In West Africa, the demand for fresh milk and other dairy products exceeds supply from local production. This is particularly evident in urban
centres where over 90% of milk consumed is imported.
The low local milk production is a result of many factors including the low
genetic potential for milk production of the indigenous livestock breeds and the extensive, low-input husbandry practices under which they are reared.
Milk is produced mainly for subsistence, only the excess is sold in the urban areas/towns through vendors despite the high demand and good prices for milk and dairy products.
ITC recognised the above scenario during several years of field research on the productivity of the N'Dama (1984 –1989), and in 1994, the Centre
embarked on a pilot on-station trial with the objective to study the productivity of F1 (N'Dama x Exotic dairy breed) crossbred cows with a view to assess their suitability for
smallholder dairying in the peri-urban areas in the sub-region.
The Holstein Friesian and the Jersey breeds were used in the study. A continuous F1 breeding scheme
was adopted as the F1 generation carries the full heterosis effect and proved to be superior to all other crosses. Deep frozen semen was imported from Europe and the on-station N'Dama cows were
inseminated at pre-determined times following oestrus synchronisation. A total of 142 F1 cattle (males and females) were produced in three crops between 1994 and 1997. The first batch of females have recently
completed their fourth lactation and a comprehensive analysis of the data collected is forthcoming.
Based on the on-station experiences and the enthusiasm of the general
public in The Gambia, the project was extended to on-farm to involve the farmer in a participatory approach. The Kombo districts of Western division
(coastal area) were selected as the project area because of the low risk of trypanosomosis, the single most important vector – borne disease in The Gambia.
In the first year of on farm work (1999/2000) a total of 43 farmers in 15
villages registered 210 cows of which 178 were inseminated. A calving rate of 34% was achieved. The main constraints experienced during the implementation of the activity were:
Conflict between herdsmen and cattle owners over use of cows: oestrus synchronisation requires
weaning of the calve, which in turn terminates lactation, hence no milk available for the herdsmen. This conflict could in some instances not be resolved and therefore some farmers could not present
as many cows as they intended for synchronisation.
Selected animals already pregnant: isolation of village cows from stray bulls poses a problem for most herd owners.
Lack of preparation of cows for insemination: poor nutritional state and often in anoestrs.
Despite these initial problems, a foundation stock for ITC's research and development work for dairy
development in The Gambia has now been establish on-farm and on-station. The on-farm activity is replicated in selected areas in the Republic of Guinea Conakry.
The on-going activities for the year 2002 include:
- Continuous on-farm production of F1 crossbred calves by artificial insemination following oestrus synchronisation
- Evaluation of the performance of F1 crossbred cattle reared on farm in Gambia, Guinea and Senegal
- Evaluation of incidence of mastitis as an emerging disease of intensification of production systems in local and crossbred cows
This development of small scale dairy enterprises is supported by a recently approved project introducing milk processing units under the Village Milk System Programme of FAO