body size, small to medium hump size, small dewlap, fine skin, and uniform brown color, which is lighter around the muzzle (Albero and Haile-Mariam 1982). They are furnishing good meat and traction work. Adaptation to their environment and resistance in Trypanosomosis disease in Horro cattle is the most likely explanation for economic importance of the breed (Stein et al 2011).  

Horro cattle are sole source of milk production and draught power as well as a source of food, cash and prestige, and means of storing wealth in western part of Ethiopia. However, despite their significant contribution, the development and research interventions carried out to improve the performance of Horro cattle in the country is far from being satisfactory. Almost all the investigations carried out so far have been on research stations. Improvement in any livestock production can generally be achieved by thoroughly assessing of animal performance under their environment and then designing appropriate breeding strategies. In the designing of breeding strategies, information needs to be collected on production system, breed description, breeding objective and constraints hindering the performance of the breed. Thus, the objective of the study was to characterize the production system, trait preference, constraints and improvement options to use the information generated as baseline information to design breeding strategy for the breed.


Materials and Methods

Study area

The survey was conducted in Horro district, Horro Guduru Wollega zone of the Oromia region, West part of Ethiopia.  Horro district is located 64 kms North West of Bako research center and 310 km West of Addis Ababa. It lies at an altitude range of 1800 to 2835masl. Average annual temperature is 13.3oc, and soil type is sandy loam soil. Horro district consists of 37.89% highland, 54.75% mid altitude and 7.86% lowland (HARDO 2006).  The season is divided into three: the main rainy season (June-October), dry season (November-February) and short rainy season (March-May). Eight peasant associations considered in survey were categorized as highland agro-ecological zone (Abe-dulacha, Laku, Rifent-chabiri and Rifeti-gabari) and mid-altitude agro-ecological zone (Ashaya- dado, Bona-abuna, Didibe-kistana, and Oda-buluki).  

Site selection and sampling techniques

Before deciding on the survey areas, discussions were held with the district experts of the rural and agricultural development office and the farmers’ representatives about the objective of the study and also to know the current production systems and area dominated by pure Horro cattle breed in the district. In Horro district there are 24 peasant association (2 urban and 22 rural). Based on the outcome of the discussions, eight peasant associations (PAs) were randomly selected four from highland agro-ecological zone and the rest four from the mid-altitude agro-ecological zone of the district. From each PAs, 30 Horro cattle breed owners were randomly selected for interview using structured questionnaire i.e., total of 240 households. These households were used to generate data on cattle herd sizes and composition, purposes of keeping cattle, trait preferences, cattle production system, feeding management system, breeding practices and selection methods, feed resource utilization, health condition, service provision, livestock production constraints and improvement options. At the end of survey, group discussions were held with 10 key informants in each PA in order to get a greater insight into the topics covered during the structured interviews and to check whether patterns found in the household were validated by the focus group. 

Data collection

 The overall survey data were collected through three approaches namely, participatory rural appraisal (PRA) for base line information, formal (diagnostic) survey using well-structured questionnaire and secondary data collection for additional information. In the PRA phase, discussion was undertaken with agricultural bureau staff and farmer representative to investigate and have an overview about the overall cattle production system in the area. The information generated in participatory rural appraisal phases was used for the preparation and development of the questionnaire for the formal survey. Pre-testing of the questionnaire was made before the actual data were collected on sampled households in order to modify the questionnaire and to reduce error by excluding irrelevant questions and therefore the questionnaire was revised accordingly. The enumerators were trained and they practiced by interviewing each other to ensure that they correctly understood each question. The formal survey was conducted by enumerators under close supervision and participation of the researcher. All reproduction performance information was obtained by recall interviews on the basis of the animal history method. Moreover, secondary information was collected from district and zone bureau of agriculture.

