Ugandans consume less meat than recommended – Livestock Experts

Experts in livestock and beef production have expressed concerns over the low levels of Uganda’s consumption of meat saying, there is a clear need to produce more meat, beef in particular, if the country is not to import to meet the demand.

The low consumption rate for meat among Ugandans is attributed to the deficit in meat production, poor beef quality and  lengthy period of raising  and feeding animals to reach the market and slaughter age.

To increase meat production cattle beef producers  need to adopt intensive animal husbandry practices and  supplementary  feeding technologies to guarantee  proper feeding, nutrition,  and faster growth .

Experts say, Uganda has 14.2 million cattle, 16 million goats, 4.5 million sheep and 47.6 million poultry. The country also has 4.1 million pigs plus some donkeys and camels-all having a biomass equivalent of 14.7 million Tropical Livestock Units (TLU) dominated by cattle (77%).

Dr. E. Mugerwa-Mukasa training livestock farmers at MUARIK

Speaking on meat and beef consumption levels vs  the requirement in Uganda,  a senior veterinarian,  retired public servant and practicing  livestock farmer  Dr. E. Mukasa-Mugerwa also owner of Bole Farm Ltd noted that offtake for cattle slaughter purposes is 8% amounting to 1,136,000 cattle slaughtered a year. 

Dr. Mugerwa said an average carcass weight is 185-kg  resulting to annual yield  210,160,000 kg beef and an annual value of beef industry standing at  approximately US$500 millions.

‘‘Beef accounts for 59% of total meat production. The recommended meat intake is 56-kg a year.

However, the average meat intake is 14-kg a year just 25% of the recommended while the average beef intake is 5.2-kg a year, 37% of meat intake“ Dr. Mugerwa decried.

Dr. Mugerwa was training livestock farmers and Trainers of Trainers (TOTs) from the 10 districts of the Central and Western cattle corridor at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK).

Nucleus Farm Managers and TOTs from  Isingiro, Masindi, Kiruhura, Lyantonde, Mubende, Kibaale, Nakaseke, Kyakyanzi, Masindi, Kiryadongo and Nakasongola were undergoing a two weeks  hand son training in supplementary feeding  sponsored by the Promote  Supplementary Feeding (SUPPL-F) project .

Livestock farmers display what the learnt during the two weeks training at MUARIK

SUPPL-F project is part of the Developing a Market-Oriented and Environmentally Sustainable Beef Meat Industry in Uganda (MOBIP), which is a Government of Uganda programme supported by the European Union under the overall supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries(MAAIF) at cost of  EUR 715,299

The project aimed at increasing access and uptake of supplementary feeding is running for a period of 28 months from the 12th August 2019 to December 2021 and implemented by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) in collaboration with   Robran Holdings Limited (RHL), Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences(CAES), The Livestock Development Forum(LDF) and the Green Elephant (TGE).

Dr.  Mukasa-Mugerwa was training farmers  on major beef production systems in Uganda,factors that affect beef production and profitability, grazing systems and management, carrying capacity, stocking rates,beef cattle management and  breeding among others.

He noted that although livestock contributes to direct ready cash or savings, food source (meat, milk,  blood), hides, skins, fibre, traction or drought, dung  and manure for fuel and fertilizer and also plays a significant role socially (gifts, status & wealth), farming systems with a livestock component are 20-25% economically more viable.

Dr. Mugerwa said ther is need to reignite the debate to  increase livestock production through intensive  production system and supplementary feeding  because of the increasing human population and its consequences.           

Livestock farmers training on feed mixing at MUARIK

He  observed  that Ugandas population today stands at 40m and of these, 22% are urban while     Kampala   has 2.5m. He observed that by 2050 ,Uganda will have 105m people, of these        44% will be urban, Kampala alone with 10m people.

