An Overview

Livestock production in Ethiopia is either the solemeans of livelihood in the pastoral systems and /orpart of the major form of engagement in the highlandand mid altitude crop livestock production systems. Itprovides multiple functions as sources of meat, milk andegg production, sources of draft power and manure tosupport crop production, means of transport particularly inthe rural areas, source of foreign currency through export ofchilled meat, live animals, skin, hides, etc, and much more.The productivity is far below the possible expectations andthe country couldn’t fulfill the national demand and henceimporting milk powder and other products. Having a hugelivestock population, this situation is a paradox.


The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, EIARin collaboration with the regional research institutes,Universities and other partners has been doing researchto look intervention options on the major challenges oflivestock development in the country. Livestock researchhas been focusing on priority commodities including, cattle(dairy and beef), sheep, goats, camels, poultry, fishery,apiculture, sericulture, forage and pasture crops andrangelands management. To alleviate the major constrainsthat limit productivity, including genotype improvement,feeds and nutrition, animal health, product processing,socioeconomics, extension and other crosscutting issueslike gender are the strategic thematic areas addressed.


Among others the livestock development is constrained bythe traditional subsistence production practice, the pooreconomic status of farmers, critical inadequate supply offeed, low producing genotypes and poor marketing linkagesin the country. Quit a lot of technologies, information andknowledge are generated but its adoption the farmers andits impact in the overall national economy is very low.


With the increasing demand for livestock products,nationally and globally, and the potential that the countryhas, the Ethiopian government has given focus for thesector and acting on supporting the sector to improveproductivity. Accordingly the livestock research will focuson high priority commodities mainly on dairy, poultry andmeat which will be aligned to the country’s developmentmaster plan. The Main focus will demonstrate available andsuccessful technologies in the area of genotype (examplecrossbreeding of dairy cattle), feed and forage productiontechnologies, efficient feeding systems, proper healthmanagement, and efficient marketing linkages. Alignedwith these plans, generation of appropriate technologies,information and knowledge relevant to the currentchallenges will be of high priority.


Dairy Research

Dairy in Ethiopia is dominantly based on cattlemilk and to some extent from camels and goats, particularlyin the pastoral systems. The main form of production issmallholder low input systems. The urban and peri-urbandairy system is market oriented with improved breeds,feeding systems, health and husbandry practices. Mostfarmers keep cattle as a dual purpose animal to producemilk, meat and primarily for provision of draft power tosupport crop production. The objective of the nationaldairy research program is to improve the overall dairyproductivity, through generating appropriate technologiesof genotype, feeding, health, product processing, socioeconomics and marketing components of the commodityand demonstrate successful practice to farmers and different relevant actors. Market oriented dairy development willbe the major focus area in the country, where dairyproductivity will be improved through creating a systemwhere efficient provision of inputs and services, strongmarket linkages through involving the private partners isstrengthened so that the system is eventually sustainable.


Achievements: The major research achievements on dairyis introduction and adaptation of exotic dairy breedsin to the country, and development of cross breeds,particularly crosses of local boran cattle with that of Jerseyand Holstein Friesian breeds, manageable and profitablefor small scale commercial farmers in urban and periurban areas of the country. Adequate information has been generated on the production system in the differentareas. Improved management and husbandry practicesof local dairy cattle though putting them into sustainedapplications and improvement of local genotypes havestill faced challenges. Furthermore, several technologiesand associated information of feeds, nutrition, healthimprovements, dairy processing of dairy cattle have beendeveloped, demonstrated and disseminated to farmers andsmall scale dairy cooperatives. Some information on dairymarketing is also available. Preliminary adoption studiesshowed large number of farmers in the different areas hassuccessfully changed their livelihood and living standardsthrough adoption of improved dairy production practices.


Future Directions:Despite the research endeavors on dairyimprovement so far, success has been limited to specificareas and beneficiaries, leaving the national demandstill at a greater gap even for household consumption.Major constraining reasons are substantially examinedand/or understood. Taking these facts in to account,dairy improvement in the future is expected to look into improvement specificities such as intensive farming,breed, reproduction, feeding system, health, artificialinsemination, dairy value chain and marketing dependingon predicted food demands and policy directions on milkand meat improvement in Ethiopia. While working on thelong term strategy, demonstration and dissemination ofavailable technologies are the major directions. The issue oftechnology multiplication like heifers and forage seeds areimportant areas to address.


