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Genetic improvement and utilization of indigenous cattle breeds for beef production in Zimbabwe: Past, Present and Future Prospects.

N. Assan

Abstract


Indigenous cattle breeds constitute an important reservoir of genetic material which developing nations have failed to give adequate recognition. Changes in economic situation, the changing consumer preference and therefore the need for change in production methods to comply with these are the major forces dictating the future of indigenous cattle breeding. Genetic improvement programs for indigenous cattle in developing countries have lagged behind chiefly because the infrastructural element necessary for planned breeding programs such as performance recording and artificial insemination centers are unavailable. The traditional methods of livestock husbandry practices in most of these countries is based on subsistence farming characterized by low input system and majority of the livestock owners are peasant farmers, making it impossible to establish planned indigenous cattle breeding schemes as is done in developed countries.

It now seems clear that without a thorough understanding of the small cattle production sector’s goals and strategies and without their participation, indigenous cattle genetic improvement programs are unlikely to be successful. Indigenous cattle genetic improvement must be based on empirically sound research if efforts are to be successful, more often than not previous projects implementation have been based on incorrect assumption about the behavior and goals of smallholder cattle sector. This may mean the evaluation of indigenous cattle breeds performance must be approached systematically, but is expensive and requires considerable professional dedication at national level. Unfortunately at least one of these perquisites is often lacking, and as a result few accurate data on indigenous cattle performance are as yet available to introduce suitable genetic improvement strategies.

An open nucleus breeding scheme for indigenous cattle breeds should be advocated. This may be attractive particularly in smallholder cattle sector with small populations where within herd selection programs are ineffective. There can be little doubt that the opportunities for indigenous cattle breeding are great if local breeders are willing to accept the challenge of a changing beef industry and realize the necessity for having to be competitive. The specific strategy for genetic improvement of indigenous cattle proposed by this review is based on open nucleus breeding scheme where performance testing and progeny testing are applied as tools for selection.

 


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