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Short communications

A study on women in dairy production
Causes of hide damage in eastern Ethiopia
Abattoir service and the handling of hides and skins
Results and discussion

A study on women in dairy production

S. Rangnekar, P. Vasiani and D.V. Rangnekar

The authors can be contacted at the BAIF Development Research Foundation PB No. 2030, Asarwa Road, Ahmedabad 380016, India. Dr S. Rangnekar is now associated with the Women's Organization for Rural Development, 4 Shobhana Apartments, Nehru Park, Vastrapur, Ahmedabad 380015. The assistance of the BAIF field staff is gratefully acknowledged. This article has been adapted from a paper presented at the International Workshop on Feeding of Ruminants on Fibrous Crop Residues, held at Karnal, India, February 1991, under the Indo-Dutch BIOCON Project of the India Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Livestock production in India is not a specialized commercial operation as it is in developed countries; a mixed crop-livestock farming system is generally practiced. Farmers in rain-fed, semi-arid areas heavily depend on livestock, particularly when the monsoon fails. Livestock have a socioreligious importance and are regarded as indicators of status and wealth.

For small farmers, livestock production is a family operation. While it is recognized that most of livestock management is carried out by women, development, extension and training programmes are not geared to their involvement and hence they derive no benefits (Singh & Viitanen, 1987).

During the last decade, the gender issue has attracted the attention of many researchers, as well as that of government agencies. There is a sudden emphasis on the need to study the role of women in agricultural production and special programmes for this purpose are being designed (FAO, 1984; FAO, 1990; Kulandaiswamy, 1986).

In most of the studies reported, however, observations are recorded mainly on the type and amount of work performed by women (Banu, 1987). It should be realized that studies must go beyond this point. In order to derive the maximum benefit from development, extension and training programmes, it is necessary to understand the perception of women with regard to livestock production and their involvement in decision-making, particularly those women from developing areas and poor families who are generally not very communicative nor very confident of themselves. In many surveys undertaken, coverage of the inhabitants of developing areas, especially women, is rather limited. Therefore, there is need to develop strategies that would allow the involvement of these women and extend the benefits of extension and training to them. In some cases, however, there is a tendency to overstretch the gender issue, such as when training programmes in livestock production designed for women only are recommended.

It would be useful to have an understanding of the variations in behaviour/sharing of work, decision-making and women's perceptions evident in different communities, regions and economic groups. People who work in rural areas are well aware of the considerable variations that exist in farming systems and working patterns within a region and between social and economic groups. An attempt in this direction was initiated by Stella Efde (1988), a Dutch student who studied the type of work carried out by women of different groups and their involvement in decision-making. Her study was useful although she faced some difficulties because of the language barrier and insufficient time. Other recent studies on dairy cooperatives managed by women have also highlighted the problems faced with respect to funding, credit and the need for change in extension and training approaches (Mitra, 1987). Similar concerns were expressed during the course on extension management for farm women organized at the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) in Hyderabad in June 1990. Fortunately, the national perspective plan for women does raise some hope for a better future.


Families with dairy animals were chosen for a study in some underdeveloped villages in the Baroda, Ahmedabad and Udaipur districts. Assistance was provided by men and women associated with various activities in these villages to facilitate introduction and dialogue. Information was gathered by the women, who attempted to start discussions on other subjects of women's interest. The use of questionnaires was avoided after initial negative reactions. For the purpose of gathering information, introductory group discussions were arranged, followed by discussions with individual families and women. It was necessary to repeat these visits in order to collect full and accurate information and to note perceptions and suggestions.

The study covered different social groups, tribal communities and pastoralists, which included both poor and rich farmers. Aspects of the study were chosen keeping in mind the relationship to development, extension and training and could be broadly classified into six areas: management of animals; sale/purchase of milk animals; decision-making on various related aspects; perceptions of dairy production; knowledge and awareness of animal husbandry; and suggestions and additional observations.

Observations discussed in this paper cover 145 families from three groups from Baroda district villages, 100 families from two groups from Udaipur district villages and 46 families from a village in the Ahmedabad district. One group of villages in Baroda and both groups of villages from Udaipur are predominantly tribal. In all these villages, rain-fed agriculture is practiced and work in cattle development has recently been initiated. These villages have no industry and literacy is poor.


Management of animals

Initial results of the study indicate that the sharing of various management operations varies between regions, communities and economic groups. By and large, women from rich farming families do not undertake any work directly; they hire labour for most jobs. In the middle-income group, particularly in high castes, indoor jobs such as feeding and milking are carried out by women, while outdoor jobs such as the selling of milk and taking the animals for artificial insemination or other treatments are done by men. Among the pastoralist families studied (Rabari-Bharwad), it is interesting to note that their own animals are managed only by the women, while the men are engaged in looking after other farmers' animals. Grazing is the only operation shared by the men and women.

Among the tribal families studied, women carried out all of the management operations except in one village in Udaipur, where men mostly undertook activities such as milking, bringing in fodder and breeding. Watering, calving and the administration of medicine were shared activities. The cultivation and harvesting of fodder and other crops was also the men's job, although fodder cultivation is not common in these underdeveloped villages.

Considerable variation was observed in job sharing. Efde (1988) studied variations in work sharing between the poor and others and between villages close to and far from city areas. She contends that in the villages close to cities most men go out to work in the city and hence women take on the major burden of livestock rearing. In a study from Bangladesh reported by Banu (1987) it is indicated that most indoor jobs of cattle management are done by women. She also points out that, in the absence of capital, women keep livestock through a share system. Livestock are an important source of income for poor rural women, in addition to being of high nutritional value.

Sale and purchase operations

In the high- and medium-income families, particularly of the high castes, sale and purchase operations are performed either by hired labour or by the men. Milk was rarely sold by the poorer groups, since there was hardly any surplus. In the tribal families the picture was unusual. In those families from the Baroda district villages, milk was sold by women, while it was sold by the men in Udaipur (Zadol). In the case of pastoralist communities, milk was sold by women. A factor worth noting here, however, is that in most cases money from the sale of milk, animals or compost is collected by men. Exceptions to this are the low-caste families and pastoralists. Another important observation is that dairy cooperative societies pay money only to men since they are the registered members.

The sale or purchase of animals in the middle- or low-income groups is decided upon jointly by men and women, although the animals are taken to market mostly by men.

Decision-making process

It was rather difficult to study the decision-making process, and it became obvious that in order to obtain factual information a tactful and patient approach was needed. Interviews revealed that in many cases women were consulted, but they did not have the final say in matters such as the sale or purchase of animals and how to use the money earned. Some variations did exist between communities and between the rich and poor. In pastoralist societies decisions related to animals and milk were mostly taken by women and those concerning the use of income were shared.

In the tribal families from the Baroda district, decisions about the sale or purchase of animals, purchase of fodder, breeding aspects and the use of money earned were made by the men while women decided on the use/disposal of milk. In the Udaipur district, however, most decisions were taken jointly, with the men making the final decision on the use of money earned. In poor families of other communities, most decisions were shared. It was interesting to note that in the Ghachi community in Baroda district, income from animals remained in the hands of women only.

The results reported by Efde (1988) show more or less the same trend, although she only considered feeding, milking, management and fodder crops. Earlier studies done in Andhra Pradesh by Rani (1981) and in Kerala by Sima (1986) covered agricultural operations in general. They reported that women were more involved in decision-making, but only with regard to livestock.

Women's perceptions of livestock keeping

Women's perceptions regarding livestock keeping was an interesting subject of study. Women of rich families were not directly involved in the activity, except in some communities such as Rajput or Darbar where livestock was regarded as a status symbol, and so could contribute little to the study. Many of the other women, however, were not aware that the work they were doing could be an important economic activity. They considered looking after cows/buffaloes as one of the usual household chores that has traditionally been their responsibility. The same as cleaning and cooking, it was not even counted as work. On the other hand, women from villages where the marketing of milk was organized and development extension programmes initiated did feel they could earn a substantial income, and managed to keep three to four milch animals. Nonetheless, they did not consider it as a commercial operation, but saw it as a source of supplementary income and an asset that could be cashed in times of need. Cow dung is an equally important product, both as fuel and manure. For women from pastoralist communities, male progeny is more important than milk, grazing of animals is considered essential and milk rich in fat is thought to be a better quality product. For tribal women it was difficult to imagine that milk production could be an important economic activity and that a cow is capable of giving large quantities of milk. After a few visits, most women showed a keen desire to learn more about such things as high-producing cows, artificial insemination, quality feed and fodder. Many women, particularly those from traditional cattle-breeding communities, strongly believe that the animals should be washed and kept clean in order to remain healthy.

