Breeding Goal and Selection Criteria of Smallholder Farmers for Crossbred Dairy Cattle in Central Ethiopia
The aim of this study was to determine the breeding goal, selection criteria, traits preference and relative weight of selected traits required for genetic improvement of smallholder dairy cattle in the selected districts of West Shewa, North Shewa and Arsi Zone of Oromia Region and North Shewa Zone of Amhara Region. The data were collected through a pre-tested questionnaire and group discussions partaking 243 farmers who had crossbred dairy cattle. Chi-square and GLM procedure of the Statistical Analysis System was used to estimate and compare qualitative and quantitative data, respectively. The main sources of crossbred dairy cattle for foundation stock were local market (29.63%), surrounding farmers (25.51%) and crossing local cows and heifer with bull and artificial insemination (20.16%). The primary objective of farmers for rearing crossbred cattle was milk production (index = 0.5) followed by draught (index = 0.26) and beef (index = 0.24). The average herd sizes of indigenous and crossbred cattle were 2.02±0.14 and 6.89±0.24 heads per farmer, respectively. Significantly higher proportion (p < 0.0001) of farmers (75.52%) choose dairy as the primary goal and the other 24.48% favor dual purpose for future genetic enhancement. There was no significant difference (p > 0.05) observed among study Zones on breeding goal preference. The least square means and standard error of daily milk yield, age at first calving and calving interval performances of crossbred dairy cattle under farmer management were 11.28±0.24 liters, 2.96±0.04 years and 1.32±0.02 years, respectively. Farmers provided the highest weight for milk yield (28.13±1.04%) followed by body conformation (20.07±0.87%) and udder size and set up (18.73±0.90%) as selection criteria to purchase or select crossbred dairy cattle. The average weight provided for milk yield, calf growth, age at first calving, calving interval and herd life traits were 29.73±1.51%, 18.53±0.66%, 17.80±0.93%, 19.60±1.47% and 14.40±1.18%, respectively. In general, farmers were encouraged with the performance of crossbred cattle and noticeably reducing the number of indigenous cattle. The result can point out that majority of farmers across all study Zones provide more attention for dairy traits than beef. Moreover, most of them had a similar perception on the relative importance of different traits indicating the possibility to develop a similar breeding program through the study areas. In designing a breeding program in the future, the weight given for each trait in this study need to be considered. Improvement of artificial insemination service, access to marketing of crossbred cattle and design of appropriate breeding programs are essential for the development of this sector in the future.