Genetic improvement of ruminant livestock in West Africa
The demand for meat and milk in developing countries is expected to
double by 2020, principally due to population growth and urbanisation. If the anticipated demand for livestock products has to be met, this will have to
come from increased productivity of individual animals rather than from expansion of animal numbers that could not be accommodated by the resource base. The genetic improvement of these livestock represents one
of the most sustainable methods of increasing productivity and efficiency of production. For low-input livestock production systems that are predominant in tsetse-infested areas in West Africa, trypanotolerant
livestock offer a viable option for bridging the gap between demand and supply. Recent changes in macro economic policies in the countries in the region have created new opportunities for profitable domestic dairy
production, especially in urban and peri-urban centres where rising effective demand and reduced disease risk justify crossbreeding of indigenous ruminants with exotic dairy breeds.
Pure breeding N'Dama cattle, Djallonke sheep and West African Dwarf goats
The overall purpose of the genetic improvement programme at ITC and in its
mandate countries is to increase animal output per head among trypanotolerant N'Dama cattle, Djallonke sheep and West African Dwarf goats while retaining their resistance to diseases. The improvement
schemes are designed as a three-tier scheme: nucleus – multiplier – village production /farmer. Breeding goals have been set to increase milk and meat production for cattle and goats, to increase meat production in
sheep. Quantitative genetic methodology is used, selection is based on BLUP procedure using an animal model, which includes all available
information of relatives and considers all (measurable) environmental factors. The breeding programme tailored to involve stakeholders participation, including the definition of breeding goals, uses simple
infrastructure and logistics and is therefore deemed inexpensive for implementation by NARS.
For cattle in The Gambia, the breeding stock is at any time about 400 adult females and 5 breeding males.
About 200 calves are located at ITC's station Keneba and 450 young animals are located at Bansang in a high tsetse challenge area. Selection of males and females is based on total breeding value being the sum
of breeding value for daily weight gain and breeding value for milk yield. Each of the sheep and goats breeding flocks is made up of about 200 breeding females, six breeding males and 200 suckling and young
animals. The cattle breeding programme is complemented by an annual screening of village cows with respect to milk yield. For both cattle and small ruminants, village multiplication herds and flocks have been
established to receive breeding males from the nucleus and to sell rams, bucks and bulls to village producers. ITC is also collaborating with national institutions to reorganise and reactivate pure breeding
programmes in the region with particular emphasis on the N'Dama cattle breeding scheme in Boké, Guinea.