STRATEGIES FOR DAIRY CATTLE BREEDING TO ENSURE SUSTAINABLE MILK PRODUCTION 1

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1 STRATEGIES FOR DAIRY CATTLE BREEDING TO ENSURE SUSTAINABLE MILK PRODUCTION 1 Prof. Ntombizakhe Mpofu Department of Agricultural Sciences, Lupane State University, P O Box AC 255, Bulawayo Tel: /40; Mobile: ; Fax: ; mpofun@nust.ac.zw; NtombizakheMlilo@yahoo.co.uk ABSTRACT Commercial dairy production in Zimbabwe has been based on foreign dairy breeds. The paper describes strategies that have been adopted in Zimbabwe for the development of the dairy industry in the large scale and smallholder sectors. The industry was established through imports of genetic material. In the 1990 s, a selection program was set up but it ran for a short while. Strategies based on imports, although they ensure fast genetic progress, are not economically viable in the long term. It is recommended that import strategies be maintained in the short term to build up the populations of dairy breeds. However, it is important to start planning for the resuscitation of selection programs. These programs have a chance to succeed as Zimbabwe has the necessary breeding infrastructure like artificial insemination industry, milk recording, animal identity and registry, research and extension. Most of the infrastructure is privately owned. This infrastructure, however, needs to be supported by government. Support could be in the form of cooperation with government institutions or of grants. The paper suggests possible forms of cooperation between the public and private sector and within the private sector. 1.0 INTRODUCTION The important aspects of dairy production that should be considered in the resuscitation of the dairy industry in Zimbabwe include: The animals they will use in production and the strategies for improving the animals. Animal health and the required services. Animal reproduction and related services. Animal nutrition and feeding. Milking management and dairy hygiene. Milk and dairy products processing and marketing. Funding of dairy production and activities. The education of farmers in all aspects of dairy production. This paper addresses breeding for dairy production. It is important to look at the dairy industry in a broad context the current dairy industry and the base from which the industry is likely to grow. In that regard, the paper will address breeding strategies for the different dairy production sectors in Zimbabwe. There are three such sectors, although not all of them currently produce milk for commercial purposes. They are the communal, the smallholder and the commercial sectors. Before going into what programs to implement, it is important to mention traits of economic importance in dairy production. Past and current breeding programs for each sector will be described. Breeding infrastructure required for the implementation of 1 Paper presented at the Zimbabwe National Dairy Symposium Resuscitating the Dairy Industry in Zimbabwe. Held in Harare. July 5 th to 6 th

2 breeding programs will be described and so will be the changes that occurred within the breeding industry. Recommendations on the level and type of participation by various stakeholders in ensuring the success of breeding services will be made. Recommendations on strategies to follow in the short, medium and long term are made. 2.0 TRAITS OF ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE The traits of importance in dairy production include: Age and weight at first calving. Fast growth rate and early maturity are important as they determine the start of reproduction in animals. A cow that reaches puberty early can be mated and start producing milk at an early age. The cow will have a good chance of a long productive life. Exotic breeds are mostly early maturing. The age at first calving in Zimbabwe is 24 months in the dairy sector. Indigenous breeds calve for the first time at 30 to 33 months. Milk yield has heritability ranging between 0.25 to The figure calculated using Zimbabwean data was 0.41 (Mpofu, 1987a) showing the high variation in the Zimbabwean population which could have been influenced by the varying sources of genetic material. Milk quality as measured through fat and protein content is strongly influenced by breeding and heritability figures are usually above The heritability for milk fat was 0.23 for Zimbabwean data (Mpofu, 1987a) Breeding for disease resistance, particularly for mastitis is important. Heritability estimates for mastitis range between 0.10 and Calving interval has a low to medium heritability with little influence through breeding (Mpofu, 1987b). It is influenced mainly by management. The survival rate of the dairy animals. 3.0 PAST AND CURRENT DAIRY BREEDING STRATEGIES 3.1 The Communal Sector Farmers who live in communal areas keep cattle for various reasons and one of these is milk production for home consumption. This sector owns most of the cattle in the country. They use indigenous breeds for milk production. Local breeds include the Tuli, the Nguni and the Mashona cattle. These breeds have been evaluated for beef production but little work has been done to evaluate them for dairy production. Although these breeds are well adapted to marginal production conditions, indications are that they have poor dairy characteristics. They cannot be relied on for the expansion of the dairy industry. They can be improved for dairy production through existing breeding techniques. Improving the breeds through selection has a limited chance of success due to the following reasons: The dairy characteristics are very poor, e.g. milk yield per lactation and lactation length. The starting point would be too low. Poor breeding infrastructure in that sector e.g. recording schemes, use of artificial breeding methods like artificial insemination. Small herd sizes will not allow intense selection resulting in low genetic progress. With small herd sizes, farmers may be reluctant to cull inferior animals. In addition, animals have multiple uses and therefore it may be difficult to convince farmers to cull animals based on milk characteristics alone. However, farmers can be advised to divide their herds into dairy and non-dairy and then select for dairy improvement in their 2

