Stratified cattle production in pastoral areas of Kenya: Existing forms, driving factors and management practices

Author: Bulle Hallo Dabasso, Oliver Vivian Wasonga, Patrick Irungu & Brigitte Kaufmann
Year: 2018
Issue: 1
Volume: 11
Page: 22 - 33

Seasonal fluctuations in forage availability in African drylands significantly affect the body condition of pastoral livestock. The result is lean animals that, besides falling short of market requirements, often fetch low prices for producers. In Kenya’s pastoral areas, stratified cattle production (SCP) systems in which animals are transferred from arid to semi-arid areas with better production conditions are emerging as an option to improve animal body condition prior to sale. These practices are gaining popularity against a backdrop of scarce information to guide both the development and up-scaling of the systems. Using qualitative data collected through face-to-face interviews, this study describes the existing forms of SCP, their driving factors and management practices for coping with production and market challenges. Results reveal three forms of SCP that involve fattening of Borana cattle, small East African Zebu and their crosses. The forms were practised by ranchers, traders and agro-pastoralists, who exhibit differences with respect to access to grazing resources, herd sizes and fattening periods. Ranchers owned grazing resources and fatten 100-120 cattle for 6-12 months while traders leased grazing resources to fatten 80-100 cattle for 6-8 months. Agro-pastoralists supplemented pastures with crop residues to fatten 20-30 cattle for 3-4 months. The adoption of SCP systems were driven by changes in socio-economic and ecological conditions in the drylands of Kenya including an occurrence of drought and demand in terminal markets. Practitioners challenges included high costs of animal purchase and production, disease outbreaks and high marketing costs. In order to minimize costs associated with these challenges and maximize profits, animals are purchased during the dry season when prices are low, sale agents are used to source animals and bargain for prices, mature animals that requires a shorter fattening period are purchased, flexible grazing lease arrangements are followed and fattening periods are shortened when there is impending drought. This information could guide the development and promotion of SCP in Kenya and other drylands of Africa.

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