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Production objectives and breeding goals of Sahiwal cattle keepers in Kenya and implications for a breeding programme


The Sahiwal breed has been used for upgrading the East African Zebu (EAZ) for improved milk production and growth performance in the southern rangelands of Kenya. Main users of this breed are Maasai pastoralists. Until now, there has been no deliberate effort to understand why these pastoralists specifically prefer to keep Sahiwal genetic resources as well as which traits are considered important by them and what is the underlying reason for this. However, this information is regarded vital for further development of the breed. A survey was conducted between May and October 2009 among Maasai pastoralists in Kajiado and Narok counties in the Southern part of Kenya, and private ranches and government farms to identify production objectives and breeding goals of Sahiwal cattle producers. Sahiwal genetic resources were mainly kept for domestic milk production and for revenue generation through milk sales and live animals. To a limited extent, they were kept for breeding and also for multiple objectives that included insurance against risks and social functions. Production aims were influenced to varying extents by various household and farmer characteristics. Sahiwal cattle and their crosses were generally perceived to be better with respect to productive traits and fertility traits when compared to the EAZ. However, the EAZ was rated higher with respect to adaptation traits. The breeding objective traits of primary importance were high milk yield and big body size, good reproductive efficiency and relatively good adaptation to local production conditions. Performance and functional traits are important breeding goals that play a major role in fulfilling the multiple production objectives. This forms the basis for the optimisation of a breeding programme for sustainable utilisation to meet the needs of Sahiwal cattle producers.

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This study was supported by funds from the Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (KASAL) project through the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). We are also grateful to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for financial support. We greatly acknowledge the support of the personnel of the Ministry of Livestock Development and the field enumerators for successful logistical support. Cooperation of pastoralists and ranch managers is highly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Evans D. Ilatsia.

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Ilatsia, E.D., Roessler, R., Kahi, A.K. et al. Production objectives and breeding goals of Sahiwal cattle keepers in Kenya and implications for a breeding programme. Trop Anim Health Prod 44, 519–530 (2012).

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  • Breeding goals
  • Breeding programme
  • Sahiwal cattle
  • Production objectives