In East Shewa Zone of Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, small-scale farmers use cattle fattening to complement other farming practices. But it often relies on traditional methods suffering from lack of linkage to feed suppliers, inadequate extension support, limited capacities and awareness gaps on improved beef production techniques. These challenges limit the effectiveness of fattening activities and hinder the agricultural productivity of livestock keepers.
On the other hand, farmers’ long established knowledge and experience and their proximity to key markets and availability of concentrate feeds offers opportunities to develop cattle fattening into viable businesses.
The Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project is supporting the development of ruminant fattening in the zone through technological demonstrations, capacity development for farmers and extension staff, and creating linkages with concentrate feed suppliers.
The project has trained both male and female farmers on improved livestock feeding, ration formulation, housing, and selection of animals for beef production and linked them to the feed suppliers in Bishoftu and Adama.
Alemu Defersha, a farmer in Lume District’s Shera Dibandiba peasant association (PA) is now making more money from fattening as a result of new knowledge gained which has also helped boost animal housing and feeding in his farm. Previously, in one fattening cycle in a year, he spent ETB 7800 (USD 350) on feeds, ETB 8000 for purchasing animals and ETB 1500 for labour costs. The variable cost added up to ETB 17,300 and he made profits of ETB 20,000. His gross margin was about ETB 2700 while the net margin was ETB 1350.
His new cattle shed of 30 x 30m, which cost ETB 37,700 includes waterers and wooden and plastic feeders. He has also bought more productive oxen, which are vaccinated against blackleg and foot-and-mouth diseases during the fattening period.
His experience in the project has enabled him to shift from traditional feeding practices to stall feeding using cotton seed cake, wheat bran (Frushaka), concentrate feeds (which contain by-products of flour mills and residue of bean, pea and lentil, molasses and salt). Defersha also uses crop residues and hay to provide roughage to his animals.
This year (2016), he has fattened 42 animals and despite facing challenges in accessing local markets in Mojo and Bishoftu towns, he has managed to sell them in the Kera livestock market in Addis Ababa, making a profit of 4,093 (USD 185) per animal.
He spent ETB 336,000 to purchase the animals, ETB 67,646 for feeds, ETB 10,500 and ETB 30,400 for labour and marketing costs, respectively, and gained a total revenue of ETB 624,000 (28,773 USD) in 2016. This translates to a marginal return of 130% (per animal) even though these figures do not fully capture the effect of scaling and his adoption of improved management practices.
Despite Derfesha’s gains from the improved beef production and relatively large-scale fattening activity, he and other cattle fatteners need to overcome challenges of high transaction cost resulting from the presence of middlemen in the livestock marketing chain in Addis Ababa. The market for fattened animals is also not guaranteed meaning farmers are not assured of a regular income.
By Yared Deribe, Abule Ebro, Nigatu Alemayehu and Dereje Legesse