Livestock Research for Rural Development 25 (10) 2013 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Characterization of milk production systems in and around Boditti, South Ethiopia

Asrat Ayza, Zelalem Yilma* and Ajebu Nurfeta**

Department of Animal and Range Sciences, School of Agriculture, Madawalabu University
P.O. Box 247, Bale-Robe, Ethiopia.
* Heifer International, East Africa Dairy Development Country Program Mobilization Coordination Office, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
** School of Animal and Range Sciences, College of Agriculture, Hawassa University, P.O.Box 5, Hawassa, Ethiopia.


The study was conducted in and around Boditti town, Southern Ethiopia with the objective of characterizing milk production systems in the area. A total of 120 households were randomly selected from four Kebeles, two in Boditti town and the rest from surrounding.

Two major dairy production systems, namely urban and rural or mixed crop/livestock production systems were identified. Average cattle holding per household in the area was 3.4 with 1.1 lactating cows. Husbandry practices such as feeding, watering, housing, breeding, milking, calf rearing, waste management, and record keeping were different in the two production systems. Overall, about 3.25 liters of milk was produced daily per household. Major constraints for dairy development in the area include: animal feeds, land and water scarcity, discouraging market, low rate of genetic improvement, etc. Rapid urbanization coupled with increase in human population and standard of living of the urban dwellers and conducive climate of the area can be considered as an opportunity for the development of dairy in the area. Therefore, market opportunity and linkages are the major issues for smallholder dairy development in addition to provision of the required services and resources, provision of credit, extension and training.

Key words: mixed practices, rural, smallholder, urban


Ethiopia is endowed with good livestock production potential mainly due to relatively fair natural resource availability, suitable climate, and large cattle population. Livestock are raised by pastoralists, agro-pastoralists, crop/livestock mixed farmers and urban dwellers and play a vital role in economic development, particularly as societies evolve from subsistence agriculture into cash-based economies. In Ethiopia, different types of milk production systems can be identified based on various criteria. Milk production systems can be broadly categorized into urban, peri-urban and rural milk production systems based on location (Redda 2001), while based on market orientation, scale, and production intensity, dairy production systems can be categorized as traditional smallholders, privatized state farms, and urban and peri-urban systems (Ahmed et al 2004).

The contribution of the dairy sector to the total household income is substantial. For instance, as reported by Yilma (1999), milk and milk products contributed 20-36% to the total farm income of smallholder farmers in Selale and Holleta areas in the central highlands. Beyene and Abrahamsen (1994) also reported milk and milk products to have up to 46% contribution to the household income in the Southern Ethiopia.

Currently demand for dairy products in the country exceeds supply, which is expected to induce rapid growth in the dairy sector (Haese et al 2007). Factors contributing to this include rapid population growth (FAO 2004), increased urbanization and expected growth in incomes (Ahmed et al 2004).

Generally, the productivity of the dairy sector in Ethiopia is below the expected level and there are a number of factors that can be accounted for that. These include high human and livestock populations (that compete for land and other resources), land shortage, animal disease prevalence, feed scarcity and poor genetic potential of indigenous cattle breeds (Yigrem et al 2008). The situation of the dairy sector in the studied area is no exception for it is known for its high population density and land scarcity, which is believed to have partly been driven by a substantial rural to urban migration. Urban farming is a typical feature of Boditti town where a substantial proportion of the population is engaged and animals are fed with household kitchen wastes, spoiled fruits like avocado and other purchased feeds such as green grasses or hay.

Though dairy operation plays an important role to the livelihood of the engaged households in the area through income generation and home consumption, there is very limited work so far conducted to understand milk production in Boditti, which is a prerequisite to make any development intervention. The major aim of this study was, therefore, to characterize milk production systems thereby identify development opportunities to contribute to the improvement of the livelihoods of the producers in the area.

Materials and Methods

The study was carried out in and around Boditti town, Damot Gale district, Wolaita Zone, which is one of the major milk producing areas in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR). It is situated at 7.00°N latitude and 37.56°E longitude. Located at an altitude of 1975 meters above sea level, Boditti receives an average annual rainfall of 900 to 1400mm and the temperature ranges between 12 and 28°C (BTD 2008). A total of 120 households, sixty from Boditti town and another sixty from the surrounding were selected randomly as described below (Table 1).

