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Animal genetic resources for improved productivity under harsh environmental conditions

Indigenous livestock breeds are well adapted to tropical and harsh environments, but usually rather unproductive. Therefore, crossbreeding with exotic breeds has been practiced, and often found to be successful in the first generation, but with disastrous results later on. Therefore, there is a great need for developing breeding strategies for specific populations of indigenous livestock, both in order to conserve genes necessary for survival under harsh environments, and for genetic improvement of productivity. The objective of this project is to explore the opportunities for genetic improvement of primarily two livestock populations considered of specific importance for food security in Eastern Africa, due to their resilience as regards adverse climatic stress or ability to withstand specific disease challenges in the tropics. In the first case, focus will be on the Red Maasai sheep and its crosses in Kenya and Tanzania. This breed has shown a high degree of resistance to gastrointestinal parasites and ability to withstand drought. However, there is no breeding strategy in place and this project will adopt a value chain approach with the farmers and retailers to establish appropriate breeding objectives and selection practices. We will furthermore study production systems, animal usage, survival, production, et cetera, using various interview methods and also further develop an already created production recording system. In the second study we have focused on comparing four Ethiopian cattle breeds with respect to trypanotolerance and productivity and found that one breed, the Sheko, is clearly superior. We will carry out a workshop with researchers, extension officers and farmers on how to amplify the genes for trypanotolerance into the cattle populations kept in tsetse infested areas.