Tag Archives: livestock

BecA-ILRI Hub alumni Charles Masembe: an African leader in livestock disease research

Dr Charles Masembe, Assistant Professor in the College of Natural Sciences at the Makerere University in Uganda

Dr Charles Masembe, Assistant Professor in the College of Natural Sciences at the Makerere University in Uganda

Dr Charles Masembe, an veterinerian, molecular epidemiologist and Associate Professor at the College of Natural Sciences, Makerere University in Uganda has been awarded a five-year Wellcome Trust Public Health and Tropical Medicine fellowship.

Building on discoveries he made while conducting research on genetic factors linked to the transfer of African swine fever (ASF) at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub, Masembe has continued to lead key research efforts on understanding the devastating viral swine disease.  African swine fever periodically kills 90-100 per cent of herds affected, threatening the thriving pig production industry in Uganda. Masembe will use the Wellcome Trust award to investigate the distribution patterns, and full genome characteristics that influence the maintenance and transmission of African swine fever at the livestock-wildlife interface in Uganda.

Masembe’s research at the BecA-ILRI Hub in 2010 and 2011, Masembe, shed light on the existence of the Ndumu virus in domestic pigs, a phenomenon which had not been previously observed. The virus had previously been isolated only from culicine mosquitoes. The results of his research will contribute to the development of effective control strategies for this disease that threatens the development of Uganda’s pig industry, the the largest and most rapidly growing pig production in eastern Africa with a pig population of 3.2 million.

Read similar story by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)

Read more about Masembe’s research at the BecA-ILRI Hub: Viral metagenomics demonstrates that pigs are a potential reservoir for Ndumu virus

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.

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.