Data analysis  

The SPSS statistical computer software (SPSS for windows, release 15.0 2006) was used to analyze the survey data. The effect of agro-ecological zone on milk production and reproductive performances were analyzed using the General Linear Model Procedure. An index was calculated to provide overall ranking of the purpose of keeping cattle according to the formula:

  Index = sum of (3 X percent of household ranked first+2 X percent of household ranked second +1 X percent of household ranked third) given for each purpose divided by sum of (3 X percent of household ranked first + 2 X percent of household ranked second + 1 X percent of household ranked third) for all purpose of keeping cattle in the area. Similar indices were calculated for trait preference, selection criteria, and health management and production constraint.


Results and discussion

Production system

The production system in the study area is mixed crop-livestock production system. According to the views of the cattle owners, grazing land degradation, shortage of feed, population pressure, diseases and parasite burden, and lack of improved bull and inadequate extension service are the main problems that affect the productivity and survival of livestock in the study area. Yet, under such poor management, cattle make substantial contributions to the economy of their owners, both in terms of supporting crop production through drought power and manure and as source of food for their family. Male animals that are not used for draught purposes and breeding are sold for meat to the neighboring village farmers and to the live animal traders at the Sekela livestock marketing center.  

Status of Horro cattle breed in the study area

The total population of Horro cattle breed in the study area was estimated to be 47741 (Table 1) and thus, the breed is not at risk. The present population constitutes 22343(46.8%) breeding females, 7507(15.7%) breeding males, 11623(24.3%) draught oxen and 6268(13.1%) calves. The number of breeding females relative to the total herd appears to be promising for breeding purposes; however, the number of replacement calves is relatively small, suggesting difficulties encountered in breed replacement. Given the estimated cattle population data in the study area, the population of Horro breed is in a gradually decreasing trend over time as noted from Horro elder cattle owners in all the study sites during the focus group discussions. The possible reasons reported for this trend were mainly population pressure, grazing land degradation, shortage of feed, shortage of labour and crossbreeding with exotic cattle breed particularly through artificial insemination.  

Table 1. Summary of Horro cattle breed population estimate at the study area

Peasant-associations

                         Horro cattle  breed categories

Breeding females

Breeding males

Calves

Draught oxen

Oda-buluki

1656

598

162

807

Lakku

1908

794

668

1003

Abe-dulacha

4110

857

1183

3250

Didibe-kistana

2922

753

614

1651

Bone-abuna

2287

948

811

904

Ashaya-dado

6202

2572

1046

1726

Rifinti- gabari

1742

593

545

1211

Rifinti-chabiri

1516

392

239

1071

Total

22343

7507

6268

11623

Livestock holding and herd composition

The livestock possession of the study areas is summarized in Table 2. The overall mean reported livestock possession (head/HH) in the study area was 13.23, 3.75, 1.36, 1.96, 0.14 and 0.82 for cattle, sheep, goat, horse, mule and donkey, respectively. In both agro-ecological zones, farmers possessed more cattle than other livestock species. The average cattle herd size in mid-altitude agro-ecological zone (14.7 0.55) was significantly higher than that in highland agro-ecological zone (11.7 0.55) (P < 0.01). The lower average cattle herd size in highland agro-ecological zone may be due to fewer crops farming activity in highland compared to the mid-altitude areas that use cattle for draught power. Most of the land in the highland agro-ecological zone is covered by forest and is water logged and hence not suitable for crop production. Goat flock size is similar whereas mean sheep flock size kept by mid-altitude breeders was significantly lower than that for highland breeders (P < 0.01) (Table 2). 

In highlands sheep were the main source of income and therefore are found in large numbers compared to mid-altitude where crop production was major source of income. Horse, which is mainly kept in the household for transportation and packing, also comprised a significant number of the livestock holding in highland than mid-altitude agro-ecological zone.  

