FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Promoting local cattle breed enhances sustainability in mountainous areas of Serbia

Known for their smaller size and brown colour, Busha cattle have withstood the harsh climate and living conditions in mountainous parts of the Balkan Peninsula for centuries. In Serbia, the Busha breed is not only an important element of animal genetic diversity, but also a source of food and income for residents of remote areas. Yet, the local breed is currently facing extinction due to the limited population numbers, low production values, and reduction of living environment.

To this end, an FAO project is focusing on collecting and reviewing baseline information about Busha population numbers, production indicators, and environmental, genotypic, and phenotypic data, as well as conducting consultations with relevant breeders and farmers, to establish the basis for the conservation and development of the cattle breed.

A Busha cattle exhibition took place in Dimitrovgrad, southeastern Serbia, to raise awareness among farmers and consumers about the benefits and products of the breed. Along with introducing the project, Busha cattle, and various other local breeds, the event also included presentations on the importance of genetic resource conservation in the country and its role in rural development.

The exhibition provides a forum for breeders and smallholders to meet representatives of the line ministry, breeder organizations, and local municipality and establish professional connections.

“Busha cattle have proven to be resistant to certain animal diseases and can be part of a sustainable rural economy. The breed could play a vital role in the cattle sector, especially among smallholders living in rural areas under harsh conditions,” said Tibor Szucs, FAO livestock production expert.

Since the cattle breed is present in other Balkan countries, the results of the conservation activities can be upscaled or used elsewhere, too.

Furthermore, based on the collected data and analyses, the Busha cattle genetic conservation and breed development programme for Serbia was developed to preserve the breed’s genetic variability and typical characteristics. This will also support smallholders in keeping the breed in a sustainable manner, and contribute to the execution of the National Strategy and Action Plan on the Conservation of Animal Genetic Resources in Serbia.

Animal genetic resources has been substantially eroded in the past century – a trend that accelerated with rapid changes in the livestock sector in response to the massive demand increases for livestock products. FAO is calling for more efforts to protect and develop valuable local animal breeds that have a smaller value for current livestock production systems. These should improve food production in often remote areas, help mitigate and adapt to climate change, and promote the supply of a broad range of ecosystem services.

The project targets the Stara Planina massif area, which is part of Serbia’s protected areas, with a priority of biodiversity preservation.

20 September 2021, Dimitrovgrad, Serbia