by Yoseph Mekasha, Tesfaye Dubale, Dirk Hoekstra and Azage Tegegne
Samuel Alemu household is one of those supported by the Livestock and Irrigation Value chain for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project in Genta Kanchama peasant administration (PA) of Arba Minch Zuria District in Gamo Gofa Zone, Southern Ethiopia.
Samuel was a crop farmer but he occasionally keeps cattle for fattening as a sideline activity. He previously relied on traditional approaches in cattle fattening including long distance movement for grazing in communal areas supplemented by crop residue upon their return.
The animals would take a long time to fatten (up to 8 months) and he targeted to sell them during Easter holidays when demand for beef is high. But this approach limited him to just one fattening cycle in a year. Like most farmers in his community, Samuel relied on the cattle to provide draught animal power for farming after which he fattened them for sale.
A 2014 LIVES study tour to central Ethiopia changed Samuel’s approach to farming after he and other farmers learned they could improve and shorten cattle fattening cycles and sell more animals with a better price.
He used this knowledge to start cattle fattening as a business. He bought 1ha of land with the money he had earned from selling some of his crops (banana) to start the business.
He now has more than 20 cattle that are kept in a modern, well-built (with concrete and wood), and well ventilated barn. His cattle fattening business started with five oxen which he bought using his own money which was the first time he invested in animals instead of cultivation.
Among the practices he now uses in the business is selecting animals for fattening based on market need, using anthelmintics for deworming, stall feeding instead of open grazing, use of concentrate feeding, improved housing & short cycle multiple fattening. His animals are fed on crop residues, mainly maize stover, from his farm as a basal diet which is supplemented with formulated commercial concentrate for short durations (3-4 months).
Samuel has continued to benefit from the coaching/mentoring service from LIVES and its partners and is now an active member of district level livestock commodity platform established by LIVES.
In 2015, Samuel fattened 17 cattle in 3 cycles (5 in cycle 1 and 6 in each of the other 2 cycles) and generated gross revenue of ETB 176,250. He bought the animals for fattening at ETB 87, 750 ETB (purchasing price ranges from ETB 4000 to 6800 per head) and incurred costs for feeding concentrate of ETB 8000 ETB and medicine (ETB 500). After accounting for variable costs his gross margin was 80,000 ETB.
The 3 cycles target the major Ethiopian holidays (Easter in April, ‘Meskel’ in September, and Christmas in December) when the demand for beef is high. He now plans to increase the scale of production with the income he is making. According to him, beef has high demand and his being close to the local market in Arba Minch town means he can access the market easily.