Production systems and breeding practices of Arab and Oromo goat keepers in northwestern Ethiopia: implications for community-based breeding programs
We conducted a household survey in the semi-arid and sub-humid parts of Benishangul Gumuz region in northwestern Ethiopia to better understand and describe production systems and breeding practices of Arab and Oromo goat keepers. Multistage random sampling was employed to select peasant associations, while probability proportional to size sampling was used to select households. Data were collected from 249 households, out of which 86 were Arab and 163 were Oromo goat keepers that live in semi-arid and sub-humid agroecologies, respectively. Personal observations, focus group discussions, and structured questionnaires were used to collect data. Data were analyzed using SPSS and results were presented using descriptive statistics and indices. Ninety-two percent of Arab and 86% of Oromo goat keepers indicated crop and livestock production as their main occupation. Goats were kept for a variety of purposes. Income generation, meat, and savings were the highest priorities. The average flock size owned by Arab goat keepers (12.5±4.0) was significantly (p<0.01) higher than that of Oromo goat keepers (9.9± 3.8). Breeding does constituted the largest average flock size followed by kids, young does, and young bucks. Body size, twining ability, coat color, and kid growth were considered important in selecting breeding does, while body size, growth rate, coat color, and libido were the most preferred traits for buck selection. Mating was predominantly uncontrolled mainly due to communal grazing lands. Castration of bucks was significantly (p<0.01) more frequent in Arab goat keepers than in Oromo goat keepers. Arab goats have better reproductive performance than Oromo goats. On average, female goats in the study areas gave first births at the age of 1.2 years, kidded every 7.5 months, stayed on reproduction for about 7.6 years, and produced 10.7 kids per lifetime. Compared with Arab goats, Oromo goats had significantly (p<0.01) higher average age at first mating, age at first kidding, kidding interval, and reproductive lifetime but produced lower average number of kids per lifetime. Nucleus breeding schemes are recommended to optimize the limited available resources in the study areas. A single nucleus could serve both Arab and Oromo goat keepers. In conclusion, breeding programs implemented in the study areas should consider the production systems and breeding practices of Arab and Oromo goat keepers appropriately.