3 dairy herd. When animals of low genetic merit are kept and when selection intensities are low, low and even negative genetic progress will be realised. Although communal farmers favour or keep indigenous breeds, many of them, due to economic forces and various extension interventions, are investigating the use of other genotypes and have been practising crossbreeding. 3.2 The Smallholder Sector The smallholder dairy sector has been developing and growing mainly from the communal sector communal farmers going into market-oriented dairy production. This sector has been practising crossbreeding. The reason for taking this path is that local cattle, as already been discussed in 3.1 above, are not suited for intensive dairy production. Purebred (foreign) dairy cattle, on the other hand, are by their nature, not suitable for marginal environments. The compromise was, therefore, crossbreeding of local cattle with foreign dairy cattle. Crossbreeding for dairy production has been investigated and evaluated in many African, Asian and Latin American countries (McDowell et al., 1996; Taneja, 1999). Based on the findings of the investigations carried out elsewhere, crossbreeding was adopted in Zimbabwe for this and the communal sector. Successes in the communal and smallholder sector have been realised and will be discussed in another presentation. These successes are important as they are a base for the growth of the commercial sector. 3.3 The Large-Scale Commercial Sector The commercial sector is characterised by high levels of production which are made possible by the use of foreign dairy breeds and high inputs to improve the production environment. This sector has adopted various breeding schemes over the years Importation of Genetic Material The commercial dairy sector was established through the importation of genetic material. Initial imports were from Europe and imports were mainly live animals. The live animal imports were replaced by imports of semen and later embryos. Imports later came mainly from the North America. These imports involved the use of scarce resources. Controls were introduced and imports had to be approved by a Livestock Improvement Council. Farmers who were members of the Milk recording Scheme were allowed to import. The disadvantage of imports lies in problems associated with genotype by environment interaction (G x E) the different expression of genotypes over environments. Mpofu et al (1989) demonstrated the importance of G x E in commercial dairy production in Zimbabwe using data of bulls with daughters in Zimbabwe and the USA. There is a need to adjust breeding values of animals evaluated in differing environments. Importing genetic material is still used as a strategy is Zimbabwe Local Breeding Scheme Zimbabwe has had a milk recording scheme since The scheme collected production data which was used mainly for herd management and for food policy formulation. An animal evaluation project, funded by the National Association of Dairy Farmers with assistance from the Netherlands Royal Dairy Syndicate, was run in 1986 when records collected through the milk recording scheme were evaluated for use in estimating breeding values for both bulls and cows. Breeding values were calculated using a sire model. Changes in the milk recording scheme that came with Canadian funding saw a change from the use of a sire model to the use of a more advanced animal model developed in Canada. 3

4 The success of the 1986 project resulted in the introduction of a dairy progeny testing scheme in The scheme was run for the Holstein and Jersey breeds. The objectives of the scheme were given as to breed cows that are of sound dairy confirmation and are high producers of good quality milk. Breeders, through their breed societies, nominated several young bulls for testing. The breed societies inspected the bulls to evaluate them for type. This information, together with pedigree information for production and linear traits was used by a Sire Evaluation Committee to select bulls to be tested. At the inception of the program, six Holstein bulls and one Jersey bull were tested each year in participating herds. The owners of these herds were contracted to offer 18 percent of their cows for mating to young bulls each year and to rear and record production to the end of their first lactation all the resulting heifer calves. It was expected that each bull would have 80 to 90 daughters with completed lactations, given the population size. Appropriate models (developed in 1986) were used to analyse the data to calculate proofs for both bulls and cows. The number of bulls to be selected out of those tested was not fixed, therefore the selection intensity was not predetermined. The first group of bulls tested was from embryos imported from the USA. They were genetically better than the bulls that were already available in Zimbabwe, so non were culled (a selection intensity of zero). The proportion of cows mated to test bulls was low (18 %) as farmers were not willing to risk high use of untested bulls. In addition, a lot of emphasis was placed on the accuracy of evaluation (bulls were expected to have 80 to 90 daughters). This all resulted in a small number of bulls being tested and the inability to cull any. Mpofu et al (1993a) evaluated several breeding strategies for the dairy industry in Zimbabwe. Strategies that relied on imports gave higher genetic gain when compared to those based on local selection programs. However, they were not economically viable in the long term (Mpofu et al., 1993b) 4.0 THE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR DAIRY BREEDING Facilities necessary for sustainable breeding schemes include: A milk recording scheme to collect performance data. An authority recording and registering ancestry. An organisation or organisations that administers the use of artificial breeding techniques (artificial insemination and/or embryo transfer). Research and extension. Big enough number of recorded dairy cows Performance and Identity Recording Milk recording in Zimbabwe started in 1926 and an official scheme started in Membership of the scheme has fluctuated over the years. It stood at 20 per cent of the total number of producers and 13 percent of the total cow population in Even at that time there was realisation that the membership is low but it could not be raised due to the fact that old and tedious methods of recording were used. Outdated methods of collecting information, of testing milk samples, and of data processing were used. The scheme was changed in 1993 with funding from Canada (Banga, 1998). The new scheme saw farmers getting regular and meaningful reports and an option of either joining a fully-supervised or a partially-supervised scheme. The Canadian system of recording was replaced by the IRIS system developed in the Netherlands. The IRIS system has a traceability component. It collects and analyses the usual production and management information as well as mastitis data. The commercial dairy sector 4

