Earlier this year, ILRI and ICARDA joined national partners in two ‘feed assessment’ projects in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Livestock Feeds project (funded by ACIAR) and the ‘QuickFeed‘ early win project of the Africa RISING program both set out to test a suite of rapid diagnosis tools to identify promising feed and fodder interventions.
At the recent QuickFeed synthesis meeting, participants identified more intensive sheep production as a strong opportunity to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.
There is strong demand for sheep, particularly for young, fat, heavy sheep by export and domestic urban markets. This demand cannot be met by the current traditional sheep production system. Most sheep offered for sale are of variable size, age and body condition. This is related to the way sheep are fed, managed and bred. Sheep tend to be left to graze on natural pastures and fallow crop land, and only rarely get additional feeds such as stored crop residues and fodder crops. Grazing also leads to disease and parasite problems and a lack of control over breeding, all of which contribute to producing variable products which do not fit with market demand.
There is an opportunity to assist smallholder farmers to produce fatter sheep for sale and develop efficient smallholder sheep fattening operations. This requires investments in improving feed supply, animal health and management, breeding and marketing support. Developing smallholder sheep fattening will, in turn, increase the demand for high-quality lambs for fattening and so provide an impetus for intensifying sheep breeding to supply the high-quality lambs needed for fattening.
Story by Werner Stur