A recent study of livestock markets in Kajiado County, in the dry rangelands of southeastern Kenya, shows that the most popular animals among sheep traders are purebred imported Dorper, as well as Dorper cross-breds. Less important to the traders is the asking price for the animals, and the age or sex of the animals being sold.
Findings from the study have been published in a paper: ‘Assessing sheep traders’ preferences in Kenya: A best-worst experiment from Kajiado County’.
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) partnered with the non-governmental organizations Concern Worldwide Kenya as well as Neighbourhood Initiative Alliance, a community-based organization based in Kajiado, to carry out this analysis, which was the first-of-its-kind assessment of the purchase behaviour of sheep traders in Kenya.
‘Traders are a first source of market information for sheep producers. Understanding their preferences is important when designing interventions to help small-scale sheep farmers commercialize their production’, says Nadhem Mtimet, an agricultural economist working with ILRI’s Policy, Trade and Value Chains program and a co-author of the paper.
Carried out in April 2013, the study involved more than 100 traders in three livestock markets (Kiserian, Mile 46 and Bissil). Project staff interviewed the traders about their sheep trading, including the markets they use and the number of animals they buy.
‘We found that traders place most value on purebred exotic sheep such as the Dorper, as well as Dorper crossbred animals, especially the red Maasai’, says Mtimet.
Though exotic and crossbred Dorper sheep are in high demand in Kajiado’s livestock markets, these animals pose threats to the livelihoods of the region’s pastoral livestock herders. Keeping these high-producing exotic breeds alive and productive in these dry, drought-ridden, rangelands is difficult. Unlike exotic breeds, the region’s native stock, though less productive, are well adapted to semi-arid climates and tolerate intestinal worms and other parasites.
Julie Ojango, a Kenyan animal scientist at ILRI, says that what we ought to be doing is encouraging pastoralists to conduct ‘selective breeding, retaining pure-bred indigenous breeds such as the red Maasai, coupled with strategic use of exotic and crossbred Dorper rams in more favourable environments’.
According to Ojango, such selective breeding enables communities such as the Maasai in Kajiado to keep animals with desired qualities for the market while also retaining more adapted indigenous breeds that can survive droughts and other harsh climates.
Findings from this study were presented at the International Agribusiness Marketing Conference, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (22–23 Oct 2013), where it won best overall paper award.
Read a summary of the paper in the Afma newsletter (page 5) ‘Assessing sheep traders’ preferences in Kenya: A best-worst experiment from Kajiado County’.
View the presentation on ‘Assessing sheep traders’ preferences in Kenya: A best-worst experiment from Kajiado County’.
1. Red Maasai and Dorper rams in Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).
2. Nadhem Mtimet, ILRI agricultural economist and a co-author of the paper (photo credit: ILRI).
3. Julie Ojango, ILRI scientist and co-author of the paper (photo credit: ILRI).