There is an established relationship between functions of cattle and sex structure of the herd (Rege et al 2001), this is important to look into the herd structure and herd size of the study area. The mean total cattle herd size in mid-altitude and highland agro-ecological zones was 14.70.55 and 11.70.55 heads, respectively. The result is slightly higher than the observation of Laval et al (2002) in Boji district in West Wollega, who reported an overall average herd size of 10.5 heads of cattle. Generally, the average herd sizes are small indicating that scope for within-herd selection amongst replacement cattle is small. Consequently, organization of an efficient breeding programme using individual herds is limited. In both agro-ecological zones the dominant cattle categories were oxen followed by lactating cows. The dominance of oxen shows the relative importance of draught power in this production system. Similarly, the relatively high number of milking cows shows that milk production is the second most important purpose of keeping cattle in the areas. This result is similar to those of Agere (2008) in Horro district and Jirenga (2007) in Danno district, who indicated that oxen are the dominant category whereas milking cows are the second dominant cattle categories. 

Table 2. Livestock resources and herd composition at two agro-ecologies

Livestock species

          Mid-altitude

         Highland

Overall mean

 

N=120

LSM SE

N=120

LSM SE

N=240

LSM SE

 

Cattle

 

14.70.55

 

11.70.55

 

13.230.54

**

   - Lactating cow

 

2.30.09

 

2.340.09

 

2.320.08

Ns

    - Pregnant cow

 

2.030.14

 

1.170.13

 

1.590.13

**

    - Dry cow

 

1.250.11

 

0.620.11

 

0.930.12

**

    - Oxen

 

4.140.15

 

3.220.15

 

3.680.15

**

    - Heifers

 

2.590.14

 

1.950.14

 

2.270.14

**

    - Calves

 

2.440.14

 

2.430.14

 

2.440.14

Ns

Sheep

 

1.960.43

 

5.520.42

 

3.760.15

**

Goats

 

1.500.24

 

1.210.24

 

1.360.21

Ns

Horse

 

1.330.21

 

2.580.21

 

1.960.14

**

Mule

 

0.180.04

 

0.110.04

 

0.140.21

**

Donkey

 

1.110.11

 

0.540.11

 

0.820.12

**

N=Sample respondents; Ns =Non-significant (P > 0.05); **P < 0.01; LSM= least square mean; SE=standard error

Purposes of keeping Horro cattle

Knowledge of reasons for keeping animals is prerequisite for deriving operational breeding goals (Rewe et al 2006). The result of this survey revealed that Horro cattle play multi-functional roles in both agro-ecology with similar production objectives. Based on the ranking of purposes for keeping Horro cattle (Table 3), it was observed that farmers keep these animals for draught power, milk production, income, manure, threshing crops, social value and meat. Most farmers in both agro-ecology keep Horro cattle primarily for draught power followed by milk production. Functions like source of meat for consumption rank relatively low among the reasons for keeping Horro cattle in both agro-ecological zones. The use of cattle as source of draught power is more important in the mid-altitude than highland (Table 3). The survey also revealed that the production objectives of farmers in mixed production system include not only marketable products such as milk, generation of income from sale of live animal and butter, hide and meat, but also non-marketable functions such as draught power, manure, threshing crops and socio-cultural services. These results are similar with results of a study conducted in western Showa by Jirenga (2007) and Horro district by Agere (2008). In contrast to these findings, purpose of keeping cattle for Kereyu cattle owners is different from that of the Horro cattle owners in that the Kereyu cattle owners gave higher ranking for milk and cash income than draught power (Shiferaw 2006).  

The use of indigenous zebu cattle as multipurpose animals in Ethiopia was also reported by Van Dorland et al (2004), as were also in Kenya (Rege et al 2001) and in the Sudan (Musa et al 2005). In Zambia, Steglich (2006) studied the production objectives of agro-pastoralists. She reported that cattle have primarily saving functions. However, milk production is important, but so are also manure and draught power. In this study, functions like draught power received relatively high ranking among the reasons for keeping cattle in mixed production systems. This might be a result of the use of oxen in all agricultural operations in the areas.