Table 1: Sampling layout for the individual interview



No of households interviewed

In Boditti               

Boditti Hagaza                         



Boditti Qorke                         


Around Boditti




Hagaza Doge





Data analysis

Survey data collected were analyzed using descriptive statistics such as means, frequency distribution, percentages by using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 2007).

Results and Discussion

Dairy production systems

In the study area, two major dairy cattle production systems were identified; namely mixed crop/livestock production system in the rural areas and the fringes of the town and urban dairy production system that operated within Boditti town.

Mixed crop/livestock dairy production system

Crop/livestock production system was observed to be the typical dairy production system in the rural parts of the study area and the periphery of the town. In this type of production, both components (crop cultivation and livestock production) are complementary. Livestock provides power for land preparation and crop transportation after harvest and manure as fertilizer, while crop by-products represent an important source of animal feed. The predominant feed types available and provided to cattle are different in different production systems.

In this production system, different cereal crops predominantly produced include: maize (Zea mays), teff (Eragrostis tef), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), wheat (Triticum aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare). Tuber crops such as sweet potatoe (Ipomoea batatas), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), enset/false banana (Ensete ventricosum), yam (Dioscorea) and Cassava (Manihot cassave) are also commonly used in the study area. Residues of these crops are commonly used as animal feeds. Similar farm inputs are reported in different parts of the country where crop/livestock production system is a typical feature: Tolera and Said (1992) in Wolaita; Zewdu et al (2003) in the mid highlands of Ethiopia; Chewaka (2006) in Yirgachefe area and Funte et al (2010) in Umbulo Wacho watershed in Southern Ethiopia. Crop farming in this area is mainly practiced using oxen/draught power and oxen are given due attention next to lactating cows particularly with regard to better feeding. In general, traditional grazing on natural pasture is used as the main source of feed for the livestock followed by crop residues such as maize stover, wheat, barley and teff straw, respectively which are also reported by Tolera (2009) in Wolaita and Funte et al (2010) in Umbulo Wacho watershed in Southern Ethiopia.

This crop/livestock mixed production system is also characterized by some perennial cash and food crop production that include cultivation of coffee (Coffea arabica), banana (Musa), avocado (Persea americana) and mango (Mangifera indica). Because of small farm size holdings that is the known problem in Wolaita Zone; it is common to see highly diversified cropping practices within a single farmland. Enset, coffee, fruits, yam, cassava, and annual crops like maize and sorghum are common cash and food crops grown in the area. Crop farming in this system is performed mainly manual using hand tools and draught oxen especially when the landholding is relatively large.

Milk is produced by animals kept for multipurpose use, and feed production and utilization is limited to grazing land and crop residues. Dairy products such as butter milk, butter and cottage cheese are produced and used as source of income to buy farm inputs and family needs while cattle are an asset securing farmers at the time of emergency.

Urban dairy production system

This production system was observed to be the commonly practiced system in the town. The urban dairy production system of the study area, like most urban dairying of Ethiopia and other East African countries is characterized by market orientation where dairy cattle are kept only for sale of milk and its products. In this production system, the main objectives of cattle owners were not to use animal dung and draft power for crop production.  More than 97.3% of the interviewed dairy cattle producers in the town run dairy farming within their own residence compound that is about 200-400 square meters. The types of feed commonly used in this production system include purchased concentrates and roughages of conventional and non-conventional sources.  In addition to these, different fruits and road side grazing are the feeds used in the town.

Socio-economic characteristics of households

From the total interviewed dairy farmers (N=120), 51.7% were male and the remaining (48.3%) were females of different age and educational status (Table 2). Most of the respondents (53.2%) were in the age group ranging from 25-40 years, while about 38% of the respondent households were over 40 years old. The majority of urban dairy producer household heads were literate with educational level ranging from junior school up to diploma holders.

The results in general indicate that most of dairy cattle owners in the study area are literate; indicating that with good extension and training program they can improve their dairy production and marketing systems which are mainly based on traditional system currently. The average family size by age category showed that the majority of household members (57.7%) were within productive age group categories in both urban and mixed crop/livestock production systems. The overall mean number of family size in the study area was 7.2; 7.2 at Boditti Qorke and 7.3 at Boditti Hagaza and 6.2 at Fate and 8.1 at Hagaza Doge.