Knowledge and awareness of animal husbandry

Compilation and analysis of information on this subject is still incomplete, however, a few salient points are described here.

The majority of women, except a few from remote tribal areas, were aware of the need for better-quality feed in order to achieve higher production, even though they may not have been able to describe it in terms of protein, energy, etc. Many of them knew that mahua flowers, oilcakes and grains are good-quality feed, and some even identified particular weeds, tree leaves and creepers as good-quality fodder for livestock. They were well aware of the specific habits and behaviour of each of the animals owned and how to feed and handle them accordingly. The women who supplied milk to cooperative societies knew something about clean milk, fat and solid non-fat content of milk, but quite a few had no knowledge of artificial insemination or crossbreeding since this work had not been initiated in some of the villages. Many of them were aware that vaccinations were administered, but very few realized their usefulness. Traditional indigenous methods were still being used to treat ulcers after foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, for tick control and for abscesses and diarrhea, etc. In cases of difficult births, help was usually sought from local "specialists" who were mostly from traditional cattle-breeding communities (Bharwad/Gujjar). Most women were not aware of the importance of colostrum feeding soon after birth, believing that it should be fed some time later. The majority knew that green fodder is of better quality than straw or dry grass and could differentiate between good- and bad-quality fodder based on the animals' acceptance of it. Cultivation of green fodder was never seriously considered, however, being constrained by landholding and irrigation.

Women from rich families were generally less knowledgeable. Many were not even aware of the milk yield of their cows and their animals and sheds were dirty, while those of the neighbouring poor families were much cleaner.

Suggestions and additional observations

It is worth mentioning that women from a village near Baroda grew tired of the surveyors and students who came about two to three times a year. They could not understand the motives and objectives of the surveys, and wondered why these outsiders were concerned with their way of life, providing all sorts of suggestions. At the initial stages, the lead author had to convince some of the women that she had come to learn about their food preparations.

Many of the women were eager to learn about high-producing dairy animals. As the discussions proceeded, many expressed their interest in learning about fodder crops, ensiling, urea treatment and grass storage. They were aware of the effect of good-quality fodder on milk production. While this awareness and keen observation of animal behaviour are assets, the prevalent illiteracy is a limiting factor. This fact should be kept in mind when training programmes are being designed. An attempt at functional literacy would be very useful as many women expressed the desire to learn to read and write. Women cannot be absent from the home for long periods and are adverse to lecturing, although they have a natural liking for discussions. The training programmes/extension meetings need to be organized accordingly.

Studies on women as well as training and extension programmes are best carried out by women with the required exposure and orientation.


Banu, L.F. 1987. The role of Bangladeshi women in livestock rearing. In A.M. Singh & A.K. Viitanen, eds. Invisible hands, p. 93-108. New Delhi, India, Sage Publications.

Efde, S. 1988. Final report of a practical training period in India. Wageningen, the Netherlands, Department of Tropical Animal Production, Agricultural University.

FAO. 1984. Report of Expert Consultation on Women in Food Production, December 1983, Rome.

FAO. 1990. Women and livestock production in Asia and the South Pacific. Bangkok, Thailand, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAO).

Kulandaiswamy, V. 1986.-A paper prepared for a training programme on management of development services for women at Coimbatore, India, October 1986.

Mitra, M. 1987. Women's work gains analysis of women's labour in dairy production. In A.M. Singh & A.K. Viitanen, eds. Invisible hands, p. 109-144. New Delhi, India, Sage Publications.

Rani, J. 1981. Decision-making by farm women. Cited by V.P. Sharma & C. Jaya in background material on course on extension management for farm women, National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, India, June 1990.

Sima, B. 1986. Role of farm women in decision-making process relating to farm economic business. Cited by V.P. Sharma and C. Jaya in background material on course on extension management for farm women, National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, India, June 1990.

