Tag Archives: goats

Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund fellow conducts inventive goat genetic diversity research in DR Congo

Goats are among the most common farm animals in developing countries. Africa is home to about 35% of the world’s goat population (FAO 2016). They play an important socio-economic, nutritional and cultural role in rural households. An important indicator of goats’ adaptation to environmental conditions is their reproductive efficiency.

DR Congo has three major agro-ecological zones: the alluvial basin in the northeast and the central part; savannah in the central, western and the southeast; and the high-altitude volcanic mountains in the east of the country. More than 4,082,624 indigenous goats are spread throughout these agro-ecological zones.

Herd of goats

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, goats are the second most domesticated species after chicken. Goats make up between 30% and 60% of the country’s total livestock numbers. The country hosts three major breeds: the small goat, dwarf goat and Kasai goat. Congolese goat farmers raise and breed goats for meat production and commercial transactions, contributing up to 72% of households’ income in rural areas in the country. The productivity of African’s indigenous goats is low, and little is documented on the genetic diversity, production system and distribution of goats in DR Congo.

Patrick Baenyi, an Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellow from the Evangelical University in Africa, DR Congo, undertook a survey on 202 goat farmers in the country to identify typology, production management and critical traits considered in goat selection by farmers in three agro-ecological zones — South Kivu, Tshopo and Kinshasa. In his pioneering research, he collected phenotypic data and used phenotypic and molecular markers, that are the basis for animal genetic diversity studies, to characterize goat genetic resources.

The survey revealed that goats in the three zones were clustered into breed clusters, grouped into small goat and dwarf goat, mostly characterized by a black coat colour and curved horn. The clusters were further distinguished by their reproductive traits (i.e. the number of kids per gestation period, such as twins or triplets) and the total number of kids per goat’s lifespan.

Baenyi and a member of his team collect a blood sample from a goat in Tshopo, DR Congo

Baenyi’s study was an important first step towards goat breeding in the country and aids decision-making on goat genetics improvement in the country. Its findings suggest that molecular characterization by sequencing and genotyping should be considered by animal breeders to clarify the physical differences in goat breeds that were observed and to identify whether these differences are genetic or adapted from environmental influence. A good understanding of this genetic characterization is useful in designing effective strategies for managing, improving and conserving domesticated animal resources.

‘Working with the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub reinforced my skills in conducting genetics research and showed me the value of collaborating with other researchers and sharing my findings with the public. I was also trained in bioinformatics and proposal writing and I have continued with the invaluable mentorship relationships that started during my time at the hub,’

says Baenyi.

He is currently working under the supervision of ILRI’s Roger Pelle and his and is studying for his PhD in animal genetics and breeding at the University of Nairobi.

Vibrant innovation platforms equals relevant research – sustainable gains in research through community involvement

Often, adoption of new technologies or practices designed to improve people’s, lives does not take place due to various factors including lack of understanding by communities and the absence of support for the innovations from leadership. Félix Meutchieye, Cameroon national coordinator of the “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” project speaks about the strides being made by the project in involving communities and increasing the chances of adoption of research findings through innovation platforms.

Felix Portrait_Issue3Harnessing the diversity of native livestock in Africa is becoming a pressing need as continual changes in the environment exert pressure on small holder livestock farmers. The higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are contributing to the increased spread of existing vector-borne diseases and the emergence of  new diseases as well affecting the feed production.

Small ruminants play a significant role in livestock production systems throughout the wide range of agro-ecological regions in Africa. For many rural farmers, they are a critical resource of nutrition and income, and goats in particular are more resilient and adapted to different husbandry conditions. It is well documented that genetic variation in ability to various infections and diseases as well as to adapt to harsh environments with higher temperatures and less water, exists between and within different breeds of goats.This adaptation is especially evident in indigenous breeds, but gaps still exist in the knowledge available.

The “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” project is focused on bridging this knowledge gap by helping farmers take advantage of the best genetic resources locally available. Our strategy involves working closely with the goat keepers, traders, policy makers and all other stakeholders so that there is collective ownership of the existing problems and in the approach to finding solutions. Through the innovation platform (IP) system, the project is drawing from the existing indigenous knowledge, receiving guidance in terms of farmers’ actual needs and preferences and establishing effective channels that act as vehicles for information on research findings and promotion of sustainable livestock keeping practices.