Beef Research

Ethiopia has diversified cattle breeds welladapted to the different agro ecologies in the highlandmixed crop-livestock production system and the pastoral– agro-pastoral areas. The cattle breeds the country hasare not as such specialized to beef production. Mostof them are managed under traditional productionpractice providing multiple functions of dairy, beefand draught power. Despite that most of the worldsknown specialized beef breeds of USA, Australia, Braziland others are originated from East Africa like the Boranbreed. This is a very good indicator of high possibilitiesof transforming the beef industry better from whatcurrently existing in Ethiopia. In addition there are manycattle types / breeds like Horro, Afar, Raya, Fogera,Abigar and Mursi, which are said to be very good beeftype breeds. In this regard to meet the increasing demandof local and export market to different countries, thereis a need to develop appropriate technologies to boostbeef productivity and production in Ethiopia. The majorchallenges of inadequate or poor production practices,none specialized system of production, scarcity ofquality feed, inadequate control and prevention ofimportant animal diseases, inefficient marketing systems,and natural disasters like drought are critically limitingproductivity. The national research on beef is tryingto tackle these problems with the main objective ofachieving projected domestic consumption requirements for red meat that arises due to rapidly growing population,increasing urbanization and rising incomes, and increaselive animal and meat exports to generate foreign exchangeearnings


Achievements:Beef research in Ethiopia is focused onmanagement of local breeds for fattening. This is mainlyon feeding strategies based on available feed resources inthe targeted areas and animal health management especiallyon internal parasites. Feed management practice of youngbulls, oxen and other categories of animals for differenttarget markets are established for different breeds. Baseline information on available feed resources, feedingpractices and overall farming systems in different areas arealso documented. Feeding packages for selected breedstargeting the export market is established. Beef value-chainsspecially focusing on marketing and services provision isdocumented for selected high potential sites is also studied.Information on basic carcass parameters of Ethiopian beefis also available. Recommended beef production practicehas been demonstrated to farmers. In addition best/goodtraditional fattening practices have been explored in detailand available for scaling up.

Future directions:With the increasing demand of livestockproducts like beef and the governments’ strategy of livestockexport market, beef research in the short and medium termwill focus on the following areas:

  • Characterizetheindigenousbreedsofcattleandmanagethe different genotypes with appropriate husbandryintervention, in order to optimize beef production forlocal and export market.
  • Enhancingfeedqualityandquantityaswellasprevention and control of animal disease for betterbeef production.
  • Establishappropriatebreedingstrategiesandmodelsfor improvement of indigenous breeds to attain desiredmarketable weight at an earlier age
  • Increasereproductiveefficiencyofbeefcattlethroughthe application of modern biotechnology and improvedmanagement practices and technologies.
  • Improvebeefandbeefby-productshandlingandprocessing methods.
  • Demonstratenewtechnologiesandgoodpractices
  • Identifybeefproductionproblems,verifyandevaluatebeef technologies on-farm which in-turn will helpto facilitate the formation and implementation ofappropriate policies for beef production.
  • Availrecommendationsandbaselineinformationonmarketing systems and required policy issues for policymakers to improve constraints along the beef valuechain.


Sheep and Goat Research

Small ruminants are found in almost all agro-ecologies in Ethiopia, andmake significant contribution to the national economy and the livelihood of farmers andpastoralists. There are many constraints which limit productivity of small ruminants andneed to be addressed through research and development. Small ruminant research hasbeen going on for decades in Ethiopia to improve the productivity of the local geneticresources, increase off-take rates and their contribution to the livelihoods of farmers andpastoralists and to the national economy.


Achievements:Small ruminant research achievements thus far include on-stationcharacterization of the performance of indigenous sheep and goat breeds, identificationof constraints of on-farm production of small ruminants , development of managementpackages (husbandry, feeding, health etc.) for increased productivity, evaluation ofthe performance of crossbreeding programs designed to increase meat, wool and milkproduction in different sheep or goat breeds. A number of recommendations pertainingto the developed technologies have been given for development institutions, policymakers and producers for increased small ruminant production and productivity.


Future directions:Changeinsheepandgoatresearchistakingplacetotransformsubsistencetype of production in to market oriented or commercial types of production. This requiresraising production and productivity of small ruminants beyond the current level. Theexport market and growing domestic market require adequate supply of standard meatboth in quality and quantity. This calls for work in all areas of small ruminant researchand development which include generation of appropriate breeds for target areas,efficient systems of utilization of available feed resources, animal health services and welldeveloped market structure. Generation of current socioeconomic information on theimportance of small ruminant animals is crucial specially to strengthen demonstration anddissemination of available proven technologies for farmers and different stakeholders.


