Status of Uganda’s Diary Production

Dairy farming is a major activity in the southwestern, central, and northeastern parts of the country, with the sector contributing significantly to the economic, nutritional, and employment opportunities of the rural communities in those areas. The dairy industrycontributes 9% to Agriculture GDP and about 4% of the total GDP. Dairy farming is a priority agricultural sector under NDP III (2020/2021 to 2024/2025), and a key driver of the agro-industrialisation agenda, Parish Development Model, and Uganda Vision 2040. According to expert reports, the dairy sector currently brings in the second-highest export earnings after coffee in the agricultural sector and is gradually paving its way to the number one position. The sector is currently valued at US$3.8 billion according to statistics. Production of milk increased from sh2.51b litres to approximately sh3.85b litres between 2018 and 2022, an average annual growth rate of 11%, which is among the highest of any sector in the Ugandan economy. However, the sector is undermined by a number of challenges including livestock diseases, low uptake of high grade exotic cattle, a high rate of failure for artificial insemination, limited access to extension services, and limited investments in feed resources. A report by the Economic Policy Research Centre, based on investigations into livestock production practices and milk productivity, reveals that Uganda could be making $300 million more but most farmers in western Uganda who initially embraced exotic breeds are reverting to local Ankole cattle. An exotic breed can produce up to 40 litres of milk per day compared with just three litres from local breeds.

Short Initiative Project to improve productivity of dairy cows

Dairy cattle in Uganda, in most cases, produce less milk than expected. This is mainly caused by improper feeding. It is therefore imperative that feed quantity and quality be improved for dairy cows in Uganda to increase milk production and subsequently household incomes. Makerere University through the Department of Agricultural Production at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), together with the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI), Ento Organic Farm Ltd, and Ghent University in Belgium, are implementing a two-year project designed to harness circular and carbon-sequestering local feed resources to close the nutrition gap of cross-bred dairy cattle in Uganda.

 The project is supported by Vliruos and led by Prof. Veerle Fievez from Ghent University, Belgium. In Uganda, the project is coordinated by Prof. Fred Kabi from the Department of Agricultural Production (DAP) at CAES, Makerere University. Other members on the project are; Mr. Pius Lutakome, a PhD student and Lecturer at DAP, Makerere University; Dr Susan Diana Kerfua and Mr. Denis Asizua from NaLIRRI, and Mr. Martin Tenywa from Ento Organic Farm Ltd. The is intended to, among other objectives, i) share state-of-the-art scientific results on negative energy balance in transition crossbred dairy cows identified through metabolic biomarkers in blood spot samples, ii) Collaboratively co-create knowledge with stakeholders along the dairy value chain  on circular feeds as well as shrub- and tree-based resources with carbon-sequestering capacity, and assess their potential to close the nutrient gap, iii) cooperatively develop a roadmap with stakeholders in modeling a home grown solution to eliminating extreme hunger and poverty through sustainable dairy cattle production practices, and to close the nutritional gaps during negative energy balance  experienced at  early lactation period of crossbred dairy cattle.

Inception meeting

On 8th February 2024, the project team held an inception meeting to stimulate deep reflections on the contemporary global challenges on using circular feeds to close the nutritional gaps of dairy cows. The one-day meeting held at Grand Global Hotel in Kampala was also convened to develop a roadmap towards achieving the project goal, objectives and expected outcomes; to review implementation arrangements, and to confirm roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders. It was attended by stakeholders along the dairy value chain, representatives from local government, and researchers from the Department of Agricultural Production at CAES, Makerere University. At the meeting, Prof. Veerle Fievez from Ghent University delivered a presentation on ways of harnessing circular and carbon-sequestering local feed resources to close the nutrition gap of cross-bred dairy cattle in Uganda, whereas Mr. Pius Lutakome shared part of his findings from his PhD research project. Mr. Lutakome is conducting research on crossbreed dairy cows in grazing systems of Western Uganda and measures that can be taken to improve nutritional management based on monitoring the metabolic status. Participants too engaged in focused group discussions on realities of feed and feeding practices of dairy cows in Uganda, with the aim of establishing the kind of feed given to dairy cows, source of feed, quantities given, and the frequency at which the cows are fed. This was intended to guide the way forward for successful implementation of the project. The meeting was moderated by Dr. Prossy Isubikalu from the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies at CAES, Makerere University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *