Hope Against Hope

Hope Against Hope

A Draft Policy Aims to ‘Revolutionise’ Animal Breeding, Key to Improve Productivity’

Ethiopia ranks first in livestock population in Africa. However, the productivity of the sector remains poor due to the lack of appropriate policies which limit the use of improved technologies; and incentives to attract and retain investment.
While the productivity of improved breeds is upto ten times higher than the native breeds, there are less than one million improved livestock breeds, far less than 1Pct of the total livestock population in the country. This is very small especially when one notes that artificial insemination, a technology that helps to improve animal breeding, and productivity was introduced to the country 60 years ago. The result of the neglect to the sector is evident in that hotels, airlines and supermarkets in the country import a large amount of animal products, which sometimes include raw meat, milk and their processed forms.
With the establishment of a new federal institution – The Ministry of Livestock and Fishery Development; and a draft policy tabled for approval to govern the sector – many hope that the situation will change. EBR consulted research and stakeholders; and analyses the hope the policy could brings.

On March 23, 2017, Asmeraye Mesfin, 44, was feeding her cows in her crowded residential compound in Bishoftu, a town located 40 kilometer south east of the capital, Addis Ababa. She started animal husbandry 20 years ago, after leaving her post at a government office, where she had worked for seven years. Currently, she owns eight lactating cows which give her an average of 120 liters of milk daily. Asmeraye managed to renovate her house , support her family and even pay for her son’s education who studies medicine at a private medical college from the livestock farm business.
“I sell milk for local residents for ETB13 per liter, process it in-house and also supply for Genesis Ethiopia,” she told EBR. “Livestock farm business is very profitable, if you get a good breed and dedicate yourself for the work.” She added.
Asmeraye is currently working to develop her small scale livestock farm to a company level. “I dedicated myself more to the job after I got more productive breeds two years ago,” she explains. “The success of my business lies on the improved cow breeds I own.”
Despite Asmeraye’s experience, there are limited number of improved livestock breeds in Ethiopia. According to the information obtained from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), there are close to one million improved breeds in the country. This is very small especially when one notes that Artificial Insemination (AI), a technology that helps to improve animal breeding, and productivity was introduced to the country 60 years ago. In addition, out of the total number of livestock, only 2Pct are pure breeds.
On the other hand, Ethiopia owns the largest native and unimproved livestock population in Africa, with 44.3 million cattle (of which 10 million are cows), 23.6 million sheep, 23.3 million goat, 2.31 million camel and 42 million hens, according to the Central Statistical Agency’s data. Although the livestock sector constitutes 40Pct of the agricultural output and 15Pct of the national gross domestic product, its potential has not been unleashed due to lower productivity and traditional management.
As a result, per capita consumption of milk and meat in Ethiopia stands at 23.7 liters and 7.2 kilograms, respectively. This is less than the average 32 litter of milk as well as 9.0 kilogram of meat per capita consumption in most African countries. In addition, Ethiopian cattle offer 105 kilograms of meat per head; even lower than the average of 120 kilograms of meat for eastern Africa countries. In total, Ethiopian livestock population produces 1.83 million metric tons of milk, 556,000 metric tons of meat and 74,000 metric tons of egg, annually for a total population of 77.2 million; the figures are calculated on the basis of the total number of Ethiopian population in 2006.
This lower productivity and supply could not meet the increasing demand of the fast growing population which now stands at 100 million. As a result, the price of food in general and that of animal products have skyrocketed affecting the precarious food security and nutrition level nationally.
No wonder why currently hotels and supermarkets in the capital import a bulk of their livestock products. It’s for the dearth of quality, affordable and available livestock products in the local market. For instance, the Ethiopian Airlines disclosed recently that it imports 95Pct of livestock products worth over USD100 million annually, for its flight and catering services.
“The main reason Ethiopia imports livestock products is because different hotels, supermarkets and institutions like Ethiopian Airlines need products that meet international standards and this is totally attributed to the lower productivity [in the country in spite] of the huge livestock population in the country,” argues Getinet Asefa (PhD), Director of Livestock Research Dirat EIAR. “Manufacturing companies such as leather industries also face shortages of quality skin and hide, which forces them to import.” He added.
Increasing the productivity of livestock resources depend on effective introduction and implementation of breeding, and improvement of the management and marketing. These interventions play vital role to improve productivity and the overall value chain.
With the absence of proper breeding, management and marketing policies and practices, those who run profitable livestock farm business such as Asmeraye praise the contributions of Addis Livestock Production and Productivity Improvement Service (ALPPIS), a pioneer and among the few private companies that imports conventional or unsexed semen, female sexed semen as well as embryo and live improved breeds from internationally accredited suppliers in USA and Israel.