Table 3: Rankings of the purpose of keeping cattle as indicated by respondents 

Purpose of keeping cattle

           Mid-altitude                                               Highland

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Rank1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Draught power

95.8

2.5

0.8

0.49

74.2

19.2

5.1

0.44

Milk

2.6

82.5

11.7

0.31

14.1

57.5

21.7

0.30

Income

0.8

10.8

55.8

0.13

6.7

11.7

37.5

1.14

Manure

0.8

4.2

19.2

0.05

2.5

10.8

25.0

0.10

Trashing crops

0

0

7.5

0.01

0.8

0

8.3

0.02

Social value

0

0

4.2

0.01

0

0.8

1.7

0.01

Meat

0

0

0.8

0.00

1.7

0

0.8

0.01

Preferred traits for Horro cattle breed in the study area

Cattle keepers clearly ranked their preferred traits from male and female animals that fulfill the functions to greatest satisfaction (Table 4). The most important traits preferred by farmers for male animals were draught power output followed by body size,  hump size, adaptability, color, temperament and horn in that order with an index of 0.48, 1.8, 0.1, 0.1, 0.07, 0.04 and 0.03, respectively. Likewise, most important traits preferred from female animals were milk yield followed by fat yield/butter and short calving interval with an index of 0.44, 0.35 and 0.06, respectively. Overall, the most important cattle traits of farmers were draught power output, milk yield, fat yield, body size, adaptability, and coat color. These traits are considered very important by farmers when they select their preferred breeding and growing stock.  This indicates that ranking is based on composite traits and not based solely on the superiority in a single trait.   

The high rank for fat yield/butter indicates the economic significance of butter by the cattle keepers in the area. On the contrary, for Kereyu cattle owners, fat yield/butter is less preferable indicating the raw/fresh milk consumption behavior of the pastoral and agro-pastoral communities (Shiferaw 2006). Coat color preference by the farmers is evaluated from the perspective of adaptation to local environment, in particular at attraction to biting black flies, and economic benefits from sale of animal.  The main coat colors preferred by the community are red, patchy red brown and light red. Similarly, Mwacharo and Rege (2002) reported that bright colors of coat are preferred by communities in the southeast range land of Kenya to reduce the risk of attack by tsetse flies and thus act as a natural control against trypanosomosis. In contrast to these findings, Shiferaw (2006) reported high ranking for white color preference for Kereyu cattle owners. Short horn size for oxen was ranked as trait preferred by few respondents with believes that such animal are active and easily manageable during traction activity. Contrary result was reported by Shiferaw (2006) who indicated that long horn was preferred by Kereyu cattle owners that serve as formidable weapons against any intruders. Such information would help to ensure that breed improvement interventions are consistent with the needs of the intended beneficiaries.  