Singh, A. M. & Viitanen, A.K. 1987. Introduction. In Invisible hands: women in home-based production, p. 13-26. New Delhi, India, Sage Publications.

Causes of hide damage in eastern Ethiopia

A. Mersie and M. Bekele

The authors' address is: Dire Dawa Zonal Veterinary Disease Investigation Laboratory, PO Box 464, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.

The authors wish to thank Mr G. Ayalew, Senior Hide and Skin Expert, for his assistance while conducting the study. Mr J. Hanks is acknowledged for his comments and corrections

Ethiopia is known to have the largest livestock population in sub-Saharan Africa (FAO, 1988). Livestock and livestock products rank second in agricultural export trade value after coffee (FAO, 1987). Among these, hides and skins have been reported to account for between 70 percent (Booker, 1981) and 87 percent (FAO, 1987) of the export value. According to available reports (Booker, 1981) and some unofficial ones, however, the country loses millions of dollars in foreign exchange annually because of the low quality of the hides and skins that are either exported in their raw state or processed in national tanneries.

One major source of these products is the Hararge region in eastern Ethiopia, where 11 percent of the estimated cattle, sheep and goat population of the country is found. On average, over 53000 cattle hides and 83000 sheep and 250000 goat skins are collected annually, cured and sent to central markets (AFRDD, 1987) (Table 1). Grading of the total stock of hides and skins collected in 1987 resulted in 20 percent first grade, 76.4 percent from second to fourth grade levels and the rest rejected because of poor quality (Table 2). This study aimed at assessing the visible hide defects observed in an abattoir located in Dire Dawa, the largest town in eastern Ethiopia.

1 Hides and skins collected from the Hararge region from 1980 to 1987 for the Addis Ababa (central) market

Cuirs et peaux collectés dans la région de Hararge de 1980 à 1987 pour le marché central d'Addis Ababa

Cueros y pieles recogidos en la región de Hararge entre 1980 y 1987 pare el mercado central de Addis Abeba


Average number per year

Range per year

Cattle hides


37000 - 81000

Sheep skins


42000 - 174000

Goat skins


174000 - 393000

Source: Compiled from annual reports of the Animal and Fisheries Resource Development Department, Agricultural Development Office for the Eastern Zone, 1980 to 1987.

2 Hides and skins collected from the eastern zone in 1987 by grade

Cuirs et peaux collectés en 1987 dans l'est, par qualité

Cueros y pieles recogidos en 1987, en la zona oriental, por calidades


Total number collected

Grade (% of total)








Cattle hides







Sheep skins







Goat skins







Source. AFRDD, 1987.

Abattoir service and the handling of hides and skins

Ethiopia has 14 slaughterhouses and 86 hide and skin sheds located in ten towns. One of these is a factory-type abattoir. Eight of the 13 public-type abattoirs were constructed by the Second Livestock Development Project (SLDP), with hide and skin sheds attached. The abattoirs are managed by the municipality of each town and the Ministry of Agriculture provides meat inspection and other related technical services. There are 356 butchers' shops in the mid- and highland areas of the region. Of these, 65.4 percent slaughter their cattle in slaughterhouses, while the remainder slaughter in open fields (AFRDD, 1987). Slaughtering is carried out by private individuals who are employed by the butchers as daily labourers.

Most of the hides and skins are collected from urban areas and preserved in sheds owned by private individuals. Except in some areas where hides and sheep skins are cured by salting, suspension air-drying is the method most used. The sheds are built under the guidance of the Ministry of Agriculture and product quality is graded by experts from provincial branch offices.


The abattoir used in this study had its own attached hide and skin shed for curing its products. Slaughtering was done during the night, usually starting around 22.00 h. Pre-slaughter inspection for evidence of any visible skin defects was carried out on a total of 368 adult cattle. The hides were later inspected on the flesh side for flaying defects. Special attention was given to the back, shoulders and sides as these are the most important economically.

Each of the defects was recorded on pre-prepared forms. The total number of animals/hides inspected per day was also recorded as was the number of hides bearing the same defects, without regard for the frequency and pattern of defects. Skin scrapings and tick samples were collected and examined in the Dire Dawa regional veterinary laboratory. All cattle were mature oxen of indigenous breeds.

