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Paper 1: Livestock research in Nigeria

Keynote address

Professor Saka Nuru
Director National Animal Production Research Institute Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria



Livestock account for one third of Nigeria's agricultural GDP, providing income, employment, food, farm energy, manure, fuel and transport. They are also a major source of government revenue. Traditional livestock production in Nigeria is varied and complex. Livestock, especially ruminants, are the most efficient users of uncultivated land and can contribute substantially to crop production.

National livestock research started in the 1920s, with the main emphasis on disease control. The Shika Research Station was established in 1928, becoming an autonomous unit (NAPRI) in 1976. The universities have played an important role in livestock research from 1950 onwards. Ibadan, Ife and Ahmadu Bello Universities were the pioneers in this field. NAPRI's research on livestock production has concentrated on ruminant and poultry species, and on animal feed resources for profitable, commercial livestock enterprises.

NAPRI has supported ILCA's livestock systems research (LSR) since 1979. LSR can be very productive if it uses all available research results, and by the same token can provide useful feedback to specialized research bodies. ILCA's Subhumid Zone Programme has made same notable progress and NAPRI has emulated it by setting up its own LSR team to work in the northern savanna zone of Nigeria, often referred to as the Cattle Belt.


First let me take this opportunity to welcome you all to this Symposium on Livestock Production in the Subhumid Zone of Nigeria, which is a follow-up of the one held in 1979, the formative year when the concept of livestock systems research (LSR) was about to be put into practice in Nigeria. In that year, ILCA and NAPRI cosponsored a symposium on Livestock Production in the Subhumid Zone of West Africa, the purpose of which was to review the state of knowledge on livestock production and potential at that time.

Before I discuss the achievements and lessons learnt from applied and systems research in Nigeria, let me re-emphasize the role of livestock in the national economy and the place of basic and applied research in the development of the livestock industry in Nigeria. As in many other countries of sub-Saharan Africa, livestock account for as much as one third of Nigeria's agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), providing income, employment, food, farm energy and manure, fuel and transport. Livestock fulfil many roles for a substantial number of people in the country. The livestock industry is a major source of government revenue, for example through taxation and export earnings from hides and skins. Yet planners and economists often underestimate the contribution of livestock to GDP. Their role as a source of farm power in the northern savanna zone and as a source of organic manure to boost crop production, as well as their efficient utilization of otherwise unuseable plants to produce meat, milk and other products, are often not considered. For example, manure outputs of 1368 kg DM/head/year and 248 kg DM/head/year have been estimated for cattle and sheep respectively (Hendy, 1977). These outputs are a major contribution to soil fertility.

The majority of households in both the savanna and the subhumid zones of Africa own some livestock, be it cattle, sheep and/or goats, in addition to poultry. These animals contribute substantially to the quality of the human diet as well as to the household economy.

Traditional livestock production is varied and complex in nature. It has evolved ever centuries of adaptation under prevailing conditions of harsh climate and severe disease challenge, and now represents an excellent adaptation to uncertain environmental conditions. It promotes the most efficient possible use of non-arable land, and can also contribute substantially to crop production. Our role as livestock scientists is not to drastically change these systems, but to modify and improve them by introducing new production technology which can increase rural incomes. We must, however, remind ourselves that technical innovations alone are not enough to bring about increased production, since other constraints, socio-economic, cultural and political, are also factors of great significance. This why a multi-disciplinary approach to both basic and applied research by NAPRI and ILCA becomes relevant. Together with ILCA, a new age of technical innovation in livestock development has dawned in Nigeria. Hopefully the knowledge it brings can also be used in other countries within the West African region.

For carrying research findings into the field, the systems approach initiated by ILCA and supported by NAPRI scientists and the Federal Livestock Department (FLD) seems to be a most useful tool. Since the 1979 symposium, the ILCA subhumid team has been conducting LSR jointly with NAPRI scientists and technicians. I will say more about thin approach to livestock research and development later.

At this juncture, I shall briefly mention past national research and development efforts in livestock production. Initial efforts in this field were launched mostly at the livestock centres or agricultural research stations under the regional Ministries of Agriculture in the early 1930s. The Veterinary Research Centre at Vom (which originated earlier in Zaria) was established in 1924 to carry out research on animal diseases and the production of vaccines to control or eradicate them. Epidemic diseases at that time were rampant. The regional Ministry of Agriculture outstations were concerned with the breeding and selection of local and exotic cattle, sheep and goats, and with improvements in husbandry practices. However, their efforts were frustrated because of the greater importance attached to epidemic diseases, and finally - at least in the northern region - animal production was transferred to the new Ministry of Animal and Forest Resources. Such centres as Tumu and Darazo in Bauchi Province, Kofare in Adamawa Province and Ilorin in Ilorin Province were transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Animal and Forest Resources between 1961 and 1963. The Shika Research Station, established in 1928, changed hands from the Northern Regional Ministry of Agriculture to Ahmadu Bello University in 1962. Not until 1976 did it became an autonomous unit, set up by Decree No. 35 as a specialist national research institute for animal production: NAPRI, the National Animal Production Research Institute.

The role of Nigeria's universities in Livestock research from the 1950s onwards was a very important one. The University of Ibadan, the University of Ife and Ahmadu Bello University were the pioneers of agricultural and livestock research in this country. Through their individual and collective efforts, these institutions began research into nutrition, breeding, management and the economics of production. Newer universities, with Departments of Animal Science or Agriculture, are following suit in pursuing basic and applied research in livestock production. The various Faculties of Veterinary Medicine have contributed in no small measure to our knowledge of epidemiology, the biology of various parasites, and the means of controlling or eradicating debilitating or devastating livestock diseases. Areas of their research include trypanosomiasis, tick-borne diseases, helminth parasites, and a number of bacterial and viral diseases.

Other national institutes also contributed, in areas covered by their mandates. The National Root Crop Research Institute did useful work on cassava utilization far poultry nutrition. The Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMAR) worked on otherwise unuseable fish parts to make fish meal. The Lake Chad and Kainji lake Research Institutes have also done work relevant to livestock production.

NAPRI's research has concentrated an ruminant and poultry species, with special emphasis on nutrition and improved husbandry. Nutrition was and still is one of the biggest constraints to livestock production in these species. The choice of ruminants and poultry was not accidental. Nigeria has about 40 million hectares of available grazing land yet to be fully exploited. Cattle, sheep and goats provide aver 70% of the national meat supply and all the locally produced milk in Nigeria, while the poultry sector, still small at that time, provided opportunities for rapid growth.

I cannot resist highlighting some of NAPRI's major achievements at this point. In the area of beef production, NAPRI scientists have shown that some of our indigenous cattle can gain an average of 0.9 to 1.2 kg per day on silage and concentrate rations. The potential of this finding can be assessed when it is realized that at present over 1 million head of cattle are slaughtered annually in Nigeria, but that 75% of them are fit for further fattening and could yield an extra 25 000 to 45 000 tonnes of meat per year if this technology were employed (Nuru, 1978; 1983).

NAPRI's research on dairy cattle has shown that a linear increase in milk yield from crossbred cows takes place as the exotic gene is increased up to the 7/8 level. The F1 Friesian x Bunaji cow (50%) gives 1684 kg, the 3/4 (75%) gives 1850 kg and the 7/8 gives 2051 kg of milk in a lactation of about 260 days. However, the economic return aces not justify increasing the exotic gene pool beyond 50% (Nuru and Buvanendran, 1984).

In the area of poultry production, work concentrated on achieving optimum energy and protein levels in the rations of laying chickens, and on broiler production. The protein and energy sources are quantitatively the most important and expensive aspect of economic ration formulation (Olomu, personal communication). Import substitution for fish meal, an expensive imported feed ingredient, has received special attention over the last few years. Investigations into local fish sources and the use of blood meal have been conducted by NIOMAR and NAPRI respectively. Today, many local feed ingredients and agricultural byproducts have been analysed with a view to compounding least-cost rations for poultry, depending on whatever feed ingredients are plentiful and cheap on the market throughout the year.

Finally, as regards animal feed resources, NAPRI led the way in screening and evaluating suitable grasses for native pasture improvement.

We can now ask ourselves what the role of ILCA/NAPRI is in LSR, and why efforts are increasingly channelled through this new approach to ruminant production? A major criticism of traditional research, basic or applied, is the problem of transfer of research results to users within a reasonable time and in a language they can understand, for adoption on a large scale.

The agricultural extension services at the Federal and State level are inadequate, and often too thin on the ground for effective communication of research findings to users. Scientists need to receive feedback on field problems that require further research. In addition, there are the socio-cultural and socio-economic constraints of the livestock owners themselves. Aware of these problems, NAPRI has worked very closely with the Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Service (AERLS) of Ahmadu Bello University over the years to ensure the maximum impact of research on the livestock industry, including poultry production. In addition, within the last 2 years, NAPRI has been actively engaged in field work on artificial insemination (AI) and in pasture establishment programmes for prominent livestock owners in various states. This work was undertaken to bring about a positive effect on livestock production through field demonstration.

