Although livestock play a central role in rural development in West Africa, traditional livestock systems have high death rates, low reproductive rates and low offtake rates. Furthermore, the presence of trypanosome-infected tsetse flies in the sub-humid and humid areas hurts the potential for livestock production. The region’s endemic ruminant livestock, however, are highly adapted to the local environmental conditions and are able with minimal inputs to remain productive in tsetse-infested areas where other breeds cannot survive. The conservation and improvement of these native African breeds has potential to greatly improve the livelihoods of West Africa’s livestock keepers.
A project named ‘Sustainable Management of Globally Significant Endemic Ruminant Livestock in West Africa’ (or ‘PROGEBE‘, an acronym of the French version of the project title) aims to develop models for community-based conservation and management of critical habitats for three endemic ruminant livestock breeds—N’Dama cattle, Djallonké sheep and West Africa Dwarf goats—and to develop strategies for preserving their unique genetic traits/habitats.
A research report by Karen Marshall, Maria Ejlertsen and Jane Poole of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on Sustainable management of globally significant endemic ruminant livestock in West Africa (PROGEBE): Estimate of livestock demographic parameters in the Gambia was released by ILRI on 20 Dec 2011.
This report describes the results of a 12-month retrospective survey for estimating livestock demographic parameters of endemic ruminant livestock kept by smallholders in The Gambia. The demographic parameters estimated included natural rates, such as parturition, prolificacy and mortality rates, as well as management rates, such as offtake and intake rates.
The 12-month retrospective survey, covering the period between mid-November 2008 and mid-November 2009 and carried out in November 2009, is one of several baseline surveys being conducted by the PROGEBE project in The Gambia; 29 cattle herds (of mostly the ancient West African N’Dama breed), 83 sheep flocks (mostly Djallonké) and 92 goat herds (mostly of West African Dwarf) were surveyed.
The results of the survey suggest there is considerable scope for improvement of demographic parameters through improved herd/flock management in the short term and breeding strategies in the long term. The single most striking result is the natural mortality rate, which was found to be very high for cattle less than one year of age and for sheep and goats across all age groups.