Table 4. Ranking of the traits preference by Horro cattle owner

Traits preference

Male

Female

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Rank1

Rank2

Rank3

Index

Draught power out put

87.3

10.8

2.9

0.48

-

-

-

-

Milk yield

-

-

-

-

71.7

23.9

2.9

0.44

 Fat yield/butter

-

-

-

-

24.6

65.1

7.3

0.35

Body size

7.1

36.0

15.7

1.8

0

0

11.7

0.02

Hump size

2.9

14.6

21.7

0.1

-

-

-

-

Short calving interval

-

-

-

-

2.1

4.6

21.3

0.06

Naval flap

-

-

-

-

0

0

12.5

0.02

Adaptability

2.3

12.5

26.3

0.1

1.6

3.5

14.2

0.04

Coat color

0.4

12.9

15.4

0.07

     0

0

13.8

0.02

Temperament

0

9.4

3.8

0.04

0

2.5

15.4

0.03

Horn size

0

3.5

11.7

0.03

0

0

2.1

0.004

Reproductive performance

Reported reproductive performance of Horro heifers, cows and bulls are presented in Table 5. The mean reported age at sexual maturity for Horro male (46.56 months) and Horro female (48.42 months) in this study, are shorter to 47.52 months reported for male and 53.53 months reported for female Horro breed in Danno district (Jiregna 2007). However, the current finding is slightly longer than of 42.1 and 41.6 months reported for Sheko breeding female and male, respectively (Takele 2005). On the other hand, the finding in the present study was lower than 55.6 and 57 months reported for Semien and Wegera cattle (Zewdu 2004). This variation may be due to different feed management and genetic makeup. The management factor especially nutrition determines pre-pubertal growth rates and reproductive development (Masama et al 2003). The better-managed and well-fed heifers grew faster, served earlier and resulted in more milk and calves produced during the lifetime of the animal.  

The overall reported mean age at first calving (AFC) for Horro breeding female was 58.08 months. The present study was longer than AFC of some indigenous cattle types reported by different authors. Takele (2005) reported 54.1 months for Sheko breed whereas, Dereje (2005) reported 53.1 months for Raya-Sanga cattle. The differences in the reproductive performance of indigenous cows reported by the different researchers might be attributed to the existing differences in nutritional and reproductive managements among the smallholder cattle keepers in different parts of the country.  

The reported significant difference for AFC, calving interval (CI) and Days open (DO) between high land and mid-altitude areas obtained in the present study is in accordance with the previous report (Shiferaw et al 2003); but disagree with the report of Agyemang and Nkhonjera (1990) who have reported no significant difference on the length of CI and DO between smallholder crossbred dairy cows at different locations in Malawi, which may be due to management differences.

 

Table 5. Summary of reported reproductive performance of Horro cattle

Characters

Mid-altitude

Highland

Overall mean

N=120

LSMSE

N=120

LSM SE

LSM SE

 

Age at puberty in male (month)

 

48.320.7

 

44.960.7

46.560.06

**

Age at puberty in female (month)

 

50.720.6

 

44.280.6

48.420.05

**

Age at first calving (month)

 

60.960.7

 

56.240.7

58.080.07

**

Reproductive lifespan of cow (year)

 

13.280.3

 

14.050.3

13.670.31

Ns

Lifespan calf crop production (No.)

 

5.630.14

 

7.290.14

 6.460.13

**

Calving interval (month)

 

21.840.4

 

19.560.4

21.080.3

**

Reproductive lifespan  of bull(year)

 

3.820.10

 

3.620.10

 3.720.10

Ns

Days open (month)

 

10.570.3

 

9.540.31

 9.560.30

*

N=Sample respondents; Ns =Non-significant (P > 0.05); **P < 0.01, P < 0.05; LSM= least square mean; SE=standard error

Milk production performance

The overall mean reported daily milk yield, lactation milk yield and lactation length of Horro cattle were 1.65 liters, 475.85 liters and 9.57months, respectively (Table 6). The overall reported daily milk yield for Horro cattle is higher than the report from extensive livestock breed survey done in Oromia Regional State with overall average daily milk yield of 1.4 liters (Workneh and Rowlands 2004).  However, the current study was slightly lower than the reported on-farm daily milk yield of 1.8 and 1.9 liters per day for Raya Sanga and Wello highland zebu cattle (Dereje 2005). The mean on-farm lactation length reported by Zewdu (2004) for Semien and Wegera cattle breeds were 4.6 and 7.5 months, respectively that were shorter than the present finding for Horro cattle breed. This variation may be due to difference in feed supply and genetic makeup of the breeds.  

The reported lactation milk yield in highland was significantly higher (528 liters) than the mid-altitude agro-ecological zones (427.53 liters). This could be attributed smaller cattle per grazing land in highland. Parity had a significant (P<0.01) effect on milk production performance. High mean daily milk yield and lactation milk yield were reported for the third parity. Tadele et al (2005) reported a similar increasing trend for the third parity for Simmental x Borana crossbred cows under on-farm conditions.  