5 has shrunk from over 400 dairy farms to about 280. Of these 280, about 72 participate in a milk recording scheme about 25 percent. The recording scheme was run only for the large scale farmers up to 1993 when recording was introduced in the smallholder sector (Mpofu, 2002). Some communal and smallholder farmers, although they know their animals individually (they have small herds), may not actually collect any records. With small herd size for these farmers, it was found necessary to run group recording schemes as opposed to farmers joining as individuals (Mpofu, 2002). Group recording and breeding has been recommended for Kenya (Mwacharo and Drucker, 2005). The smallholder sector is still participating in milk recording, although with problems that will be discussed in full in another paper. The Livestock Identification Trust (LIT) is an organisation that runs a unique identification system for livestock in Zimbabwe. It also runs the data processing for the dairy recording system. The Zimbabwe Herd Book (ZHB) was introduced in 1982 and it is the sole legal registry of all livestock. The ZHB caters for imported animals and animals born from AI and ova transplants and it also does blood-typing for parentage checking. Dairy breeds are represented by breed societies which are affiliated to the Zimbabwe Herd Book. Such organisations are important as they ensure correct identity of animals and this identity is important in breeding. Animal identity and performance recording systems, to be successful and to yield the expected results need to be run efficiently and professionally. There are private and government run schemes. In this country, animal identity is run privately yet dairy recording used to be staterun. Mpofu in 1992 visited Australia to study a privately run dairy recording scheme with the aim of recommending an appropriate administrative structure for dairy recording in Zimbabwe. The conclusions arrived at were that government structures are usually not very responsive to needs and changes in needs of recording systems, making it important to privatise them. However, government needs to be involved both for development of policies and strategies as well as for finance (government grants). A Zimbabwe Dairy Herd Improvement Association (ZDHIA) was formed in 1993 and its council which comprised various stakeholders was formed to manage ZDHIA. ZDHIA made a joint venture with the government to run the milk recording scheme. The funding of the scheme came mainly from fees and subsidised by levies and government contributions. ZDHIA changed to Zimbabwe Dairy Services Association (ZDSA) in ZDSA operated till September Currently, milk recording services are privately run. Systems that are in place need to be reviewed periodically to develop them further. The review should be both technical and administrative The Role of Reproductive Technologies Artificial insemination (AI) was introduced into Zimbabwe in Then, it was used mainly by pedigree breeders. The use of AI increased by 1982 when it was used in most commercial herds. By 1985, 80 percent of Holstein herds in the Milk Recording Scheme practised AI. The AI industry was supported by two AI companies. The semen used was from both locally-bred bulls and foreign bulls. The high price of foreign semen limits its use to successful herds. However, imported semen is getting scarce due to foreign currency shortages. Embryo transfer started in the early 1980 s. Embryos were imported mainly from North America and some European countries. Multiple ovulation and embryo transfer was practised 5