Camel research

Camel(Camelusdromedarius)isfoundinaridandsemi-aridareasof Somali, Afar, Southern Oromia regions of Ethiopia, where the majority ofcommunitiesarepastoralists.Camelsarefoundinthedryareasofthecountryandproducemilk&meatevenunderharshenviron

mentalconditions.Camelsmakea significant contribution to the lives of pastoralists and agro pastoralists beingmajorsourceoffoodandeconomicasset.Theprotein,fatandvitamin-Ccontentof camel milk is vital for pastoralists living in an environment that lacks vegetables.The overall objectives of the national camel research are to improve productionand productivity of camel through the improvement of its major constrainingfactors including genotype, feeding, husbandry and health; to improve market,market systems and market linkages of camel and camel products in main pastoraland agro-pastoral areas of Ethiopia.

Achievements:Studies have been done on camel diseases and parasites, traditionalproduction practices, challenges and opportunities, feeds and nutrition, meat andmilk handling as well as marketing of camels and their products, particularly in Afar,Somali and Oromia regions. Socio-economic aspects of these areas have been alsoaddressed to a certain depth. Knowledge and information has been disseminatedto camel producers through trainings and field visits. Numerous articles on camelresearch have been published in local and international proceedings and journals.

Future directions:New research projects/programs are expected to capitalize onprevious research findings to improve camel breeds, their feeding systems, healthcare, reproduction capacity, husbandry and management practices, and therebyincrease off-take rates and slaughter weights, meat and milk handling and processingmethods as well as marketing conditions. Pastoralists and agro pastoralists will befurther trained and closely communicated on improved camel production andmanagement systems. 


Forage and Pasture Crops Research

Scarcity of feed both in quality and quantity is one of the majorbottlenecks of livestock production in Ethiopia, regardless of agro-ecologyor type of production. On the other hand, it is believed that there is hugepotential to improve availability of feed in quality and quantity in the country,if limitations and gaps of all sources of feeds are addressed continuouslywith respect to profitability of targeted livestock production systems or feedmarketing possibilities.


Achievements:During the last few decades the national feed research programhas developed, adapted and recommended different forage and pasture varietieswith their agronomic practices to different agro-ecologies of the country. Mostof these varieties along with their improved production, management andutilization practices have been demonstrated and promoted to producers,though sustainable production is still lacking. Elephant grass, Rhodes, Panicum,Cinchrus,Oats,VetchLablab,alfalfa,cowpea,sesbania,tagasaste,leucaenaare the most common forage crops grown by producers even under a range ofagro-ecological variability.


Future directions: The need for sufficient and quality feed at all time is surelyexpected to increase with increased demand for meat and milk nationally aswell as globally. Thus, future research directions of forage and pasture crops willbe on further development and adaptation of better performing new varieties;adaptation, demonstration and wider promotion of existing feed technologiesand associated knowledge; formulation of market oriented feed and/or forageseed production; investigations on compatibility/suitability and profitability ofparticular feed materials to particular livestock farming systems, particularly ofintensive farming (for meat, milk and wool/fiber); as well as investigation andexploitation of unaddressed industrial by products and the like.


Rangeland Research

The rangelands in Ethiopia cover about 61% of the national landmass. Predominating in the lowlands. They are the main feed sources of grazersand browsers (Gemedo et al., 2006), particularly of livestock of pastorals and agropastorals as well as wild animals in the area. Rangelands are sources of surface andunderground water, minerals, tourism, and natural gas. They also play important rolein environmental and ecosystem functions such as maintenance and conservation ofbiodiversity and mitigation of climate change. The overall objective of the rangelandresearch is to develop and demonstrate appropriate technologies, knowledge andinformation of rangeland management, improvement and utilization practices notonly for increased production of feed for animals but also for healthy functioningsustainability of the entire system.


Achievements:During the last two-three decades research in the rangelands mainlyfocused on baseline information commonly of biophysical characteristics ofrangelands; management and utilization practices, conditions and trends as well associo-economic aspects of associated communities. Sufficient information has beengenerated accordingly, particularly for major rangelands. Few attempts have beenalso made on improvement and restoration practices or systems especially of poor,degraded, or encroached sites. Adoption and demonstration of new technologiesand good practices has been also a recent inclusion of the research as a gate way torangeland development.