Table 6. Least squares means standard errors for milk production performance as reported by sample households

Effect

DMY

LMY

LL

 

Overall

1.650.03

475.8514.52

9.570.21

N

298

298

298

C.V (%)

23.18

36.72

25.86

Agro-ecological zone

**

**

NS

Mid-altitude

1.500.03

427.5315.92

9.540.22

Highland

1.790.03

527.8813.96

9.770.20

Parity

 

 

 

First parity

1.560.04b

409.1717.79c

8.780.25c

Second parity

1.610.03b

467.0215.50b

9.660.22b

Third parity

1.760.04a

556.9222.44a

10.530.30a

N=Number of lactating cows; NS =Non-significant (P > 0.05); **P < 0.01

Breeding management

Almost the entire respondents (92.7%) mentioned that the breeding system in the study area is pure breeding system. This is in agreement with the result of Shiferaw (2006) who indicated that in Fental district of Oromia region, 92.7% respondents are practiced pure breeding system for Kereyu cattle type. Over 92% of the respondents practiced natural, unplanned and uncontrolled mating system. Farmers in the study area didn’t keep breeding bull only for mating rather they use both for breeding and draught power.  Similarly, keeping of sire solely for breeding was not practiced by smallholder farmers in Danno district (Jirenga 2007).  However, different result was reported in Fental district that keeping breeding bull in a herd is a common practice in both pastoral and agro pastoral systems (Shiferaw 2006). This is partly so because the community in Fentale district are real breeders with little (if any) crop production. 

Communal grazing is the main source of breeding bull in the study area. Thus, most of the farmers did not know the sire of all their home-bred animals. However, sometimes they guess sire of animal based on coat color of calf.  Communal sharing of grazing lands could potentially help to minimize the risk of inbreeding through the use of unrelated breeding bulls from the sub-population.  

Cattle owners in the study areas have developed a culling mechanism for maintaining the desired quality of their animals. Culling of male animal is generally done at age of seven year after using the animal for both draught and breeding for three years from four years age. However, female animals are culled from the breeding stock after eight years of service in the farm at age of thirteen. The primary reason for culling animals from herd were old age, reproductive failure, reduction of production performance, health problem, need for some cash for household use and need for slaughter. Selling, castration and slaughter account for 83.3%, 12.9% and 2.8% of culling methods, respectively.  

The ranking of important traits as perceived by farmers for the breed in the two agro-ecological zones for selecting breeding males and females are summarized in Table 7. Traits like body size, physical appearance, coat color and hump size were all considered as important in both of the agro-ecological zones and were given due emphasis in selecting breeding bulls.  Large body size, good physical appearance, red or brown or light red coat color and big hump size are the most preferred traits by most of farmers in the area. The preference of farmers for a particular coat color might be associated with social culture practice, market demand and environmental adaptation. Pedigree, temperament and horn were given relatively little emphasis in selecting breeding bull by most of farmers in mid-altitude agro-ecological zone.  Similarly, these traits were little emphasized by the farmers in highland. However, in contrast to farmers in mid-altitude, farmers in highland give more emphasis for pedigree information.  Milk yield, calving interval and physical appearance were the most highly rated traits in selecting breeding females in both agro-ecology. Mothering ability, temperament and tail size were slightly considered in selecting breeding female. Generally, farmers give special emphasis to physical traits during selection of breeding bull. However, in selecting of breeding female farmers give more emphasis on production and reproduction traits.  Most of the selection criteria used for Horro breeding animals were also reported for Raya-Sanga and Wello highlands breeds (Dereje 2005) and for Sheko breed (Takele 2005). Generally, breeding programs should be geared towards functional traits top ranked and management practice such as better feeding and health should go in line with genetic improvement programs.