Already in Cameroon, one regional IP in Kouoptamo (West Highlands) has identified high fecundity as a desirable trait in their goats and are promoting their animals as high value breeding stock for proven twinning ability. Additionally, as a result of close engagement with the project through the
Cameroon National goat IP, the Ministry of Livestock, fisheries and animal industries has recognized the importance of goats and small ruminants as an important resource to grow the country’s rural economy and has started a program to revitalize three small ruminant breeding and multiplication
stations in different agro-ecological regions.

Our counterparts in Ethiopia have established a community based goat breeding initiative where a group of 50 farmers have formed a cooperative society to drive the breeding activities. The cooperative members brought their goats for selection to form the next generation of goat parents in their village and in the neighbouring villages as well.

I see this active participation by communities as a very exciting and practical way of doing research. Through community involvement, the project has been able to stay relevant and ensure that good science supports the things that are most relevant to Africa’s development.

Getting goat facts straight – ABCF fellow makes a presentation during the 6th All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture

“There is need for us, African scientists to design research to suit our own context so that we can get the real picture of what we have on our continent.”

This was the powerful message delivered by Getinet Mekuriaw, an Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund (ABCF) research fellow at the BecA-ILRI Hub, during the Sixth All African Conference on Animal Agriculture in Nairobi on 27 October 2014. Mekuriaw’s presentation titled “A review of genetic diversity of domestic goats identified by microsatellite loci from global perspective” was based on a paper authored together with five other scientists from the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub and ILRI. The paper was an evaluation of the research that has been done so far in establishing the genetic diversity of domestic goats globally.

Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund fellow, Getinet Mekuriaw at work at the BecA-ILRI Hub. (photo credit: BecA-ILRI Hub/Marvin Wasonga)

Africa Bioscience Challenge Fund fellow, Getinet Mekuriaw at work at the BecA-ILRI Hub. (photo credit: BecA-ILRI Hub/Marvin Wasonga)

Genetic diversity holds the key to animal breeding and selection. Accurate information on the observable characteristics or traits of a species, their form and structural features and how this varies amongst different populations in a given region is crucial in the development of appropriate breeding strategies for the improvement and for the conservation of important breeds.

In Africa, the role of indigenous goats in smallholder livestock production is growing rapidly as keeping them is often the only practical way to use vast ranges of grasslands that cannot be used for crop production. There is evidence of local goat breeds being better able to withstand the increasingly harsh environmental conditions that come with climate change including higher temperatures, lower quality diets and greater disease challenge.

Unfortunately, not enough has been done to generate information about the genetic resources available and it is feared that many goat populations could disappear before they are even identified. Mekuriaw attributed the gaps in knowledge on goats globally, and in Africa specifically, to deficiencies in research methods. While it is indeed possible that there is low genetic variation between goat populations in Africa and beyond due to uncontrolled and random mating within flocks as well as huge population movement in between regions, inefficient technical and statistical data management have contributed to conclusions drawn from research so far.

Mekuriaw, a PhD student from the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, is currently attached to the BecA-led research project “Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity” under the ABCF fellowship program. Through this component of his PhD research which is supervised at the BecA-ILRI Hub by project Principal Investigator Dr Morris Agaba, Mekuriaw hopes to establish the extent of diversity among indigenous goat breeds in Ethiopia. He also hopes to map out the genes responsible for growth and twinning and thus contribute to the establishment of a breeding strategy that will select goats for those traits. In addition, he is also developing a molecular tool, DNA profiling, which enables the determination of pedigree of the animals which will also be used in the establishment of the breeding strategy.

Mekuriaw’s research is helping the BecA-led project to achieve its overall goal which includes empowering goat breeders in Cameroon and Ethiopia to develop better goats suited to resource-poor farmers and to develop ICT based tools to support management decisions throughout the goat production chain.