Established eight years ago with ETB105,000 capital by a group of experts in the livestock field, ALPPIS provides two types of semen, which have 55Pct inclination and 90Pct predictability to give heifer. ALPPIS imports internationally tested progenies. The company’s capital has currently reached ETB3 million, according to Emiru Zewdie (PhD), General Manager of the company. Emiru is one of the few highly trained experts in animal breeding in Ethiopia.
Currently, semen technology is commercially available in many countries around the world and is mostly used in dairy cattle breeding. Studies conducted on the subject reveal that genetic improvement on local livestock assures the farmer heifers that produce more milk and meat. Different results from large-scale field trial carried out in Europe indicate significant improvement in the performance of especially sexed semen, which is 87Pct higher than the improvement achieved without semen.
Even though there are 32 types of top cattle genetic materials globally, Emiru’s company imports genetic materials that have low quality due to the high price of the best breeder types. “The introduction of such technology itself is a big opportunity. Importing the semen is better than importing the improved cattle breed, which is the common practice in the past,” argues Emiru.
Due to the rising demand for the best cow genetic materials, the company’s supply has doubled to 7,000 doses of semen per year in eight years. So far, it has supplied 40,000 doses. The company sells a dose of conventional semen (which has 55Pct inclination) between ETB110 to ETB200; it sells 90Pct predictable semen for ETB1,500.
Genesis Farm, a company initially established by three foreigners and an Ethiopian, and currently fully owned by Ethiopians, is also one of ALPPIS’s customers. Genesis currently owns 80 improved cows and 20 heifers, from which it produces over 600 liters of milk daily and processes it. Its packed milk and yogurt are well-known brands that have huge demand in the capital and beyond. The quality in packaging which makes storage easy and their reasonable rates has earned them a good name.
“This is because of the cows’ quality and controlled feeds,” says Worku Getachew, an artificial insemination technician at Genesis Farm. “The company is planning to increase the number of cows, to meet the demand for processed milk products.”
Indeed, the local cow breeders give three liters of milk per day, while the improved cows, for instance, those owned by Genesis, give up to 30 liters per day. This shows that milk productivity changes gradually with the adoption of technologies that improve productivity.
Due to the high demand, currently Emiru is planning to produce and sell heifers of the improved breeders instead of selling the semen. An improved breeder of cow is sold for up to ETB45,000, while the best local breeder costs up to ETB30,000. “When we first brought the sexed semen, we did not expect its demand will increase [this much],” he says. “But the demand is increasing [faster than expected] at this moment.”
However, Emiru says the semen business has no profit, due to costs in importing and storage. “So far, our profit is coming from our consulting service and from selling veterinary medicines. If a proper breeding policy and practice were in place [in the country], a lot of improvements could have been achieved].”
In addition to the limited availability of improved cattle breeds, stakeholders argue that the biggest problem is lack of clear policy and strategy to distribute improved varieties and lack of capacity to deploy the expertise to oversee the practice and management. “The attention given for the livestock sector is very minimal,” said Emiru.
This lack of best practices and policy, in turn, created a mismatch between the demand and supply of livestock breeds even in areas were farmers and people who run commercial livestock businesses are well aware about the benefits of improved livestock breeds.
For instance, according to a Dairy Technology Assessment Analyses (DTAA) published in 2016 by the EIAR, in Arsi, Bale, Hararghe, Selale and Gojam, 88Pct of the households are aware of dairy technology, 54Pct of them have information through extension workers, 34Pct through fellow farmers and 4Pct through direct engagement with research centers. However, due to the unavailability of improved breeds, farmers and business owners could not benefit from the technology, they still keep the old native breeds of low productivity.
“The farmers are awakening especially in poultry, but there is [a lack of] quality technology supply while the management remains traditional,” argues Getinet. “Awareness creation activities should go hand in hand with the supply of improved breeds.”
Some efforts have been seen in this regard. For instance, the government in collaboration with international partners launched a training for AI technicians last year. The programme, scheduled to be given for five years, will involve 100 Woredas in four states, with 147,000 farmers. The programme focuses on quality semen distribution and increasing livestock productivity. These four states are selected because of their right agro ecology for dairy production according to Zelalem Yilma, AI expert at ILRI and coordinator of the public private partnership programme. A total of 400 AI technicians both from the public and private sector will be involved in the training.
The programme incentivizes AI technicians based on their performance of confirmed pregnancy and number of calves produced. “The biggest challenge is the lack of proper documentation of improved breeders’ lines, so we have planned to create national data,” Zelalem explains. “The other biggest challenge is the lack of liquid nitrogen. Even though there are some 20 plants in the country, most of them are not working.”
According to the agreement signed by the government and its partners, the government will allocate budget after the programme is completed, in order to ensure its continuity.