Table 2: Socio-economic characteristics of households in the studied area


% of respondents          


% of respondents          

Sex of respondents          


HH head sex










Family size (years)#


Members of HH


1-3 (year/s)




4-6 (year/s)




>7 (year/s)




Educational status            


Occupation of HH






< Grade 8




High school complete




Certificate holder


Government workers


Diploma holders


Retired person


#Mean (+SD) = 7.21(+ 2.73)   for total family size, HH=Households

According to the respondents’ belief, age or sex of the household head, educational level and family size have implications on the livestock husbandry practices. They think that male household head has power and capacity in collecting feeds and performing outdoor cattle management activities than females and educated households improve at least some of the livestock related routine managements. Regarding to family size, they think large family size contribute a lot to cattle related activities in collecting feeds and tending animals outside.

Dairy cattle owners of the sampled households generate income from different sources. For the majority of rural producers, dairying is not the main income source where sales from crops accounting for about 62% of the total household income as the respondents said. Although butter and sour buttermilk were marketable dairy products throughout the year, the income obtained from these products was not significant in the studied rural communities. As observed during the present study, for urban producers the contribution of the dairy operation is substantial (it generates about 50% of the total household income). However, dairying contributed only 12% to the total income of households in the rural area.

As reported by Yilma and Ledin (2000) in the crop/livestock production system of mid highland of Ethiopia, the contribution of the dairy operation ranged from 7 to 44% of the total income of farmers depending on the distance from urban centers. Another report on market-oriented dairy producers around Holleta area indicated that dairying on average contributed 34% to the total income of the farmers (Ahmed et al 2003). In comparison with other areas, therefore, the present study indicated that the contribution of dairying to the income of rural families is quite insignificant due to home consumption and lack of market for fresh whole milk. In the contrary, it plays great role in the livelihood of the urban dwellers in the areas which can be considered to have good prospect for further promotion of dairying in the area.

The amount of income obtained by dairy producers in the studied area was affected by different factors. Among others, herd size, income from other sources, crop land (farm) size, and productivity of animals owned were the major ones. As it is the case in most other smallholder dairy production systems of Ethiopia, family members are the major source of labor in the dairy operation in the studied area.

According to the respondents, cattle purchasing, selling and breeding activities were mainly operated or performed by adult males. Of the total number of respondent households, 98.3% of adult males were involved in purchasing and selling of cattle and 97.5% in breeding activities. Male family members are, in most of the cases, in charge of cattle tending especially in the mixed crop/livestock production system in rural areas. But other family members were also found to be involved in this activity especially females less than 15 years age. Routine dairy activities like feeding, milking and nursing of sick animals, on the other hand, were performed by female family members. In the case of urban producers, these activities are operated by hired labor (4 - 9%) in addition to family members. This figure is much lower as compared to the urban dairying of Mekele town (75.7%) in large and medium-scale farms (Gebreselassie 2006) and 5-11.7% in Shashemene-Dilla (Yigrem et al 2008). All activities related to milking, milk handling, processing (churning) and milk selling were performed mainly by household wives and other adult female members and/or female children above 15 years old. But churning was sometimes performed by males less than 15 years in rural areas if they are out of school. About 78.6% and 80% of household wives were involved in milking, in rural and urban production systems, respectively. This figure is different from that indicated by Yigrem et al (2008) who reported 86 and 60% for mixed crop/livestock and urban production systems, respectively for the same activity.

Land holding per household

As it is shown in Table 3, overall land holding for the rural farmers in the study area was 0.8 ha per household. This is by far less than the land holdings of 2.0 to 5 ha for 32.6% and 16.2% of the smaller farmers in the country and SNNPRS, respectively (CACC 2003) and 1.1 ha in Shashemene-Dilla area (Yigrem et al 2008). The land holding in the current study area is found to be lower compared with the regional and national holdings. More than 97.3% of the interviewed dairy cattle producers in the town run dairy farming within their own residence compound that is about 200-400 square meters.

Livestock holding in the study area

The overall average number of livestock per household was 3.4 cattle; 0.8 sheep; 0.1 goats; 2.1 chicken and 0.06 equines with a high proportion of lactating cows (Table 3). Similar result for cattle (3.9) in Delbo watershed of Wolaita and (3.1) in Shashemene-Dilla areas was reported by Nebiyu (2008) and Yigrem et al (2008), respectively. The current study indicated that the average number of lactating cows per household (1.1) observed is similar to the one reported by Mekonin (2006) and Nebiyu (2008) in Delbo watershed area 1.2 and 1.1, respectively. Keeping small number of cows on the family farm might be necessitated due to the scarcity of feed and grazing land that is the critical problem in the area.

