Written by Solomon Gizaw and Beamlak Tesfaye
The recent introduction of simple technologies will help increase the incomes of smallholder farmers, promote food security and safety, and lighten the workload of girls and women living in rural areas.
Yusuf claims that milk production has increased by 1-2 kg per cow on the average after introduction of mats on his farm.
As part of its effort to mechanize smallholder dairy production in Ethiopia, the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project recently introduced hand-operated milking machines and cow mats for use by dairy farmers in the country.
The two technologies will complement previously introduced small- and medium-scale milking machines.
Hand-operated milking machines are most suited to rural areas which are not connected to the electricity grid. The technology will help increase milk production through the gentle, quick and complete removal of milk from the udder, improve milking hygiene and food safety, and ease the labour burden on rural women and girls.
Cow mats help in maintaining barn hygiene, and increase the productivity and well-being of the animals. Small- and medium-scale dairy barns are often poorly designed, particularly the flooring, which makes it difficult to keep them clean. For instance, inappropriate flooring retains urine and manure and creates favourable environment for germs, exposing cows to diseases like mastitis.
Furthermore, rough and hard flooring is known to predispose cows to claw disorders. In conditions where concrete floors are also abrasive, there is excessive wear on the animals’ claws, especially the weight-bearing surface. Excessive wear of the sole can also lead to lesions in the toe and slippery hard concrete floors are a major cause of lameness. Rubber flooring has been proved to reduce cow discomfort, hoof sores and increased milk production.
Yusuf, a farmer and member of a dairy cooperative in Gerba village of Oromia region, who uses cow mats as part of an trial, attests to the above statement. He claims that milk production has increased by 1-2 kg per cow on the average after introduction of mats on his farm. The demonstration of cow mats has now created a high demand for the technology and LIVES is working to initiate production of cow mats locally in Ethiopia.
Previously, the project had introduced single- and double-bucket electric-powered milking machines, which are suited to peri-urban and urban small- and medium-scale dairy farms that have electricity. The technologies could also be appropriate, if adopted together with biogas-powered electric generators (also introduced by LIVES), for rural smallholder dairy farmers organized in groups or cooperatives. The LIVES project strategy for boosting the use of livestock technologies in Ethiopia includes the identification, procurement, demonstration, supply-focused business development, and local production of appropriate technologies.