Breeding strategies for improving smallholder dairy cattle productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa

AR Chawala, Enrique Sánchez-Molano, RJ Dewhurst, Andrew Peters, M.G.G. Chagunda, G Banos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
170 Downloads (Pure)


Breeding strategies for smallholder dairy farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) were simulated and evaluated considering cow traits identified as priorities by farmers in different agro-ecological zones. These traits were related to cow milk yield, fertility, temperament, feed intake and disease resistance. The first breeding strategy was based on continuous importation of genetically superior exotic dairy sire semen to SSA and crossing with local females leading to a gradual upgrade of the indigenous population. The second strategy assumed that semen from elite exotic bulls would be imported to SSA and used on indigenous cows to produce F1 animals. Thereafter, elite animals would be selected from within the F1 and each subsequent generation to establish a new synthetic breed. The third strategy was to improve the indigenous population by genetically selecting the best sires available domestically. Results showed positive genetic progress for all breeding goal traits. After 15 generations of selection, the genetic response of the importation strategy exceeded the corresponding genetic response of the synthetic breed strategy by 20%–60%. The former also exceeded the genetic response of the indigenous breed improvement strategy by 43%–75%. Potentially there is an opportunity for breeders to choose an appropriate breeding strategy that fits a specific need of smallholder dairy farmers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-687
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Issue number6
Early online date2 Jun 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 2021


  • breeding goal trait
  • breeding strategies
  • selection
  • smallholder dairy cattle


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