According to the respondents, even though livestock holding per household indicates wealth status of the family in rural communities, land shortage enforced them to have few numbers of livestock in the area. Farm families with larger livestock holding could better use farm inputs including draft power, manure or fertilizer and feed and medication for their animals. Without doubt, marketing scheme influence the livestock holding since animal products such as milk and milk products are produced and marketed through informal systems.

In addition to replacement stocks, most of the foundation stocks of both the urban and rural dairy producers were purchased from open markets (Boditti, Shanto and Delbo markets). This condition showed that producers were not inquisitive and/or did not have access for the selection of dairy cattle. Producers were found to have different perceptions on some of the adaptation and production traits of the cattle they own and were found to give priorities to production traits for optimum resource utilization and maximum outputs due to land shortage next to number of animals that indicates the wealth status of the family. Due to differences in the production system, types of breeds and the management conditions, the reproductive and productive performances of cattle in the studied area was variable.

Purposes of keeping cattle

In the mixed crop/livestock production system, dual purpose cattle of indigenous breeds were kept to produce milk for household consumption and male calves with the intension of providing draught power later on. The most important significance of cattle is that they are an asset that can readily be converted into cash needed to purchase of farm inputs like fertilizers and improved seeds for the next crop production cycle. The role of animal dung in the area is high related to land scarcity where it is used as fertilizer for farm land. In rural or mixed crop/livestock production system, the primary purpose of keeping cattle is also noted by other authors for different crop/livestock production systems in different parts of the country (Tola et al 2004; van Dorland et al 2004; Tadesse et al 2005; Yigrem et al 2008).

Table 4: Purposes of keeping cattle in urban and rural production systems from the respondents’ perspective


% of total respondents

Urban (N=60)

Rural (N=60)

Milk and meat production                 



Draught power



Calf rearing     






Dung production                                 



All mentioned above                          



N=Number of respondents

Feeds and feeding systems

Animal feeds represent the major input in any dairy operation. Common feed resources in the studied areas varied between production systems. In the mixed crop/livestock production system, grazing on marginal areas and after crop harvest is the major feed resource (Table 5). In addition, almost all households (97%) in rural areas use animal feeds from their own crop farm in addition to grazing, while others use own farm and purchased feed together with grazing. On the other hand, 86.8% of dairy producers in the urban production system use purchased feeds from different sources together with road side grazing. About 53.4 and 35% use roadside and/or home-yard grazing with some purchased feeds and other feed resources such as kitchen and open market wastes.

Table 5: Major feed sources and feeding systems identified in the area


Major feed sources and feeding systems

   % of total respondents

Urban (N=60)

Rural (N=60)

Grazing on marginal areas and after crop harvest   



Feeds from their own crop lands



Both own  farm and some purchased feeds



Only purchased feeds                                                       



Grazing on roadsides/home yards with some purchased feeds



Grazing on roadsides and/home yards  by tethering only



Grazing on communal lands



Other sources



N=Numbers of respondents

Like most dairy cattle production systems in the country, both conventional and nonconventional feed resources are used in the study area. Feed resources commonly used by dairy producers include grazing, natural grass, hay, purchased green grass and cereal crop residues. Other animal feed resources include pseudo stems of enset (false banana) and banana; their leaves; maize and sorghum stover, improved forages like elephant grass (Pennsetum purpureum) and pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan). Mixed homemade concentrate feeds such as cotton seed with maize grain; cotton seed with coffee leaves; fruits and fruit seeds like avocado; root crops like sweet potato, sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) and its tops especially in dry season are also commonly used. Moreover, plant weeds and non-conventional feeds like Attalla (local beverage by-product), kitchen wastes and edible leaves of other plants such as ‘Korch’ and grabble are also fed to animals. Maize stover and hay are the most commonly used feed resources in both production systems of the study area.

The cereal crop based system, which is mainly found in the rural areas, is similar in feed resource use with most mixed crop/livestock production systems of Ethiopia (Yigrem et al 2008; Yilma and Ledin 2000; Zewdu et al 2003; Tadesse et al 2005). Crop residues are also the major feed sources in the area as is the case in most parts of the country as reported by Tolera (2009). In the area, annual food crops particularly cereals and root crops are dominant, and crop farming is highly integrated with livestock production, particularly with cattle rearing.