Genetic diversity studies: Improving goat productivity, improving farmers’ lives in Ethiopia

The most significant part of research is the point at which the output transforms the lives of those for whom it is intended. When Tilahun Seyoum, a small holder livestock farmer in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, learnt basic principles of goat breeding and health management from a group of researchers his approach to goat farming completely changed.

This Ethiopian goat displays its identity card proudly. (Photo credit:ILRI/Wondmeneh Esatu)

This Ethiopian goat displays its identity card proudly. (Photo credit:ILRI/Wondmeneh Esatu)

Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) initiated a community based goat breeding initiative/program in Seyoum’s village and are helping him and 49 other farmers to exploit existing genetic diversity in their herds to improve goat productivity. The program is a part of the Swedish funded ‘Harnessing genetic diversity for improved goat productivity’ project led by the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA-ILRI) Hub.  The project which spans Ethiopia and Cameroon is conducting genetic diversity studies in these countries, knowledge that is being used to empower breeders to develop better goats suited to their context.

Already, a tagging exercise has helped the farmers in the Luma Tatesa kebele in Meta Robi distinguish the difference between goats whose parentage is known and those of unknown pedigree. The tags also indicate that the performance of the future offspring of these goats can be predicted hence the increasing their value compared to untagged animals.

Through this project, farmers in participating in the research have also been provided with access to animal health workers and are learning how to observe differences in their performance caused by illness as they keep animal health records for breeding purposes.

Read the original article:
http://sustainable-livestock.ilri.org/2014/05/25/ear-tags-stir-fresh-interest-in-goats-in-ethiopian-village/

Read related stories: 
http://hub.africabiosciences.org/blog/improved-goat-productivity-in-ethiopia-qa-with-dr-tadelle-dessie/
http://hub.africabiosciences.org/blog/pose-and-click-hassle-free-goat-sampling-in-ethiopia/

Pose and Click: Hassle-free goat sampling in Ethiopia

Sarah Osama takes blood samples from a goat in Ethiopia

Sarah Osama takes blood samples from a goat in Ethiopia

Narrated by Sara Osama, Research Technician

Taking blood, tissue or hair samples for genetic analysis and at the same time doing physical measurements of livestock in the field can be a very hectic and time consuming activity.

This tedious but necessary sampling process has greatly been eased by the use of a sampling method (AdaptMap photo protocol and sampling kit) developed by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). When I visited the villages of Haro Wolkite and Luma Tatesain in Ethiopia on a mission to investigate the genetic basis of goats in that region, I had the opportunity to test the sampling kit which had a slight modification made to it at the Hub.

Photo shoot
By taking photographs of the goats at different angles, we were able to deduce the physical measurements of the goats without struggling to pin them down. The process involved making markings on the animal’s pin bones which could easily be viewed by the photographer. An identifying card was then attached to the animal on which information such as the animal’s unique identity number, sex, birth date, owner, breed, sampling date, district/location, country and the distance from the camera was recorded.

A photograph of the goat’s eye with a color guide placed next to it was taken to determine the anemic state for the animal. This “famacha” guide has five levels of red and an animal giving a low score of 5 (very pale red) indicates the animal could be suffering from anemia. A photograph of the teeth helped us estimate its age while various profile shots were taken to deduce the pin bone width; the chest girth; height and length; and the points of shoulder width. All the information acquired from the photo shoot was recorded onto the card attached to the animal.
Finally, blood samples are drawn immediately after taking photos of each animal. The blood samples were labeled using the identity numbers given to the animals while taking the pictures for physical measurements.

Take and give
The farmers in the two villages visited were very cooperative with the researchers and gave extra assistance in managing the blood samples on FTA cards (cards developed for the collection and storage of DNA from organic samples), as they dried under the shade of a tree before storage. The farmers expressed their satisfaction with the minimal handling of their animals and in return for their cooperation in the sampling process they received on-the-spot diagnosis and treatment for worms based on the eye exam. Since the team included production experts, the farmers also received advice on better production practices.

This sampling exercise was part of the field activities being carried out by the BecA-ILRI Hub led team researching the genetic diversity of goats for improved productivity in Ethiopia and Cameroon.