Reducing feed costs and GHG emission in smallholder dairy cattle in SSA

Project Details


Strong trends in climate change are already evident with the global surface temperature reported to be 1.09°C higher between 2001 and 2020 compared with the period 1850-1900 (IPCC 2021). This could have huge potential impact on livestock in terms of feed resources, emergence of new diseases and reduced productivity. In developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, farms are predominately managed by smallholders, with 80% of land holdings being smaller than ten hectares (Lowder et al, 2021). A significant proportion of those depending on the smallholder farming systems for their livelihood are women. The impact smallholder farming has on climate is not clearly understood as data quantifying GHG emissions in these systems are limited, but about 5% higher CH4 emission have been attributed to these systems compared to dairy and beef systems in Europe and North America (FAO, 2013), mainly due to low efficiency of the smallholder systems. Therefore, research for the sustainability of the smallholder dairy system in the light of climate change is paramount considering issues both related to mitigation in the system as well as increasing the adaptive capacity of animals. This study proposes mitigation and adaptive measures and options for climate change for the small holder dairy cattle systems with synergies for increased productivity and enhanced food security.
The objectives of this study include:
1) To investigate the combined use of laser methane detector ( LMD) and milk MIR to derive predictive equations as a simple and inexpensive approach to measure methane emissions at the individual animal level for the purposes of genetic evaluations and selection to reduce methane emission. In addition, examine improvements in the predictive equations using additional traits such as fat and protein percentages as indirect predictors of CH4
2) Examine the use of body weight and/or indirect predictors of body weight (stature, chest width and body depth) to improve feed required for maintenance (feed saved for maintenance) and to reduce CH4 emission, resulting in corresponding improvement in efficiency of productivity and hence promote food security.
3) To investigate the variation between different breeds or animals of different breed composition for climate resilience traits such as THI, LnVar and calf survival with the aim of selecting more resilient animals.
4) Examine management strategies in terms of feed types and supplementation at the farm level to enhance livestock productivity, adaptability to climate change and resource use efficiency adding to sustainability
5) To develop a selection index for the smallholder dairy system using results from the above objectives, resulting in a cow with less impact on the environment, better feed utilization, more productive and efficient aka The smallholder Enviro-dairy cow

Short titleThe smallholder Enviro-dairy cow
Effective start/end date1/08/2231/07/25

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


  • Methane emission
  • Small dairy cow
  • climate change
  • genomic prediction
  • sustainability


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