In the study area, cattle graze along roadsides and/or common grazing area or tethered and graze in the backyard. During the dry season, unlike cereal crop based systems of the mid-highlands of Ethiopia, farmers feed their cattle with enset and banana pseudo stems and leaves, sugar cane and its tops, and leaves from different trees. Similar feeding practices are also reported in various parts of the country (Tolera and Said 1992; Tolera 2009; Chewaka 2006 and Yigrem et al 2008).

Dairy producers in the urban areas mainly use purchased roughage and concentrate feeds along with non-conventional feeds like attella. There is no hay-making practice for later use during the dry season where feed is less available. Therefore, during the dry season, urban producers rely on purchased animal feeds such as sugar cane and green or dry grass. According to Mekasha et al (2000), in intra-urban and peri-urban dairy farmers around Addis Ababa milk shed and Yigrem et al (2008) in Shashemene-Dilla areas, hay is also the most common feed resource in. In the studied area, hay stacking practice was not observed, which should be encouraged for future use in the dry season where feed scarcity is the main problem to cattle producers. About 32.3 and 29.3% of smallholder dairy producers who live around the periphery of town and those who keep local cattle in the town also graze their cattle along the road sides in both dry and wet seasons. This figure is close to that (22.7 and 27.5%) reported by Yigrem et al (2008) in Shashemene-Dilla areas.

Due mainly to lack of communal grazing land in the study area, it is not uncommon to see a substantial number of cattle, predominantly local breeds, roaming around open areas, market places and other parts of the town in search of whatever is available as feed such as wasted foods, fruits and other edible materials. Feed resources observed in the present study are similar to the commonly used feeds in other urban dairy farming systems in the country (Mekasha et al 2003; Gebreselassie 2006). In the study area, supplementary feed was mainly given to lactating cows (62.5%) followed by pregnant dairy cows (19.2%) with the intention of boosting next lactation milk and then draught oxen (17.5%) (Figure 1). In their study around Shashemene-Dilla areas, Yigrem et al (2008) also reported a similar value (58%).

 Figure 1: Feed supplementation practices for different animal classes in the study area
Water resources and watering practices

The main sources of water observed in the present study area were rivers, tape water and spring listed according to their importance. The majority (71.6%) of the households in the rural areas obtain water from rivers even though its quality and availability are season dependent, while 20.0% from tape water and 8.4 % from spring (Table 6). As observed during the survey, households that use river water for their animals do not treat it except in a few cases where households filter the water with the intention of preventing susceptibility to internal parasites. A few respondents especially in Fate Kebele informed that there is serious water scarcity in the dry season. In the case of urban producers, almost all (91.6%) obtained water from tape water and all the interviewed dairy producers perceived that they provide good quality water to their cattle irrespective of season. The remaining households live in the periphery of the town reported to use river water.

Table 6: Water resources and frequencies of watering in the study area


% of the respondents                                    

Rural  (N=60)

Urban  (N=60)

Watering frequency#





Once a day


Tap water



Water freely offered


Spring water



Once every two days


N=Number of respondents, #the same in rural and urban areas

Frequency of watering to dairy animals varies from one production system to another, which is affected by different factors, among which season, accessibility (getting easily), performance and/or breed of the animals (that describes the amount of water), and type of predominant feed (dry or wet) and feeding systems (indoor or outdoor where some water is available). In the wet season, the majority (71.6%) of the respondents water their cattle once a day, 20% offer water freely while the rest 8.4 % water once every two days (Table 6). During the dry season, almost all of the households provide water to their animals once a day except the household that live around or near watering points or rivers. But this condition was not persistent in the town since they use tape water; it is relatively freely available irrespective of season.

Housing system

Almost all of the households (80%) in rural or mixed crop/livestock system kept their cattle within family house, while 10% used a separate shelter for their animals and the rest 10% used open barn/shed or fences within their own compounds. Similar housing conditions were also reported by Asrat et al (2012) in Boditti and Bereda et al (2012) in Guraghe areas . According to the respondents, cattle are housed together with the family because of the fear of thieves, to protect animals from extreme environmental hazards and also for ease of husbandry practices such as feeding, watering, milking, waste management.