Table 7.  Selection criteria used to select breeding bulls and breeding females

Class and selection criteria

Mid-altitude                                         Highland

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Rank1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Breeding male

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Body size

60.3

27.8

10.3

0.407

51.3

30.4

14.5

0.380

    Physical appearance

23.3

41.8

20.6

0.290

27.1

26.3

15.3

0.251

     Coat color

10.3

18.5

40.1

0.18

14.3

25.1

32.6

0.210

    Hump size

3.3

6.2

14.8

0.059

3.1

8.3

14.5

0.069

    Shoulder size

2.8

3.1

6.2

0.030

1.2

2.2

4.6

0.021

    Pedigree

0

1.6

3.3

0.008

3.5

7.1

12.4

0.058

    Temperament

0

0.8

2.5

0.007

0

0.4

4.3

0.010

    Horn

0

0

2.1

0.004

0

0

2.2

0.004

Breeding  female

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Milk yield

68.2

28.6

3.2

0.482

60.3

32.7

7.0

0.447

     Fat yield

19.2

32.4

11.3

0.243

22.6

26.4

18.7

0.250

    Caving Interval

7.3

18.3

27.7

0.103

6.7

12.6

24.0

0.118

    Physical appearance

4.9

12.5

23.1

0.098

10.8

14.1

28.1

0.101

    Coat color

0

4.3

12.8

0.040

0

2.3

10.5

0.032

    Pedigree

0

2.7

8.2

0.021

0

6.8

7.9

0.042

    Udder size

0

0.8

6.3

0.013

0

2

3.2

0.006

    Mothering ability

0

0.4

4.7

0.009

0

0.6

0.6

0.003

    Temperament

0

0

3.3

0.006

0

0

0

 

Feeding management  

Extensive grazing system is a common feeding management practice in the area with the average length of grazing time of 9:30 hours per day. The major livestock feed resources identified in the study area were  natural pasture, crop residue, aftermath grazing, crop thinning, fallow land grazing, household kitchen waste  and local beer by product called “Atala”. Natural pasture was the main feed resource that support livestock in the study area during the cropping season, whereas crop residues are the major feed in the dry season in the district as crop production is high in the farming community. Crop residues used for animals feed are maize stover, barely straw, teff straw, wheat straw, noug straw and pluses straw. Teff straw contributes more for livestock feed when compared to any other crop residues. This is due to the fact that teff straw is essential for cattle and draught oxen during cultivation in the study area. Barely straw also contributes as cattle feed next to teff straw. There is a high preference for “mosino” (straw of the late planted local barley, which is the equivalent of spring barley) straw as animal feed. Crop fields such as maize, teff and barely are used for stubble grazing after harvesting. The use of improved forage and concentrate feed by the farmers in the Horro district is insignificant. Only 1.8 percent of the respondents were found to conserve and utilize hay during the dry season. 22.9% of the respondents had owned grazing land and utilized individually. The use of both communal and private grazing land was reported by most of the respondent.  

Provision of supplemental feed for animals particularly for draught oxen, milking cows, pregnant cow and very young calves was found to be a common (92.5% of the respondents) practice in the study area. The respondents indicated that supplementing of feed resources such as Cynodon aethiopicus, Lantana tri, Vernonia amygdalina leaf, and Trifolium spp enhance both milk yield and butter qualities. All women farmers  mix roasted barley with hot water to which little salt is added, and feed to lactating cow shortly after calving in order to improve body condition and milk production performance of the cows. Women in the study area also chop Vernonia amygdalina leaf and crash it in locally made wooden mortar and pestle, and mix it with salt and “Atala” and feed it to milking cows to stimulate milk production. Farmers also spray salt on fallow land so that cows grazing such pasture will come to heat quickly. Draught oxen are supplemented during plowing and dry season with crop residues mainly teff straw, local salt and Qiixxaa xaafii locally prepared feed mostly made from teff. Calves are supplemented with green grass during the first two-month until they are mature enough to graze on natural pasture around homesteads and on private fallow land. Relatively less attention was given to small ruminant with respect to feeding. This is due to the better capability and feeding habit of small ruminants to survive on overgrazed lands as compared to large ruminants.

