Smallholder farmers’ skills and knowledge about modern fattening practices in West Gojjam zone, similar to other zones in the Amhara region, vary significantly. In order to alleviate this gap, the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project together with the Amhara Regional Livestock Agency and Mecha District Office of Agriculture, organized a half day ‘fattened cattle competition’ event in Merawi town, 35 km southeast of Bahir Dar on 7 April 2015. Sixty smallholder fatteners from Mecha District presented 123 fattened cattle for the competition.
In Amhara region, modern cattle fattening is a recent development. The majority of fatteners do not have adequate skills and knowledge on animal selection, healthcare and proper feeding techniques. Furthermore, due to limited linkages amongst smallholder farmers and traders, farmers are not encouraged to increase the scale of fattening and to produce quality meat. On the other hand, traders in Bahir Dar town (the regional capital) complain about the shortage of quality meat to satisfy customers’ needs.
The LIVES project in collaboration with partner institutions is working on ensuring the economic well-being of male and female smallholders engaged in cattle fattening by transforming traditional practices to be more market oriented. So far, efforts have been made to develop the capacity of value chain actors through short-term training, coaching and mentoring as well as demonstrations of new technologies and approaches (e.g. introduction of improved fodder varieties to alleviate feed shortage). Similarly, techniques of improving feed quality and feed conservation such as chopping; urea molasses multi-mineral block and silage making have been introduced. In addition, LIVES availed a considerable number of reading and audiovisual material in the agricultural knowledge centres established by the project.
During the fattened cattle competition, the animals that were presented were evaluated by three groups of judges (experts’ group, farmers’ group and traders’ group). Evaluation criteria were body condition and age of the animal. Results from the three groups were displayed for participants and were then combined and re-evaluated to set the final rank for each animal. Animals ranked 1-5 were selected as winners. The award committee recognized owners of the animals by giving them prizes and allowing them to address the participants.
In addition, cattle owners shared lessons with each other about their good practices in terms of cattle fattening such as animal selection, healthcare, housing and feeding. Traders and producers also used the platform for market linkages and as a result traders from Bahir Dar who took part in the event went back to Mecha the next morning and bought the best animals for the Ethiopian Easter holiday. Officials from the Bureau of Agriculture and Livestock agency said the event was important in boosting animal production in Amhara and promised to facilitate similar events at higher (zonal and regional) levels in the future. This event can also trigger other districts to initiate similar ones in the future.
Contributed by Zeleke Mekuriaw, Yigzaw Desalegn, Teshome Derso and Habtemariam Assesfa.