On the other hand, in the urban production system, housing cattle with the family was uncommon and was only practiced by farmers or households around the periphery of the town. The majority (71.6%) of the households in the town areas used cooking places (kitchen) for their animals even though it is not advisable because of chance of transmission of zoonotic diseases to human beings. All the interviewed dairy producers in the area said they clean the barn every day. Though housing cattle in separate house has its advantage, dairy producers in the present study area mostly (60%) used family house for their animals rather than sheds designed in a proper way. This trend should be avoided and use of sheds or separate houses encouraged though some conditions prohibited farmers to use it.

Breeding system

In the mixed crop/livestock or rural production system, most of the households (65.4 %) use natural mating using local bulls, 35% of the households use Artificial Insemination (AI) and the rest (1.7 %) use both natural mating and AI service. Whereas the majority (51.7 %) of the households in the urban system also used natural mating by local bulls and the remaining 48.4% used AI. According to the respondents, the reason for the limited use of AI both in rural and urban areas is the fear that the size of local female cattle is not fit to carry and parturate the offspring of improved breeds.

Based on the type of livestock production system, there are different factors that determine the preference of breeding methods in the area. These factors include: access and cost of AI service, ease of getting preferred service, access of breeding bull, number of services required till conception, knowledge of estrus detection and size and performance of female animals in the area. Accordingly, 58.5% of the respondents in the present study area used natural mating from locally available bulls whereas 41.7% used AI for breeding of their dairy cows (Figure 2). When the aforementioned factors are not considered, almost all (83.3%) of the households in the area prefer AI. Genetic improvement of cattle is the key element in the production of milk and milk products which determines the potential of dairy cattle. In order to respond to high milk demand in the study area and exploit potentials and resources available there, provision of genetically superior dairy cattle and/or good breeding services as per the needs of producers is one of the prerequisites for the development of dairying in the studied area.

Figure 2: Cattle breeding systems in the studied area

 There is a noticeable difference in production performance and other economically important traits between local breeds and their crosses. The profitability of urban dairying as well as future prospects to improve urban dairying largely depends on the productivity of the animals. Consequently, getting access to improved genetic material through improved AI or breeding service is critical to enhance the development of the dairy sector in the area.

Milking practices

Out of the interviewed dairy cattle producers, 65% of the households milk their cows thrice a day, 17.5% twice a day and the remaining milked their cows once a day or not milked at all. Beyene (1994) also noted that in some enset producing areas of the Wolaita Zone, farmers milk their cows thrice a day. In the other parts of the country, however, high proportion of dairy cattle producers milk their cows twice a day. For example, Yigrem (2008) reported in Shashemene and Dilla areas very few farmers (3.3%) milk their cows thrice a day. All the dairy producers in the area wash the cows’ udder before milking with clean water.

Regarding the time of milking, about 65.8% of the interviewed dairy cattle producers milk their cows in the morning at 6-7am, in the afternoon at 3-4pm and in the evening at 8-9pm milking and 24.2% milk in the morning at 7-8am and in the evening at 9-10pm. This indicates that they did not bother about the regularity of milking time or there is no fixed time schedule for milking though it affects yield. In urban areas/town, however, farmers milk their cattle early and at a specific time so that milk is delivered to consumers early since they mostly sale fresh whole milk.

In almost all cases in all production systems milking was predominantly handled by household wives or adult females. In some special cases in town, milking was handled by hired labor. Milking in different parts of Ethiopia is primary handled by women, which is the same with the result of the current study. However, in some areas, there are few exceptions such as the Fogera area of Amhara Region where milking is entirely performed by males (Anteneh 2006) and in Shashemene-Dilla areas household adult males and husbands milk cows (Yigrem et al 2008).

Calf rearing practices

Out of the interviewed dairy cattle producers both in town and the surrounding, about 90.8% practiced partial suckling prior to milking, and colostrum is given to calves freely. The remaining households in the town that kept cross breeds and got high incomes (even though they keep locals) from milk sale never allow partial suckling or allow suckling after milking. They provide milk for the calves by using different equipment or used bucket feeding for only three to four weeks and offer up to one liter at a time (fed thrice a day) supplemented by other feeds such as fresh green grasses. However, with respect to weaning, 25% of households followed early weaning (after 3 or 4 months) if there is feed availability for the calves, 14.2% wean when the cow becomes pregnant or aggressive for the calf while the rest 51.7% (majority) of the households wean calves when the dam/cow becomes dry. Colostrum feeding practices in the studied area lasts for 5 to 7 days by the majority (65%) of the households while 35% give colostrum to calves for 7-15 days.

