Smallholder dairy systems in the Kenya highlands: cattle population dynamics under increasing intensification
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Bebe, B.O.; Udo, H.M.J.; Rowlands, G.J.; Thorpe, W. 2003. Smallholder dairy systems in the Kenya highlands: cattle population dynamics under increasing intensification. Livestock Production Science. 82(2-3): 211-221
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/1574
A cross-sectional stratified random sample survey of 1755 households in the Kenya highlands was conducted between June 1996 and April 1998 to quantify cattle population dynamics in smallholder herds. The free-, semi-zero- and zero-grazing systems practised represented increasing levels of intensification of the farms. Additional data were collected in a follow-up survey of 50 households from the main survey sample. In the main survey there were 987 cattle-keeping households, of which 44, 33 and 23% practised zero-, semi-zero- and free-grazing systems, respectively. Compared to free-grazing, zero-grazing farms had a higher proportion of cows in the herd (0.62 vs. 0.51) but lower calving rates (0.52 vs. 0.69), higher losses of potential heifer replacements (0.47 vs. 0.38), fewer heifer replacements as a proportion of cows disposed (0.46 vs. 1.11) and shorter productive life (3.8 vs. 4.8 years). Semi-zero-grazing farms had intermediate performance. They and the zero-grazing farms were unable to maintain their herds without acquiring replacements externally. Animal class mortality rates were high (7–19%) regardless of grazing system practised. Diseases accounted for the largest proportion of animal exits: 85% of heifer-calves, 38% of heifers and 36% of cows. According to farmers’ ranking, East Coast fever and Anaplasmosis diseases assumed less importance with a shift from free-grazing to zero-grazing system. A household’s needs for cash was the second most frequent reason after disease for animal exits: 33% of heifers and 27% of cows, indicating the importance of cattle as liquid capital assets. The results showed that many zero-grazed herds required external sources of replacement animals to sustain their populations. Solutions to this constraint will include technical and institutional innovations to serve small-scale farms that may result in greater complementarities between the small- and large-scale production components of the dairy sub-sector.