6 mainly in pedigree breeder herds to produce many offspring for sale from high producing cows. The donor cows were usually inseminated with semen from foreign bulls. Success rates for frozen embryos using surgical transfers were as high as 63 percent and for non-surgical transfers were 40 percent (Zimbabwe Holstein World, 1986). The primary reason for embryo transfer and embryo imports were to produce bulls. Importing embryos was cheaper than importing live animals, health regulations for importing embryos were less restrictive than those for importing live animals. In addition, embryos were favoured as the animals would be born in the environment in which they were expected to produce. The reproduction technologies are crucial for dairy breeding. The AI industry is still running in Zimbabwe. There is a need to train dairy farmers on use of AI and to promote the use of AI in Zimbabwe. This will ensure access to and use of internationally available good genetic material Livestock Improvement Committee This was an official committee of the Ministry of Agriculture. Among other things, it approved the importation of genetic material into Zimbabwe. Imports were passed for herds that were members of the milk recording scheme and those that participated in the dairy progeny testing scheme. Imports are currently approved through veterinary services. The need to control importation of genetic material exists, partly to ensure that good quality material is brought in and partly to ensure the proper use of scarce foreign currency resources. 5.0 RECOMMENDATIONS 5.1. Breeding Infrastructure Breeding infrastructure exists in Zimbabwe. However, services need to be improved in the smallholder sector. For example, AI services should be improved. The use of fresh semen, where freezing facilities do not exist, can be considered as was done in Tanzania (Mpofu, 2003). The culture of animal recording needs to be further developed. The sector also needs a reliable source of dairy cows and programs need to be further developed for reliable sources. Most of the breeding services are privately run but there is need for government support. Such support can be in research and finance. The government can finance research projects at research institutions and universities. It can also give grants to breeding organisations. Universities can be involved in dairy breeding in various ways which include: Training farmers in the use of reproduction technologies and in dairy breeding. Training of farmers has been identified as a pre-requisite for sustainable dairy development (Babyegeya, 1996). Communal and smallholder farmers should be specifically targeted as they are the base from which the commercial dairy industry can grow. Continuous evaluation and re-modelling of the milk recording services. Changes that have taken place in milk recording have been initiated by dairy farmers and implemented with the assistance of outside organisations. This has helped and has ensured compliance with international systems. However, there is some work which can be done locally. Analysis of data generated through the milk recording scheme. This is the norm in many countries and there is usually mutual benefits for organisations involved. Research on topics identified in conjunction with the industry. 6

7 Private organisations that run different services within Zimbabwe should pool their resources. As an example, it is important to link data bases produced by ZHB, LIT and DHI for the purposes of animal evaluation. Use of information from a wide range of relatives in the evaluation of animals is particularly important for this population size as bulls are not likely to have many offspring. Zimbabwe should continue to build strategic relationships with outside institutions within and outside the region. Regional collaboration could be in data processing and analysis Breeding Programs In the Short-Term The dairy industry can grow out of the communal and smallholder sector by farmers in this sector expanding their dairy herds through crossbreeding. This growth has to be supported by education of farmers on which crosses to keep and the disadvantages of different type of crossbred genotypes. In Malawi, there were suggestions to classify farmers into capacity classes and then recommend the crosses they should keep (Ministry of Agriculture, 1996). This allows farmers to experience manageable growing pains and not be overwhelmed and leave the business prematurely. Syrstad (1996) concluded that the optimum point of upgrading lies between 50 and 75 percent exotic breeding for milk production. As the cost of inputs and farmer s experience improves, a farmer will increasingly want crosses with higher levels of exotic blood and higher yield levels. The supply of dairy animals for this sector has been a problem for various dairy development programs (Mpofu, 1998) and it is both a short- and long-term issue. Plans, if not already in place, need to be drawn on a ready source of genetic material for the farmers. Mpofu (2003) recommended the production of replacement heifers on farm using AI. The semen can be collected from locally reared dairy bulls when producing first crosses. Commercial dairy farmers can also mate a proportion of their dairy cows to local bulls to produce crosses and sell them to smallholder farmers. The commercial sector, given the demise of the bull testing scheme, has to rely on semen imports for genetic improvement. Due to scarce foreign currency resources, the imports have to be controlled. Herds have to meet certain criteria to import semen. Breeder herds who will, in turn supply genetic material to multiplier and producer herds, should be the ones allowed to import genetic material. Another qualifying measure should be herd production levels. Importation of semen will cater for those herds that are already operational. The importation of dairy cows from within the SADC region can be considered for farmers who want to start commercial dairy production and have been evaluated to have the required skills and resources In the Medium to Long Term The country has to increase the size of the dairy population. The increase, as has been alluded to, can be through direct entry into commercial production or growth through the communal and smallholder sector. Growth will be through grading up of local stock. A clear policy is essential so as not to raise concerns of eroding indigenous genetic resources. There is also need to increase the size of the tested herd. This will make it meaningful to start thinking of running a bull evaluation scheme. Such a scheme is likely to be economically viable in the long-term compared to short-term strategies based on imports (Mpofu et al., 1993b). 7

