Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are among experts discussing livestock genetics at the 10th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production in Vancouver, BC, Canada, August 17-22, 2014. Fidalis Denis Mujibi, discusses the Use of high density SNP genotypes to determine the breed composition of cross bred dairy cattle in smallholder farms: assessment of reproductive and health performance. His co-authors in this paper are J. Ojango, J.E.O. Rao, T. Karanja, A. Kihara, A. Marete, I. Baltenweck, J. Poole, J.E.O. Rege, C. Gondro, W.M.S.P. Weerasinghe, J.P. Gibson and A.M.Okeyo.
The authors in this paper argue that due to the increasing land pressure in traditional highland regions in East Africa, farmers have begun to establish dairy farming in marginal areas that are relatively hotter and with higher disease burdens. Despite this shift, the germplasm being used is still the same as in the highlands, even though farmer capacity in these regions often fails to match the higher demands of exotic animals. As a result, these systems often experience sub-optimal performance for crossbred cattle. It is important to match the production environment and animal breed type in order to maximize the productivity of these animals.
In a second paper, A novel use of high density SNP assays to optimize choice of different crossbred dairy cattle genotypes in small-holder systems in East Africa, J.M.K. Ojango, A. Marete, D. Mujibi, J.Rao, J. Poole, J.E.O. Rege, C. Gondro, W.M.S.P. Weerasinghe, J. P. Gibson and A.M. Okeyo argue that in many developing countries there is rapidly increasing demand for milk. Most of that milk is being produced by an expanding smallholder dairy sector. In East Africa, it is generally estimated that 90% of milk is produced by smallholders, with the majority of milk traded through both formal and informal milk markets being produced by crossbreds between high production potential exotic dairy breeds, such as Holstein Friesian, Ayrshire, Guernsey, Jersey and highly adapted, low production potential indigenous breeds.
The rapid expansion and large scale of the smallholder dairy sector is testament to the fact that most smallholders who keep dairy cows experience a substantial improvement in their livelihoods, despite the fact that the achieved yields are low compared to yields in intensive dairy systems. There is an implicit assumption in many dairy development programs that smallholder farmers should progressively move to higher grade exotic crossbreed genotypes. The only available semen in most of East Africa is from purebred-exotic breeds. Although only 5% to 20% of smallholder cows are bred using artificial insemination (AI), the lack of crossbred semen means there is a steady pressure toward higher grade exotic genotypes.
Collaborative study efforts bear fruit
This multi-stakeholder study is presented through two paper presentations (referred to above) and two posters by similar titles to the presentations.
Meanwhile, an oral presentation is made from ILRI Ethiopia by Wondmeneh Woldegiorgiss Esatu entitled A running breeding program for indigenous chickens in Ethiopia: evaluation of success during the session on Genetic Improvement Programs: Selection for harsh environments and management of animal genetic resources: Adaptation and Selection in Harsh Environments. Wondmeneh is an ILRI/ Wagenigen University PhD student is working on: ‘Improving village chicken production to elevate livelihoods of poor people in Ethiopia’. This is a joint research project of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR) and Wageningen University (WU) funded by Koepon Foundation.
Another ILRI graduate associate Samuel Mbuku makes a presentation on Risk-rated economic values for production and functional traits of Small East African goat using profit functions in the Genetic Improvement Programs: Breeding objectives, economics of selection schemes, and advances in selection theory session. He has just submitted his thesis on Breeding strategies for goats to buffer against climate variability for pastoralist communities in semi-arid Kenya for the PhD in Animal Science, Egerton University, Kenya. He was supervised by Egertons’ Kosgey, I. S., and ILRIs Mwai, Okeyo.A.
The World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production is the premier conference for researchers and professionals involved in genetic improvement of livestock. Delegates from around the world gather every four years to attend the scientific program and network with colleagues. Follow the 2014 WCGALP here.