Characterizing Ethiopian cattle production systems for disease burden analysis

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A new research study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science (Sept 2023) has addressed knowledge gaps in the biomass, productivity and value of livestock for the pastoral, mixed crop-livestock and specialized dairy systems in Ethiopia.

The study was carried out under the Global Burden of Animal Diseases program by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Cornell University, the International Livestock Research Institute, Murdoch University, the University of Gondar and the University of Liverpool.

Population size, reproductive performance, mortality, offtake and productivity of cattle were calculated from official statistics and a meta-analysis of data available in the published literature.

This information was then used to estimate biomass and output value for 2020 using a herd dynamics model.

The mixed-crop livestock system dominates the Ethiopian cattle sector, with 55 million cattle (78% total population) and contributing 8.52 billion United States dollars (USD) to the economy through the provision of meat, milk, hides and draft power in 2021.

By comparison, the pastoral (13.4 million head) and specialized dairy (1.8 million head) systems are much smaller.

Productivity varied between different production systems, with differences in live body weight, productivity and prices from different sources.

The estimated total cattle biomass was 14.8 billion kg in 2021, that is, 11.3 billion kg in the mixed crop–livestock system, 2.60 billion kg in the pastoral system and 0.87 billion kg in the specialized dairy system.

The total economic asset values of cattle in the mixed crop–livestock, pastoral and specialized dairy systems were estimated as USD 24.8 billion, 5.28 billion and 1.37 billion, respectively.

The total combined output value (for example, beef, milk and draft power) of cattle production was USD 11.9 billion, which was 11.2% of the gross domestic product in Ethiopia in 2021.

This work quantifies the importance of cattle in the Ethiopian economy.

These estimates of herd structure, reproductive performance, productivity, biomass, and economic value for cattle production systems in Ethiopia can be used to inform high-level policy, revealing under-performance and areas to prioritize and provide a basis for further technical analysis, such as disease burden.

Li, Y., Mayberry, D., Jemberu, W., Schrobback, P., Herrero, M., Chaters, G., Knight-Jones, T. and Rushton, J. 2023. Characterizing Ethiopian cattle production systems for disease burden analysis. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 10: 1233474.

Photo credit: Cattle in Afar, Ethiopia (ILRI/Fiona Flintan)

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