Future directions:Research on rangelands has been limited to basic information andpreliminary improvement options which has not yet solved major problems. Futureresearch direction on rangelands is expected to focus on ‘applied research’ than ‘basic’ones. It includes but not limited to ecological restoration, grazing management,alternative use of range resources as well as demonstration and promotion of newtechnologies or information at least within a short or medium term research plan.


Poultry Research

PoultryresearchattheDebreZeitAgriculturalResearchCenterandthecountryat large started during the late 1950’s. The early years were very active years. Poultry researchexperienced a lag phase from the mid 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. The Poultry research wasrecognized as a national program at the inception of the Ethiopian Agricultural ResearchOrganization (EARO) in 1997. Aviary Research program was structurally recognized in 2001with the inclusion of research on other birds (ostrich, Duck, Geese, Gunie fowl etc…). In2003 the poultry research has been restructured into national case team to carry out andcoordinate poultry research at a national level. The objective of the research is to generatetechnology that helps to attain self-sufficiency in poultry products, increase rural and periurban productivity and family incomes.


Achievements: So far, improved management packages including feeding, housing andhealthmanagementhavebeendevelopedforlocalchicken.Variouslocalecotypeshavebeencharacterized.Someexoticbreeds(Fayoumi,Koekoek,Hubbardclassic,HubbardJV,Lohmann Silver, and Dominant D102) have been tested, adapted and distributed to producers.Horro: an indigenous chicken breed has been also developed through mass selection, and isrecognized by the science and technology ministry of Ethiopia. A white feather synthetic line,a breed suitable for semi-intensive commercial production system is on its final stage of breeddevelopment by now, while a dual purpose Koekoek breed has been imported, adapted anddistributed across the country. Feed formulation based on local availabilities has been alsoachieved for different chicken breeds. Demonstration and wider promotion of proven poultrytechnologies were the backbone of achievements and current status of this commodity.


Future directions: New breeds of chickens including synthetic ones will be developed andtargeted within the near future. Further formulation of rations, alternative vaccines andvaccination strategies will be addressed. Marketing and value chain are other issues of concern.Socio -economic studies expected to be strengthened. The research group will remain active inthe training of farmers, experts and practitioners in the poultry industry.


Fishery Research

Ethiopia has quite a significant numberof freshwater lakes, rivers and hydroelectric andirrigation dams suitable for the production offish. It has more than 200 endemic fish speciesdistributed over the different lakes and rivers. Thenational aquatic life and fishery research teamis implementing prioritized research activitiesin the major fishery research centers located inthe high fish potential areas including lake Tana,Arbaminch, Zeway, Hawassa, Koka, Hashengie,etc. The research program is structured in to twobig programs as captured fisheries and aquaculture.Despite the high potential and the increasingdemand for fish in the country the research has thefollowing major challenges;

  • Over all capture fisheries potential of lakes andrivers is not synthesized in holistic way.
  • Limited transfer of technologies andmanagement tools for sustainable aquaticresources utilization in lakes, reservoirs andrivers.
  • Limited adaptation of fish seed productiontechniques and brood stock managementpractices.
  • Lack of culture practices of crustaceans, aquaticinvertebrates, plankton and aquatic plants forhumans and animals use.
  • Climate change and anthropogenic impactson water bodies and aquatic resources.
  • Lack of information on fish marketing andeconomic efficiency of the fishery sector
  • Lack of improved culture fish strain foraquaculture based fish production.
  • Lack of fish seed multiplication (Hatchery)facilities for research and demonstration andlack of adequate aquaculture training center.
  • Absence of fisheries development master plan.


In relation to the above challenges the mainobjective of the fishery research is to adapt andgenerate technologies and scientific informationwhich ensure sustainable utilization of the country’saquatic resources and improve productionand productivity of the fishery sector throughaquaculture towards achieving nutritional securityand improve livelihoods of the society.