8 The current milk recording scheme collects information on mastitis. The data can be analysed to estimate genetic parameters for mastitis and data analysed to evaluate and select animals for tolerance / resistance to mastitis. Conventional breeding methods selection and crossbreeding have been used over centuries to improve livestock genetically. These methods, although resulting in permanent and progressive improvement of livestock, take long to realise required results, are laborious and expensive and involve large numbers of animals. Molecular genetic techniques offer opportunities of by-passing the conventional methods. An example of the use of molecular genetics would be the identification of genes coding for desirable traits and transfer such genes into germplasm of other animals. Alternatively, markers could be used in marker assisted selection. There is a need for Zimbabwe to study and develop these methods for dairy production. The most pragmatic approach would be to participate in existing international research programs through secondments of staff and later setting up local programs. 6.0 CONCLUSION The dairy breeding industry exists in Zimbabwe and this industry was set up initially to support the commercial dairy sector. This sector has been shrinking. When resuscitating this sector, it is important to pay particular attention to the dairy breeding industry and to realise that this industry has to service both the large-scale commercial and the growing smallholder sector. Cooperation amongst private sector companies and between the private and public sector is crucial. Breeding strategies in the short term can be based on imports. In the long-term, there is need to set up programs for production of crosses for the smallholder sector and to set up selection programs for the commercial sector. REFERENCES Babyegeya, W.B.M Impact of training smallholder dairy farmers to milk production in Kagera Region, Tanzania. In: Gooties, C.P and Leegwater, P.H. (eds). Prerequisites for sustainable dairy development. Proceedings of 2 nd regional refresher seminar held in Arusha, Tanzania December IAC (International Agricultural Centre), Wageningen. The Netherlands. p Banga, C Dairy herd improvement services in Zimbabwe: past, present, future. In proceedings of International Workshop on Animal Recording for Smallholders in Developing Countries. Anad, India October Editor: K.R. Trivedi, McDowell, R.E., Wilk, J.C. and Talbott, C.W Economic viability of crosses of Bos Taurus and Bos indicus for dairying in warm climates. Journal of Dairy Science 79: Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (1996). Smallholder dairy study: draft technical report. Malawi Government. Mpofu, N. 1987a. Genetic and phenotypic parameters for milk and milk fat production for Friesian/Holstein cows in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Journal of Agricultural Research 25 (2):

9 Mpofu, N. 1987b. A note on the value of correcting milk records for calving interval and days dry. Zimbabwe Journal of Agricultural Research 25 (2): Mpofu, N Sourcing of dairy cattle by smallholder dairy farmers in Southern Africa; Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Market-oriented Smallholder Dairy Project Working Document 6. ILRI International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya. 110pp Mpofu, N Dairy cattle recording in large-scale and smallholder commercial herds in Zimbabwe. In Development of successful animal recording systems for transition and developing countries Proceedings of the FAO/ICAR Seminar held in Interlaken, Switzerland 27 May ICAR Technical Series No.8. p Mpofu, N The importance of breeding infrastructure and support services: The success/ failure of artificial insemination as a method of disseminating genetic material to smallholder dairy farmers in Southern Africa. A case study in Animal Genetics Training Resource CD- ROM. Version 1. Mwai O. and Malmfors B. (eds) ILRI, (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya, and SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), Uppsala, Sweden ISBN Mpofu, N., L.R. Schaeffer and C. Trigg A study of sire by environment interaction in the Holstein breed. Journal of Dairy Science 72 (Suppl. 1): 56. Abstract Mpofu, N., C. Smith and E.B. Burnside. 1993a. Breeding strategies for genetic improvement of dairy cattle in Zimbabwe: (I) Genetic evaluation. Journal of Dairy Science 76(4): Mpofu, N., C. Smith, W. van Vuuren and E.B. Burnside. 1993b. Breeding strategies for genetic improvement of dairy cattle in Zimbabwe: (II) Economic evaluation. Journal of Dairy Science 76(4): Mwacharo, J. M. and Drucker, A.G Production objectives and management strategies of livestock keepers in South-East Kenya: implications for a breeding programme. Tropical Animal Health and Production. 37: Syrstad, O Dairy cattle crossbreeding in the tropics: choice of crossbreeding strategy. Tropical Animal Health and Production 28: Taneja, V.K Dairy breeds and selection. In Smallholder dairying in the tropics. Falvey, L and Chantalakhana, C. (eds). International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya. p

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