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Dairy production system in Ethiopia

1. Introduction
2. Major constraint dairy development system in Ethiopia.

Ketema, H. and Tsehay, R.
Ministry of Agriculture Ethiopia

1. Introduction

The main source of milk production in Ethiopia from the cow (Table 1) but small quantities of milk are also obtained from goat and camel in some region particularly in pastoralist areas.

Four major systems of milk production can be distinguished in Ethiopia, these are:

a. Pastoralism
b. Highland Smallholder
c. Urban and pre-urban (small and medium dairy farms in backyards in and around towns and cities).
d. Intensive dairy farming.

a) Pastoralism

Even though, information on both absolute numbers and distribution vary, it is estimated that about 30% of the livestock population are found in the pastoral areas.

The pastoralist livestock production system which supports an estimated 10% of the human population covers 50-60% of the total area mostly lying at altitudes ranging from below 1500 m.a.s.l. pastoralism is the major system of milk production in the low land. However, because of the rainfall pattern and related reasons shortage of feed availability milk production is low and highly seasonally dependent.

b) The highland smallholder milk production

The Ethiopian highlands possess a high potential for dairy development. These areas occupying the central part of Ethiopia, over about 40% of the country (approx. 490.000 km2) and are the largest of their kind in sub-saharan Africa (Tedla et al, 1989). In the highland areas agricultural production system is predominantly substance smallholder mixed farming, with crop and livestock husbandry typically practised within the same management unit. In this farming system all the feed requirement is derived from native pasture and a balance comes from crop residues and stub grazing.

The majority of milking cows are indigenous animals which have low production performance with the average age at first calving is 53 months and average calving intervals is 25 months. Cows had three to four calves before leaving the herd at 11-13 years of age, the average caw lactation yield is 524 litres for 239 days of which 238 litres is offtake for human use while 286 litres is suckled by the calf. But also a very small number of crossbred animals are milked to provide the family with fresh milk butter and cheese. Surpluses are sold, usually by women, who use the regular cash income to buy household necessities or to save for festival occasions (Mugerewa). Both the pastoralist and smallholder farmers produce 98% of the country milk production (MOA, 1985 E.C).

c) Urban and peri-urban milk production

This system developed in and around major cities and towns which have a high demand for milk. The main feeds sources are agro-industrial by products (Oil Seed Cakes, Bran, etc) and purchased roughage.

The system comprises small and medium size dairy farms located mainly in the highlands of Ethiopia. Farmers use all or part of their land for home grown feeds.

Generally, the primary of the production system is to sale milk as a means of additional cash income.

d) Intensive Dairy Farming

This is a more specialized dairy farming practised by state sector and very few individuals on commercial basis. Most of the intensive dairy farms are concentrated in and around Addis Ababa and are basically based on exotic pure bred stock. The urban, peri-urban and intensive dairy farmers are produce 2% of the total milk production of the country .

2. Major constraint dairy development system in Ethiopia.

The livestock sub-sector in general and the dairy sub-sector in particular docs not make a contribution to the national income considering with it size. The reasons for this are numerous and include both non-technical and technical constraints. This paper is trying to discus in particular constraints only.

a). Non-technical constraints

The non-technical constraints of dairy development generally include a variety of socio-economic and institutional considerations, which is most cases and are will common constraints to other agricultural sector in the country.

i) Human population

The high rate of population increase (2.9-3 % per annual) is reckoned to affect livestock development. The demand for livestock products directly related with the annual population growth which the livestock production is lag behind with the rate of population growth (1.1 %) (Table 2) (ILCA, 1987).

Moreover, high population growth has forced people to cultivate more and more land. The necessity to extend the cropping areas to support the increasing population in the highlands, the carrying capacity of the land is stretched beyond its limits, which resulted in law production performance of the livestock.

ii) Livestock population

One of the serious constraints to the livestock development in Ethiopia rest on the importance attached to the economic functions of the livestock found in various agro-ecological zones, overall, livestock in Ethiopia are used as input function, asset and security function.

