By Solomon Gizaw and Mesfin Tefera
The introduction of improved fodder species by the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project is helping smallholder livestock farmers in the country take up livestock fattening to boost their incomes.
In South Wollo zone of Amhara, Habil Abdu operates a specialized goat fattening enterprise in the Gerba rural kebele. Unlike in most fattening operations in the region, he finishes culled does for market. Yet, what makes Habil’s fattening operation exemplary lies in his market-oriented fattening practice. Traditional livestock fattening commonly involves fattening of a single or couple of yearling males or a culled buck using unbalanced fattening rations, with minimal market insight. Planned production using appropriate inputs and targeting niche markets is also uncommon among smallholders.
Habil bought six old does in May 2015, each for about ETB 600 (USD 30). The goats were fed intensively for a period of three weeks. The well-finished goats were sold on average for ETB 1100 (USD 55) each. He is currently (June 2015) in the second cycle of finishing another seven old does.
Habil’s planned goat fattening operation was motivated by the introduction of intensive fodder production by the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) in Gerba village.
He fed his goats a fodder-based ration consisting of the protein-rich alfalfa and high-energy grasses including Single Grass (Brachiaria Decumbens), Napier and Desho grasses, which he grows in his farm. He also sells fodder and shares forage planting materials freely with neighboring farmers. From his first harvest, Habil sold Napier grass worth ETB 4000-5000 (USD 200-250) and gave fodder planting materials to seven farmers. Habil’s farm is also a good example of smallholder farm intensification.
Smallholder farm intensification requires business orientation and intervention across the value chain. At the production level; larger scale of production, multiple cycles of fattening per year, short economical duration of fattening are key considerations. Efficient delivery of affordable inputs, services and information on niche markets serve as a pull factor for increased productivity and production. The ‘LIVES approach’ includes capacity building of value chain actors including skill training and coaching and mentoring. The project is also introducing new and improved technologies such as improved forage variety and seeds and establishing linkages with inputs/service providers and profitable market outlets.