International Livestock Research Institute data shows need to optimise dairy production in Ethiopia; spurs Ministry of Agriculture genetic enhancement efforts

The International Livestock Research Institute’s (ILRI) research shows that Ethiopia’s dairy industry is in need of more efficient practices and policies. To this end, the Ministry of Agriculture has affirmed that it will be implementing measures to increase dairy production in the country by over twofold over the coming decade (from the current 4 billion litres a year to at least 10.4 billion litres).

One of the avenues that the ministry intends on following to achieve this goal is developing an enhanced performance recording and sampling system. The system is going to be designed and implemented by ILRI’s African Dairy Genetic Gains (ADGG) program in collaboration with the National Animal Genetic Improvement Institute (NAGII).

Data gathered by the two entities is going to be used for selective breeding through both artificial insemination and natural reproduction. The program has already been under implementation by ADGG and NAGII for five years and across 98 districts with promising results.

The ADGG program supports Ethiopia’s national dairy recording center to operate a digital data capture platform that has enabled more than 70,000 dairy herds and 110,000 animals to be registered and their pedigree and performance data recorded. Genomic information is captured on a subset of the animals and all records are appropriately analyzed to generate breeding values that are used to rank animals.

Currently, about 3 million of the total cattle population is included in the ‘improved animals’ category; the total cattle population is 61 million. Improved cows give about 15 liters of milk per day, while local cows’ average milk production is 1.5 liter per day.

One of the expected benefits of adopting the program nationwide is the contribution to the decreased reliance on imported semen as the country will be able to breed its own top-notch cattle. State Minister of Agriculture Fikru Regassa affirms that this is indeed something that should have become a reality a long time ago given Ethiopia’s large cattle population. 

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