Supplementary feeds mostly green grasses were provided to calves between 15 and 30 days after birth in the majority of the households (81.6%) while 18.4% provided supplementary feeding after one month of age. In case of urban producers, the majority (71.6%) started supplementation within 7 to15 days after birth, which revealed that the urban producers follow early weaning practices with the assumption of profit maximizations from sale of milk that was otherwise be used by calves. The rest 28.4% start supplementation between 15 to 30 days which is similar with that of rural producers. This condition was also reported by Yigrem et al (2008) for Shashemene-Dilla areas.

Waste management

All the interviewed dairy cattle producers in the rural livestock system used animal dung primarily as fertilizer. In addition, it is also used as household fuel. Manure from these animals play a very important role for farming of their food crops, particularly for coffee, enset, maize, root crops and fruits. Enset usually requires a large quantity of organic fertilizer and thus animal dung had special attention than the cereal crops. Some people who do not have the capital to afford their own cattle, kept dry and pregnant cows and calves that belonged to other people until calving or growing for the benefit of using the manure to fertilize their crops. This condition magnifies the importance of cattle dung in relation to land scarcity of the studied area.

Waste disposal in urban agriculture is one of the major problems of dairy producers. The majority (63.7%) of urban producers paid out extra money to dispose off or transport (farmers around the periphery of towns to fertilize their crops) animal dung out of the town for carter men, 20% of households used the cow dung primarily as household fuel and others (16.3%) used it to fertilize fruits within their compounds. There was no practice of marketing animal dung (dung cake) for fuel or fertilizer purpose in the present studied area unlike most production systems in the country.

Manure in the form of heaps (compost) collected from urban dairy farms can be made available to the surrounding rural farmers for use as organic fertilizer and thereby reduce operating cost of farmers exhausted on purchase of inorganic fertilizers. The other important option which leads to technological application is that manure can be used as a source of energy through biogas production, if all the necessary infrastructures are available, it can be installed within reach of urban farmers compound. By doing so, it is possible to promote urban dairying as well as make use of organic energy than wasting the manure. Waste management is one of the major routine activities in dairy production. So it is a must to properly clean manure and urines from the dairy house/shelter to assure good and hygienic working conditions/environments.

Record keeping practices

About 95% of the interviewed dairy producers did not have any record keeping practices. Only 5% of the urban dairy producers were found to record some reproduction parameters regarding breeding/AI service using informal sheets given from development agents. Record keeping in modern dairying is a precondition for any decision and control over certain production and reproduction performance of dairy cattle in the farm and to measure the profit of any market-oriented farm. However, record keeping in the studied area is not practiced since the households do not have adequate experience and are not aware of the benefits. Therefore, provision of formal training on this important issue to dairy cattle keepers in both urban and rural areas is essential and it might pave the ways to provide other critical things in dairy production in the area.

Constraints of dairy production and marketing

Dairy production and marketing in the studied area was constrained by different factors. Producers in the studied area identified the major problems and constraints according to their degree of importance as shown in Table 7 below. These include: availability and costs of feeds, land shortage, problems related to waste disposal (for urban producers), discouraging seasonal marketing systems, shortage of genetically improved dairy animals, poor animal health services, poor extension services and knowledge gap regarding improved dairying.

Table 7: Dairy development constraints identified in the studied area (% of the respondents)


Rural (N=60)

Urban (N=60)

Land shortage



Water scarcity



Availability and costs of  feeds



Low rate of genetic  improvement



Discouraging marketing systems



Animal health



Reproductive constraints



Others problems



Waste disposal problem                                            65



N=Number of respondents
Availability and costs of feeds

Out of the interviewed households, large proportions of dairy producers both in rural and urban areas ranked shortage and high costs of feeds as major constraint next to land scarcity. About 65 and 71.6% of the producers in rural and urban areas respectively stressed the problem of seasonal fluctuation in availability and price of feeds especially concentrate feeds in all production systems. Lack of integration between rural and urban producers created major roughage feed shortage to the town dairy cattle producers. Conventional feed conservation practices like hay and silage making and straw treatments can minimize the problems of seasonal availability of roughage feeds to make the roughage feed supplies continued throughout the year. The availability and cost of concentrate feeds and others would be minimized through formation of producer groups, which would transport it from long distances and store for the next seasons. Motivating farmers surrounding the towns to supply roughage feeds to urban farms in dry season is essential. The woreda Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development trained farmers on hay and silage-making and straw and crop residue treatment using less sophisticated procedures and locally available materials, which are not yet given to urban producers at least up to the time of the survey work.

