Livestock demography, husbandry and genetics

In Kenya, livestock production and agriculture are intrinsically linked, each one being dependent on the other, and both are crucial for the overall food security of the people. Keeping livestock is one of the important risk reduction strategies for small scale-subsistence farmers. Livestock are also an important source of nutrition (protein), providing traction for growing crops, supplementing family income and generating gainful employment in the rural sector, and thus is a dependable “financial reserve” in times of need. With the rapid growth in human population, the demand for crop and livestock production is rapidly increasing. Embroidered under the economic pillar of the Kenya Vision 2030 the significance of livestock and livestock products becomes integral in the contribution to the Kenyan economy.

Currently, and we speculate in the future, livestock will be one of the fastest growing agricultural subsectors driven by the rapidly increasing demand for livestock products, this demand being driven by human population growth, urbanization and increasing incomes. This by extension results in significant changes in the livestock sector: commercialization and intensification; changes in trading patterns; close contact between human, livestock and other wild animals; dynamic changes to husbandry techniques;  increased use of antibiotics; and changes in favoured breeds. All of these affect the risk of zoonoses and other infectious diseases. For example, our work has indicated that genes from exotic dairy cattle are ‘leaking’ into local cattle populations increasing genetic homogeneity and altering susceptibilities to specific infections and could be an important factor in spread and amplification of disease.

The goals of this work package are to:

  • Study the livestock marketing and livestock population dynamics so as to characterize the marketing channels (formal and informal) of men and women actors. This will establish the evolution of markets over time/perceptions of productivity and perceived impacts;
  • Undertake retrospective studies of trends in livestock production and productivity;
  • Establish livestock enterprise gross margins and cost structures of the local and exotic breed genetics;
  • Identify the need and the approaches used in baseline data collection on livestock demography, genetics and husbandry practices with the aim of establishing the role of genetics, husbandry practices and other drivers in disease dynamics; and
  • Study the livestock genetics at purchase, farming and sale which will establish the drivers and consequences of genetic change.



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