But LSR is more than this. LSR is by its nature 'integrative and team-orientated'. In reality it is 'a systems approach to livestock development'. Many disciplines are involved since, to be effective, a detailed knowledge of all aspects of a production system is required, including the perceptions of potential beneficiaries. LSR is field oriented and involves the active participation of beneficiaries. In its diagnostic phase, baseline data on production systems, together with information about the socio-cultural and socio-economic status of producers, are obtained and production constraints identified. Suitable interventions to resolve the constraints are then devised and tried out in the field, with the active participation of farmers and pastoralists. Success is judged in terms of the adoption rate after the researchers have withdrawn from the scene but closely watched how producers implement their recommendations without supervision.

LSR is only one approach to the development of the livestock industry, yet it professes to be 'cost-effective', and if it is done well I believe it can be very productive. However, to be cost-effective and productive it must take maximum advantage of all existing knowledge and not wastefully repeat research already carried out elsewhere. Nor must it attempt to do research that can be done more effectively by more specialized bodies or at national research centres.

By the same token, the work of more specialized bodies can be made much more relevant to the real needs of the livestock industry if these bodies receive feedback from the LSR teams, which should have much better contact at grass roots.

From 1979 onwards, NAPRI and ILCA have worked very closely in the subhumid zone of Kaduna State at two locations - Kurmin Biri and Abet. During the workshop the results of this work will be presented for critical review by the participants. Kurmin Biri is a large grazing reserve of about 2500 km2, while Abet is a typical arable cropping area of about 2475 km2, with Kaje and Kamantan farmers being the dominant inhabitants. By working directly with the pastoralist an a daily basis, the confidence of the Fulani in these areas has been won.

Prominent among the technical achievements are the appreciation and utilization of supplementary feed in the form of molasses and cottonseed cake by the pastoralists during the dry season, the development of forage crops within the cropping system and, more importantly, the establishment of fodder banks for pastoralists, some of wham are embarking on this new technique by themselves with very little, if any, supervision. On the health side, a great deal has been achieved on the maintenance of a systematic disease monitoring, prevention and control schedule on the farms under study, while a few crossbred cows have been introduced as a test case to monitor their survival and productivity under prevailing disease conditions in the traditional pastoral system. You will hear more about these achievements during this week, the details of which are contained in the papers to be presented in the next few days.

In order to ensure that ILCA's LSR work will be relevant, and its results acceptable to livestock producers, the Federal Livestock Department requested the formation of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) consisting of sociologists, livestock extension experts, ruminant nutritionists, veterinary and range management experts under the chairmanship of myself, the Director of NAPRI. The task of the committee is to monitor events in the field and report on progress to the Director of the Federal Department.

Encouraged by the achievements of LSR to date, NAPRI is now about to embark on a similar LSR field programme in the savannah zone at Giwa, about 20 km from NAPRI headquarters. The team will be led by the Head of the Department of Pasture Agronomy, who will brief you on activities so far during this workshop (Paper 20).

NAPRI's objectives in LSR are:

1. To establish national expertise in this area, which is now gaining momentum in many countries.

2. To create awareness among pastoralists of what technical improvements are feasible, and what constitutes profitable management of cattle.

3. To create practical models for other livestock pastoralists and entrepreneurs outside the Giwa project area to emulate.

We firmly believe LSR to be a revolutionary approach to livestock development through applied field research. Working hand in hand with the livestock owners, we hope to implement this new approach under the Second Livestock Development Project of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

It is our prayer that the participants at this symposium will freely contribute their advice and suggestions on the papers presented, thereby sharing with others their own research and/or development experience. In 1979 we received very useful comments and criticisms which were reflected in the final report on the proposed ILCA research; we now leak forward to similar critical review and comments on the achievements so far, and guidance an future research, both for ILCA and NAPRI. Let us remember the need for concerted team work in LSR, so that we avoid the dangers of isolation and limited perspectives. It is commendable that the ILCA team has seen these dangers and has sought to avoid them by exposing its work to detailed examination by this audience of eminent scientists from various disciplines, livestock policy makers and national institute directors. You are our mirror: we cannot see cure elves, but we strongly believe you are the best judge of our efforts to improve and increase productivity throughout the subhumid zone of Nigeria.

I wish you memorable and fruitful deliberations.


Hendy, C.R.C. 1977. Animal production in Kano State and the requirements for further study in the Kano Close Settled Zone. Land Resources Report 21, ODM, London.

Nuru, S. 1978. Possible strategies and management approaches to increase livestock production in Nigeria. Paper presented at the Fifteenth Annual Conference of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association, Jos, Nigeria.

Nuru, S. 1983. Effective harnessing of Nigeria's agricultural resources: The case for the livestock production subsector. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Agricultural Society of Nigeria, Ilorin, Nigeria.

Nuru, S. and Buvanendran, V. 1984. The indigenous cattle breeds of Nigeria: Problems and potential. Paper presented at the Workshop on Evaluation of large Ruminants, Rockhampton, Australia.

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