Water scarcity

The majority of the households in the rural areas use river water for their animals even though its quality and availability varies according to season. Some respondents especially in Fate Kebele informed that there is serious water scarcity during the dry season in the area. In the case of urban producers, no water problem was reported except some households (10%) that live in the periphery of the town.

Land shortage

Wolaita Zone in general and Damot Gale Woreda in particular has land shortage problem, as the Zone is the most densely populated area in the region. Overall, the interviewed households in the area reported land shortage as the first constraint that slowed down dairy development in the area. Even in town, all the dairy producers keep their cattle within their own residence compound and/or in their kitchen that discourages them from expanding dairy production.

Waste disposal problem

Waste disposal was not reported as problem of dairy producers in the area, especially in rural areas. However, the problem of land shortage provoked waste disposal problem in the town by the absence of appropriate place to dispose or to reutilize animal dung (65%) and because of this, most urban producers pay extra money to dispose animal organic wastes using laborers and/or horse carts.

Discouraging marketing systems

Problems regarding milk and milk products marketing in the studied area account for 60 and 28% for rural and urban producers respectively that includes seasonality in demand and prices of the products, access to market or distance from town and adulteration. Adulteration of milk and milk products especially butter with vegetable oil (Girl ghee) and milk with water was considered as a great problem in the area. Lack of milk cooperatives and groups in the area also affected dairy marketing.

Reproductive constraints

Reproductive problems that were identified that seriously affect dairy cattle performance in the area (45% in rural and 26.7% in urban) are related to long calving interval, abortion and late age at first mating. In addition to these, low rate of conception particularly with local breed cows that bred using AI services was the major issue in urban dairy production system.

Low rate of genetic improvement

In the area, most of the households (63.4 %) used natural mating by local bulls because of different factors. These factors include: access and cost of AI service, ease of getting preferred service, access of breeding bull, number of services required till conception, knowledge of estrus detection and size of the cows (body condition) and performance of female animals in the area. All together account 63.3 and 45%, respectively in rural and urban areas. In addition, it was understood during the present study that producers question on the efficiency of AI technicians due mainly to low conception rate. Some workers in Woreda Office of Agriculture and Rural Development (OARD) reported that there is little work done to build the capacity of AI technicians in the area.

Animal health

 Even though there is no recent disease outbreaks reported in the area, there were reports of diseases like ‘Sugetta’ (pasterioleosis), black leg and anthrax. About 46.7% of the respondents in rural areas and 35% in town reported animal health problem as the major constraint.

Other problems

There are different factors that hinder dairying in the area that accounted for 36.7 and 15% in rural and urban areas, respectively. These include: scarcity of capital or credit to expand the farm, lack of skills in different aspects of dairy activities and poor extension service especially to urban dairy producers. Most farmers in general and dairy producers in particular in the area had never been given any training and/or extension services. The areas that should be supported by training include feed conservation techniques, feeding systems, housing, basic animal health, reproductive management, milk handling and processing, and record keeping practices.

Opportunities for dairy development

Despite many problems and constraints that may slow down the development of the dairy sector in the area, about 71.6% of the respondent dairy producers in the rural mixed crop/livestock and 90% in the urban production system reported that they have interest to continue, expand and/or involve in dairying in the future. From the above figures, it can be understood that urban producers are more willing to continue and expand dairying due to market opportunities in urban areas. Because of the rapid urbanization, substantial population growth and change in the living standard of the urban dwellers, the demand for good quality milk and milk products in the town are increasing that they are not in a position to fulfill it. The present study area has a relatively conducive climatic condition for dairy development. Dairying provides the opportunity for smallholder farmers to use land, labor and feed resources and generate regular income. Therefore, market opportunity and connection are the major issues for smallholder dairy development in addition to support services such as adequate land access, organizing input supplies (improved breeds, feeds, AI and drugs) and provision of credit, extension and training.



The authors acknowledge Madawalabu University for funding this study. We express our gratitude to farmers and data collectors. We are also indebted to all those who supported in one or another way for the completion of this study.


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Received 4 September 2013; Accepted 24 September 2013; Published 1 October 2013

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