ADGG / Animal Breeding / East Africa / Genetics / ILRI / Livestock / LIVESTOCKCRP / Research

African Dairy Genetic Gains

African Dairy Genetic Gain (ADGG) is an International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)-led investment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) that is developing and testing a multi-country genetic gains platform that uses on-farm performance information and basic genomic data to identify and provide superior cross-bred bulls for artificial insemination (AI) delivery and planned natural mating to smallholder farmers in Africa.

Targeting Ethiopia and Tanzania, ADGG is supporting the development and piloting of digital information and communication technology (ICT) platforms through a farmer-focused public-private partnership for on-farm data recording and timely, actionable cow and herd management feedback to farmers in the two countries.

Most smallholder farmers in Africa lack sufficient resources to profitably maintain purebred exotic dairy cattle and many of them suffer productivity losses–in some cases up to 100%, and increased cow mortality (2.7 times) because of using high-grade exotic cows. Current AI systems in the continent only offer exotic semen, inexorably driving smallholders to use of higher grade cattle.

Since 2012, the Dairy Genetics East Africa (DGEA), a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation investment through the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the University of New England and PICO Eastern Africa, has demonstrated that continuous productivity gains can be achieved in smallholder dairy herds if farmers are informed about types of cross-bred animals that are most suited to their farms.

Smallholder farmers with cross-bred cows achieve higher milk yields (about 1,400 kg/lactation) compared to local cows.

Farmers have gained immediate productivity gains through the support provided by the on-farm data collection and feedback systems in ADGG. They are also getting additional benefits from the supply of appropriate bulls and semen. In future, the program will lead and support an anticipated approximately 2% increase in dairy productivity per annum through ongoing genetic gain.

The platform for ADGG contributes to more efficient dairy production and upgraded dairy value chains, which if upscaled have the potential to improve the livelihoods of millions of poor rural and peri-urban dairy farming households and many others players in the dairy value chains of several sub-Saharan African countries. The program and other complementary investment mechanisms are enabling the National Dairy Genetics Systems of Ethiopia and Tanzania gain the human and institutional capacity to manage the National Dairy Information Systems in collaboration with regional and global partners.

The vision of ADGG is to see African smallholder dairy farmers continuously accessing more productive dairy genetics, breeding and farmer education services and other related input services enabling their farming enterprises to be profitable and competitive businesses.

The program has three main objectives:

Objective 1. Establishing performance recording and sampling systems in Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Objective 2. Piloting farmer-feedback systems that assist farmers to improve their productivity.

Objective 3. Using the information and samples to develop systems to select cross-bred bulls and cows of superior genetic merit for AI and natural mating.

ADGG’s overall goal is to create working dairy genetic systems based on public-private partnerships that have a clear route to long-term sustainability. The program builds on the previous work to establish national Dairy Performance Recording Centers (DPRC) and digital data capture and farmer-feedback systems and platforms in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

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