Results and discussion

While it is practically impossible to find a perfect animal hide under local circumstances, a considerable amount of damage and defects were observed during this short study period of two months (Table 3). None of the 368 hides inspected were free of post-slaughtering defects. Factors causing damage included mishandling of animals prior to and during slaughter, inappropriate flaying procedures, insufficient light during electric-power failure for various reasons, shortage of water supply, long intervals between flaying and suspension air-drying and folding and/or bundling of fresh hides before suspension. These findings are in agreement with earlier reports by Barat (1975) and Barrett (1986). Knife damages were also numerous and variable in length. The most important of these were knife cuts followed by gorge marks and scores, which mostly resulted from the use of inappropriate knives during slaughtering and flaying.

3 Defects of 368 hides inspected at different stages

Défauts de 368 cuirs inspectés aux différents stades

Defectos de 368 cueros inspeccionados en distintas fases


Number of defects

Percentage of total

Before slaughter



During slaughter and flaying



After flaying






Source: Data collected during survey period (July-August 1988) at Dire Dawa a abattoir.

The main defects observed before slaughter were tick bites, multiple scratches and brands, with various diseases accounting for 43 percent of the total defects. The most important disease was dermatophilosis, which was observed on 13.8 percent of slaughtered cattle. The economic loss caused by bovine dermatophilosis was most evident on hides. The disease primarily causes areas of weakness that, after tanning, appear as round blemishes in which the grain surface of the hide is strongly pitted. These hides are usually severely downgraded (Lloyd, 1973).

Tick bites were localized on the ventral part of the animal's body, particularly around the scrotal and groin areas. The tick species identified were Amblyomma gamma, A. variegatum and Hyalomma. Farmers in the region tend to brand their animals with a hot iron to treat any kind of skin disease, including those causing swellings such as some clostridial infections. For example, about 39 percent of cattle with brand marks had dermatophilus lesions. Hide contamination was caused by blood and intestine content, and long intervals between flaying and drying and folding and/or bundling before suspension were also found to contribute to their putrefaction (Table 4).

4 Major causes and frequency of visible defects

Principaux défauts visibles et nombre de cuirs présentant ce défaut

Principales causes y número de defectos visibles de los cueros


Number of hides with defect

Percentage of total hides

Before slaughter







Tick bites












During slaughter and flaying




Insufficient bleeding



Gorge marks









After flaying







Hair slip



Total defects



Source: Data collected during survey period (July-August 1988) at Dire Dawa abattoir.


The results of the survey revealed that enormous damage and defects occur before, during and after slaughter, all contributing to the low quality of hides. It should be noted that this study only dealt with visible signs of damage, no microscopic investigation was attempted. Many of the defects observed could be prevented by a joint effort of the different responsible bodies. The first author visited the other abattoirs in the region and observed similar management problems. Based on this and on the results of this survey, the following practical solutions are recommended:

· livestock owners should be properly trained and the veterinary extension services and relevant measures expanded and strengthened to improve the quality of hides and skins;

· the general hygiene of the slaughterhouses should be improved and the existing facilities used for line slaughtering instead of flaying on the floor;

· necessary managerial action must be taken with regard to disinterested and inexperienced labourers who participate in the handling and slaughtering processes. +


AFRDD. 1980-1987. Annual reports. Agricultural development office for eastern zone. Harer, Ethiopia, Animal and Fisheries Resources Development Department for the Eastern Zone.

Barat, S.K. 1975. Hides, skins and animal by-products: directions for development. World Anim. Rev., 14: 20-25.

Barrett, J.C. 1986. Air-drying of hides and skins. World Anim. Rev., 58: 13-22.

Booker Agriculture International Limited. 1981. Regional animal disease control, Vol. 3, Ann. 1. Ethiopia.

FAO. 1987. Trade yearbook. Rome.

FAO. 1988. Production yearbook. Rome.

Lloyd, D.H. 1973. The economic effects of bovine Streptotrichosis, p. 108-123. International symposium on dermatophilus infection, 25-28 June 1973, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

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