Do smallholder farmers benefit more from crossbred goats? 

Ayalew Kebede, Workneh. 2000. Do smallholder farmers benefit more from crossbred (Somali x Anglo-Nubian) than from indigenous goats? Doctoral Dissertation, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany.

Author's summary:
In countries like Ethiopia, development programmes on improving livestock production in the dominant smallholder sector nearly always promote improved management combined with the introduction of exotic animals for crossbreeding. The crossbreds have been promoted in many donor-funded as well as regular rural development programmes based on the thesis that they are more productive than the indigenous animals. This was also the concept of the Dairy Goat Development Programme (DGDP), which implemented a comprehensive programme of crossbreeding and improved goat management in the Ethiopian highlands between 1989 and 1997. A year after the DGDP had finished, this study was set up to test the general hypothesis that the net benefits that accrue to households from raising crossbred goats under improved management are greater than those from indigenous goats under traditional management.

The field data collection, which  was conducted between April 1998 and June 1999, followed through the management, performance and utility of 275 crossbred (Somali x Anglo-Nubian) and 537 indigenous (Somali, Hararghe Highland) goats belonging to 121 DGDP participant and 37 non-participant (control) households in Gursum and Kombolcha Districts of eastern Ethiopia. Three complementary flock-level composite productivity indices were developed, which stemmed from the actual uses of the flocks by aggregating both physical as well as quantifiable socio-economic functions of goats under subsistence production. The indices measure the monetary value of total physical net production (meat, milk, manure), and deduct the total value of purchased external inputs to produce the Values Added of the flocks. Addition of the socio-economic benefits in asset (financing) and security (insurance) to the added values gives the total benefits, or the realized Net Benefits. These were then divided by the three major resources used to produce the benefits, namely size of cultivated land, or metabolic body size of the annualised average flock size, or the estimated household labour input. The resultant three indices, referred to as Unit Net Benefits, were used to test the hypotheses in the comparison of crossbred and indigenous goats.

A large number of farmers do maintain a mix of crossbred and indigenous goats, and manage them under improved level of care in terms of feeding, health care and housing. Comparison of the net benefits from these mixed flocks with those of indigenous flocks under traditional management showed that, during the one year observation period, the mixed flocks generated significantly higher unit net benefits than the indigenous flocks for the available land and labour input (p = 0.05), but not for metabolic bodyweight. These higher unit net benefits were attributable to both the crossbred and the indigenous goats performing under improved management. The good response of indigenous goats to the improved management was confirmed by comparing them with those kept under traditional management. The improved management practices also produced significantly higher unit net benefits than traditional management for the land available (p = 0.01) and average labour input (p < 0.03). However, the assortment of crossbred goats did not produce higher unit net benefits than the indigenous goats on comparisons based on land, metabolic bodyweight or labour input. Therefore, the superiority of mixed flocks over the traditional flocks also came from the indigenous goats producing in the improved environment, particularly where land was scarce and farmers had less time for goat husbandry.

Crossbreds did, however, produce significantly (p < 0.001) more milk per doe than the indigenous goats, but not per unit bodyweight (p = 0.58) or per unit of metabolic bodyweight (p = 0.30). Similarly, the crossbreds produced significantly higher net bodyweight gains per unit bodyweight (p< 0.001) and per unit metabolic bodyweight (p <0.001) of the same goat. However, the cumulative total bodyweight losses of the crossbreds were significantly greater than those of the indigenous goats when comparisons were made per unit of bodyweight (p < 0.02) and per unit metabolic weight (p<0.005). The greater weight losses of the crossbreds lead to a higher risk of reaching critically low body conditions during the dry season.

The desirable attributes of crossbreeding had not been maintained after the DGDP because the pool was too small to maintain 50% exotic blood level in the crossbreds, which ranged from 6.25 to 75%, with the 50% crosses representing less than a quarter of the crossbred population. Shortages of crossbred breeding males also led to gradual backcrossing of the does, resulting in an increasingly mosaic mix of crossbreds. Collaborative local institutions were unable to ensure the necessary supply of the improved stock, or to deliver the necessary minimum institutional support for basic animal healthcare, improved forage and farmer training. As a result, activities relating to the introduced technologies have declined after the DGDP was phased out. However, farmers continued to sustain some components of the technology package (supplementary feeding, basic healthcare), because these enabled them to generate higher net benefits from the indigenous goats. Therefore, improvements in aggregate productivity of smallholder flocks can be achieved with indigenous goats alone and that the higher level of management can be upheld without the incentive of introducing crossbred goats. Thus, the core hypothesis that the net benefits are greater from crossbred goats than from indigenous goats under improved management is rejected.

Therefore, if appropriate technology is defined as technology whose resource use is strongly related to resource availability within the system, and whose products are more beneficial to the major consumer compared to the traditional alternative, crossbreeding is inappropriate to the smallholders. These results challenge the prevailing prejudgment in Ethiopia that indigenous goats do not adequately respond to improvements in level of care compared to crossbred goats, a judgement which in the past has been based on incomplete evaluation of productivity. The case for the introduction of crossbred goats was further eroded by the practicalities of maintaining an appropriate breeding programme.
The implications of these findings are obviously far-reaching not only in the conceptualisation of livestock development in the dominant smallholder livestock sector of countries like Ethiopia, but also in precisely defining the genetic improvement of indigenous livestock resources hitherto under traditional management.

Contact address:
Dr Workneh Ayalew 
POB 80442 
Addis Ababa 
Ethiopia 
Email: wayalew@netscape.net

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