Despite such efforts, the limited availability of improved livestock breeds challenges the farmers’ ability to purchase them. According to the same assessment, due to the high price of cross breed cows, for instance, which ranges between ETB20,000 to ETB60,000, based on the cow’s age, condition and parity, farmers and businesses are unable to purchase the improved livestock. “The fundamental cause for this phenomenon is acute shortage of supply caused due to limited capacity of research centers as well as unavailability of reliable and capacitated formal heifer rearing and distribution centers in the country,” concludes the DTAA analysis.
Getinet admits that research centers in the country could not meet the demand for animal breeds especially cattle. “The supply of improved breeds must be fast and effective, which calls for building the capacity as well as increasing the number of research centers.”
Unlike agricultural crops, in which 17 research centers are working to improve the seed productivity and quality on top of different public seed enterprises and cooperatives involved in the sector, there are very few research centers in Ethiopia that work on improving livestock varieties. These few centers have very limited capacity as well.
Holeta Agricultural Research Center has two farms on which it experiments with dairy and beef cattle breeds while Debrezeit Agricultural Research Center works on poultry. Werer, Gode and Debre Berhan Research Centers work on goat, camel and sheep, respectively. In addition, there are three centers working in the field at Borena, Holeta and Sebeta.
These centers supply conventional livestock breeds with comparatively small price. Some of them are cross-breed with local varieties at the centers. “There are tons of researches already done on productive breeders. The centers’ task is to [identify] the most productive breeder, multiply, and provide them for farmers, with all the technical support, follow-up and detail documentation,” explains Emiru.
In terms of productivity of beef cattle breeds, no improved breed is imported in Ethiopia so far. Even though these centers consider Harar, Borena and Welkait for their breeds for comparatively higher meat productivity, experts say their progeny is not identified yet.
According to Tamiru Negera, Cattle Productivity and Registration Officer at the National Artificial Insemination Center (NAIC), the center was the only government institution that supply improved genetic materials. NAIC was established in 1981. Later, as farmers in the country understood the benefits of AI, the demand for the service surged. That’s why the NAIC established additional semen collection center in four states. The centers also select best breeds from the local market and multiply with the local in order to distribute it to farmers in addition to importing semen and live breeders in order to crossbreed them with the locals.
“The government [as of recently] started to give attention to the sector since the supply of improved breed is essential to improve the productivity of the livestock [resource] in the country,” explains Tamiru. “To realize this, it recently established the Ministry of Livestock and Fishery Development (MOLFD), which is an essential institution to improve the contribution of livestock for the national economy.”
The MoLFD has prepared a draft policy document that will govern the sector. The draft states that a regulation is needed even ahead of the proclamation, which is also under preparation, to address two urgent issues in the sector.
With the ratification and subsequent implementation of the policy, the supply of improved breeds is expected to increase in accordance with the growth trajectory of the country. In this regard, the policy is expected to support the implementation of large and quality productive breeding programme by involving investors, research centers and higher education institutions, to select and improve local breeders as well as create synthetic breed formation.
An expert who talked to EBR on the condition of anonymity, however, says although the policy is sound, the productivity of the sector is still at a stake. “With the current capacity of extension workers, nationwide breed distribution will be ineffective,” he argues. Rather, creating large multiplying ranches at selected strategic areas and distributing them for farmers is a better way. In addition, the policy should be effectively implemented, to [effect fundamental] changes in the livestock productivity.”
There is also a need to regulate and control improved breeders and breeding materials, some of which are endangering indigenous livestock varieties because they were imported irresponsibly. “Highly damaging microorganisms were imported and this is pushing to ratify the regulation urgently, even before the approval of the proclamation,” stress the draft policy. Insiders also told EBR that there are companies and individuals importing genetic materials whose congruency to Ethiopian environment is never tested and unknown so far.
Up on the ratification of the policy, separate facilities will be prepared for breeding of pure local and exotic livestock to avert uncontrolled mating. Already imported breeds and the once that will be imported in future will be registered and their whereabouts and purpose will be monitored by appropriate government institutions.
“Even though different institutions have been importing and cross breeding cattle, sheep, goat and poultry to increase productivity, the effort could not show satisfying result due to the wrong selection and seamless breeding efforts,” argues Getinet. “This policy and regulation will provide reliable legal framework to implementing institutions that can effectively support the productivity effort by placing appropriate livestock breeding system.” EBR

5th Year • May 2017 • No. 50

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ethiopian Business Review | EBR is a first-class and high-quality monthly business magazine offering enlightenment to readers and a platform for partners.

2Q69+2MM, Jomo Kenyatta St, Addis Ababa

Tsehay Messay Building

Contact Us

+251 961 41 41 41