Indigenous livestock demonstrate superior adaptability over exotic livestock breeds under smallholder farming system in Malawi

Comparison of survival of indigenous and exotic livestock under smallholder free range production system was done at Chitedze Research Station using chicken and cattle. The objective was to come up with a breed that would assist resource poor farmers. Body weight, adaptability, disease resistance and survival were the traits used to evaluate performance. Results indicated that, freerange indigenous livestock are suitable for a smallholder farmer in Malawi because of their broad feeding habits and adaptation to unfavourable environment.

Low cost of production also puts them at an advantage over exotic livestock. In addition, hatchability of 100% was observed when eggs from Black Australop (BA), indigenous chicken (IC) and their crosses were naturally incubated by IC at Chikhawo Village in Malawi. However, chick survival rates between the local, exotic and crosses varied greatly with Black Australop recording the lowest survival rate of 1%. Similar experiences have been observed by farmers in villages around Bunda Campus of LUANAR where InCIP also distributed BA and IC cocks and eggs.

The comparative importance of indigenous livestock was explored in cattle by examining the relative susceptibility of various cattle breeds to some common diseases. The Holstein cattle was observed to be highly affected by lumpy skin disease compared to the Malawi zebu under same environment at Malimbwe Village in Malawi. These observations indicate the adaptive value of indigenous livestock which is normally masked by the productive value of the exotic livestock which are not suitable for the local farming conditions in Malawi where production resources to manipulate environmental effects are limiting. Thanks to the collaboration between InCIP and iLINOVA programmes in working towards shedding light on the importance of indigenous livestock and showing the need to improve management and promote their efficient and successful utilization in smallholder farming systems.

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