Health management

Livestock diseases are among the major factors that limit cattle owners’ benefits as a result of mortality. Animal diseases, especially those caused by bloating, pasteurellosis, trypanosomosis, anthrax, blackleg, foot and mouth diseases and parasites comprise the major reported animal diseases in that order (Table 8). Bloating is serious disease that causes livestock death during rainy season resulting from over consumption of fresh clovers (Trifolium species). Farmers noted that even though their animals are attacked by disease, they continue to produce under the disease challenge. From this one can conclude that disease tolerance is an important attribute of local cattle in the area. Only 4.2 percent of the households depend on indigenous practices and 33.8 percent rely on veterinary services to treat their sick animals while around 62.1 percent use both methods. This indicated the scope for improvement in veterinary services in the study area. 

Table 8.  Ranking of cattle disease and parasite in the study areas

Diseases and Parasites

                                Households

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Diseases

 

 

 

 

     - Pasteurellosis

21.4

41.0

13.6

0.266

     - Bloating

42.8

18.2

7.2

0.286

     - Foot and mouth disease

0

0.8

12.7

0.024

     - Mastitis

0

0.4

10.8

0.022

     - Trypanosomosis

13.4

12.3

11.2

0.126

     - Black leg

7.3

9.2

10.3

0.084

     - Anthrax

10.4

11.3

11.1

0.108

     - Lumpy skin disease

0.8

2.5

7.4

0.023

Parasites

 

 

 

 

     - Internal

3.3

3.1

9.5

0.043

     - External

0.6

1.3

6.6

0.017

Cattle production constraints 

Consideration of the relative significance of the different constraints is basic prior to beginning any genetic improvement program. Ranking of cattle production constraints are presented in Table 9.  Among the constraints feed shortage, labor shortage, diseases and lack of exotic bull were considered as more important problem in both agro ecological zone with varying order of rank. In mid-altitude feed shortage, labor shortage and disease were ranked first, second and third with index of 0.451, 0.266 and 0.127, respectively. However, feed shortage ranked first with index (0.477), disease ranked second with higher index (0.228) and shortage of labor ranked third with lower index of 0.162 in highland agro-ecological zone.  

This study revealed that 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.  Communal grazing is the most important feeding system in the area. However, communal grazing land is decreasing from year to year due to encroachment of crop fields, over grazing and human population growth. Seasonal scarcity of livestock feed was mentioned as one of the critical problems in cattle production in the area.  Particularly during wet season due to most of the grazing land is very wet, animal dry matter intake are limited. As well, during this time communal grazing land is often covered by flood water leading to exacerbated shortage of feed. In addition, during the dry season both quantity and quality of the pasture herbage decline and fail to meet nutrient requirements for good performance. Therefore, introduction of suitable multipurpose trees, fodder trees, improved forage species and grasses can be integrated into crop-livestock production practices. In addition grazing land management, crop residue treatment, other supplementation available in the area and forage development strategy should be given due attention to ameliorate the situation. 

Table 9. Households ranking of constraints for cattle production (%)

Constraints

Mid-altitude

Highland

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Rank1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Index

Feed shortage

90.8

6.1

1.7

0.451

92.1

4.3

1.3

0.477

Labor shortage

7.8

70.7

3.9

0.266

1.9

20.2

51.3

0.162

Disease

1.4

17.5

41.4

0.127

6.0

52.3

12.8

0.228

Lack of exotic bull

0

14.2

18.3

0.074

0

7.7

5.1

0.077

Lack of extension service

0

7.3

26.8

0.065

0

12.6

21.3

0.034

Theft

0

1.7

4

0.012

0

3.0

6.0

0.020

Market

0

0

3.9

0.006

0

0

2.2

0.004


Conclusions


Acknowledgements

We greatly acknowledge the Haramaya University for financial support. Special thanks to the farmers in peasant associations surveyed for actively participating in this study.


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Received 12 May 2012; Accepted 18 May 2012; Published 1 June 2012

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