Farming methods in Ethiopia have remained unchanged for centuries, cultivation is carried out using oxen drown traditional ploughs in the highland this demand high dependency on animal power (as an input function). High population growth has forced people to plough more land, which in turn demand more ploughing capacity Therefore, to fulfil this demand more ploughing capacity requires for the presence of a higher cattle herd, which created pressure on grazing land and ultimately poor economies of peasant farm.

The other economic benefit of livestock, as a source of additional income consideration as assets and security are also important, and due to low productive indigenous stock these functions requires to maintain large herd and demand additional area of grazing land.

In the law lands the pastoral nomads maximum benefit from livestock through milk and meat (The out put function): Further more, in order to overcome low productivity of their livestock and recurring draught large number of stock is maintained as security function as well (M. Tesfaye, 1991).

Table 2: Output volume and average annual changes
























Goat Meat







Poultry Meat







Cold Milk














Hides & Skins







SOURCE:- ILCA, (1987)

b). Technical constraints

The major technical constraints are

1. Animal Health Disease
2. Feed and Nitration
3. Genotype

i) Animal health

Animal health and improved management is also one of the major constraint of dairy development in Ethiopia which cause poor performance across the productive system. Many of the problems result from the interaction among the technical and non-technical constraints themselves e.g. poorly fed animals develop low disease resistance, fertility problem, partly because the animal health care system relies heavily on veterinary measures, poor grazing management systems continue to cause high mortality and morbidity (e.g internal parasites), many of the disease constraints which affect supply are also a consequence of the non-technical constraints e.g. insufficient money to purchase drugs or vaccines.

ii) Feed and nutrition

In highland zones, high population growth and density are causing the shortage of grazing land on which livestock production by small holders depends. In the lowland areas, the shortage of feed and water during the dry season forces animals and livestock keepers to trek long distances in search of food. The quality of feed also deteriorates during the dry season in both the mixed farming and pastoral system (A. Anteneh, 1992).

iii) Genetics

The genetic of Ethiopia's livestock have involved largely as a result of natural selection influenced by environmental factors. This has made the stock better conditioned to with stand feed and water shortages, disease challenges and harsh climates. But the capacity for the high level of production has remained low.


Abaye Tedla et al. Status of Dairying In Ethiopia and Strategies for Future Development. Third Livestock Improvement Conference 24-26 May 1989 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.-

Addis Anteneh 1992. Ethiopia Livestock Development Strategy.

Dairy Police Draft Document Prepared In Amharic Ministry of Agriculture 1985 E.G.

Debrah S.H. and Brehanu Anteneh, 1991. Dairy Marketing in Ethiopia. Market of first Sale and Producers' Marketing Patterns. ILCA Research Report 1991 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Mesfin Tesfay 1991. Dairy Development in Ethiopia, the source Base and Development Constrains.

Mukesa Mugerewa et al, 1983, Production Performance of Indigenous Cattle in the Ada district of the central Ethiopia Highlands. Mimeograph, ILCA, Addis Ababa.


Q. Dr. Maeda

How does our colleagues in other countries eg. Ethiopia solve the problem of bulls & AI in small holder dairy farming so as to reduce the calving interval. This is major problem in small holder dairy farming in Tanzania.


Ethiopia is currently faced with the same situation but they are trying to advice farmers to select good bulls amongst their herds. They are also trying to make AI programmes more efficient.

Q. Ms. C.E. Lyimo

Are the milk collection and processing units owned by the Government or private entrepreneurs?


The Units are owned by farmers groups.

Q. W. Schulthess

Is there any possibility of small holder farmers groups inviting qualified people to help in processing and marketing the milk produced in the small holder sector.


The possibility is there but in the meantime the farmers are managing everything themselves.

Q. Mr. Tekie Gebregziebler

What do you mean by 'Peak month for milk price'


It is not a defined month but it is sometimes during the dry season. This is when milk fetch highest

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