Achievements: The fishery and aquaculture research has develop different technologiesthat best suits to the current conditions of Ethiopian fishery focusing on baselineinformation of water bodies, culturing systems, postharvest management, biologicalinformation, feeding systems and fishery health. During the last few decades theresearch has characterized the different water bodies for its liminological, physicaland chemical features and their suitability and potential for fish production. The fishproductivity of major water bodies has been estimated. Suitable strains of fish andtheir adaption to the different lakes and dams has been also identified. Appropriatefishing gears and seasons has been recommended. As post harvest loss is a majorchallenge of fish production different options of fish preservation practice targetingsmall holders, fishermen and other large scale produced has been established.Information on marketing and fish value chain for the major producing areas hasbeen also documented. In intensifying fish production different management practiceof aquaculture like feeding, fingerling production etc has been well progressed. Thistechnology has been demonstrated in many parts of the country to cooperatives,fishermen and relevant stakeholders along the value chain. The information hasbeen published in different forms as manuals and scientific papers to avail for users.Moreover training has been given to fishermen, students and development agentsand other stakeholders nationally.

Future directions: In line with the current development of livestock and fisheries andthe need for food and nutrition security a national research strategy has been designed.The major focus is developing and adapting more technologies and information onsustainable use of capture fisheries from lakes, manmade water bodies and riversnationwide, and improve fish production using different culture systems supportedby full package aquaculture technologies. In addition developing the capacity andcapability of the national research program to deliver the goals of the research agendasis a crucial need.

Sericulture Research

Sericulture, silk production from silkworms, is an agro-based industry.Production of silk is important to diversify the exportable items; to use the fiberlocally; to create jobs for people of all ages and sex groups including women, men,the youth, the elderlyand people with disabilities. Silk farming is a new dimension added to the countryagro industry for diversification of agriculture and reduction of rural poverty. Eventhough silk production is at the infant stage, it has become one of the priorities in thedevelopment agenda of the country due to its wide range of benefits. The researchobjective of the national project is to improve silk production and productivityin Ethiopia through development of effective and sustainable technology andinformation generation, adoption and dissemination thereby contributing to povertyalleviation, economic growth, and employment

Achievements: Achievements in sericulture research includeidentification of better performing silkworm strains, their management practices,economic feasibility, as well as feed materials in potential areas of silk production.Some of these technologies have been demonstrated and distributed for producers,while other information was made available to users in the form of productionmanualsandleaflets.Continuedefforthasbeenalsomadeinawarenesscreationandwider promotion of this commodity through mass media and field level events.

Future directions: It is mandatory to strategically address the existing silk productionconstraints through further introduction/adaptation of appropriate silk production andprocessing technologies from other countries. Evaluation of introduced and availabletechnological options and scaling up the best ones is also expected to continue.Human resource development through long-term and short-term training is alsocritical at all levels of engagement. It is also important to build the overall capacity offederalandregionalAgriculturalResearchCentersinperformingsericultureresearch.

Apiculture Research

Ethiopia has a longstanding beekeeping practices that has been an integral part ofother agricultural activities, where more than one million households keep honeybees. Beekeepingsubsector is dominantly for small-scale farmers and is contributing significantly to the increment off-farm income and toward poverty reduction in rural areas. Honey is considered as a cash crop andonly about 10% of the honey produced in the country is consumed by the beekeeping households.The remaining 90% is sold for income generation. The beekeeping subsector is also creating jobopportunities in both rural and urban areas. Recently, the Ethiopian government is intensivelyworking on organizing jobless urban and landless rural youth and women to involve in themin bee equipment production and beekeeping activities. This makes Ethiopia a leading in Africaand ninth in the world in honey production, respectively. Similarly, it stands first in Africa andthird in the world in beeswax production. Generating, verifying and disseminating efficient andeffective apiculture technologies and knowledge that enhance the productivity and production,and quality of beekeeping, developing and promoting beekeeping markets and marketing enablingenvironments are the major research objectives of the national apiculture research project.

Achievements: The project has carried out different research activities and recorded severalachievements. The major ones are generation of knowledge and information on characteristicsof honey from apis species, management practices, feed and feeding options, low cost hives andidentification and control of major bee pests. Furthermore, improved technologies have beendemonstrated while knowledge and information are available through publications.

Future directions:Strengthening the existing research agendas of apiculture shall be in place thisforwards.Commercializationofthissub-sectorneedtobestartedwithincreasingendeavorsinthe generation and adaptation of apiculture technologies. Market and value chain issues shallbe studied in depth. Full support to this enterprise from various dimensions is also required tocreate a competitive business, nationally and internationally is urgent. Apart from research, thiscommodity should have a technical core group representing different stakeholders’ implementationand follow-up of the National Apiculture Strategy Plan of the country.