“Population, urbanisation & economic growth increases the demand for food of animal origin. Every 10% increase in income (elasticity) stimulates 2.2%   rise in cereals production, 8.2%  rise in milk  production; 9.8%   rise in meat production and 11.0%  rise in egg production‘“ Dr. Mugerwa stated.

He said there is a clear need to produce more meat, beef in particular, if Uganda is  not to import to meet the demand.

‘‘By 2050 (just 30 years away) Uganda human population will reach 106 m and  the size of economy will more than triple. Current levels of production must be increased 6 times for milk, 9 times for meat and 10 times for eggs just to meet the requirement. Export of animals and animal products must grow to optimise Uganda‘s comparative advantage for animal production for the local, regional and international markets“. He said.

According to Dr. Mugrewa, there are good surface and underground water reserves to support a growing livestock industry while nationally, available animal feed resources can support another 8.5% or 1.2 million TLUs.

He advised that there is no need to to increase numbers, but manage what is availble better on grounds that Government of Uganda (GoU) is committed to develop the livestock industry, including the beef production through projects such as MOBIP .

Makerere I

Dr. Joachim Idibu training farmers on construction the feed lot structure in Waki

niversity Assistant lecturer from the Department of Agricultural Production Dr. Joachim Idibu attributed low meat consumption to inadequate production of beef.

“Uganda has a deficit of beef production, producing less beef and beef of poor quality in terms of tenderness, softness and marbling quality. We produce less beef because animals take three years to reach the market and slaughter stage.

One way of increasing beef production is to ensure that animals grow very fast within two years you are able to sell off your animal. One way can be through improvement of animal breeds but the other is through proper feeding and nutrition”, Said Dr. Idibu.

Assoc. Prof. Denis Mpairwe training livestock farmers at MUARIK

The project Principal investigator Makerere University, Assoc. Professor Denis Mpairwe said Uganda‘s 11.9m cattle population is raised for meat in four broad production systems.  Pastoral (41% of cattle) conributing 19% of farm income, Agro-pastoral (49% of cattle) conributing 12% of farm income, Ranches (8% of cattle)  contributing 45% of farm income and Semi-intensive production system (2% of cattle ) contributing to  75% of farm income.

Professor  Mpairwe however noted that competition for land, feed and water resources is forcing  more migratory cattle owners to sedentarize. Depending on the local conditions like climate, infrastructure, land availability, and local traditions, Prof.. Mpairwe identified beef cattle husbandry systems in the country.

The extensive systems comprising the pastoral, agro pastoral and ranching systems form the greatest concentration of beef cattle in Uganda but with low input low output with the common practice of leaving animals to survive by nature.

The other beef cattle husbandry system is the semi-intensive system where Mixed Crop-Livestock Farming System falls. The other according to Prof. Mpairwe  is the intensive systems  which  includes Fenced dairying , Zero Grazing , Urban scavenging animal production and Tethering.

Farmers being trained on construction of the feedlot structure

‘‘We need to FINISH animals for elite market [Beef Fattening on pastures or Feed-Lotting (confine + intensive feed rations) that is the essence of supplementary feeding“. Prof. Mpairwe stressed.

Prof. Mpairwe was optimistic that Uganda has opportunities highlighting the  projected demand for Prime Beef.

“There is initial need to produce 46,800 feeder animals for prime beef. This will require slaughtering 900 prime quality cattle a week or 180 animals a day in a 5 days working week.

High income Ugandans and a rising number of urban dwellers are demanding ‘better quality’ beef. This elite local market will initially need 12,000 well finished animals a year”, the university don said.

He emphasized that the export market needs good quality tinned canned beef and vacuum-packed special cuts with an initial size of 100 ton of beef a week, 500 well-finished cattle slaughtered a week or 26,000 a year.

In addition, Prof.  Mpairwe said, special clientele (of 65+ Embassies, NGOs, private investors, 15+ two star or higher level hotels and restaurants) need prime quality beef from ‘special cut’ processors. The size of this market is about 1,820-ton a year or 8,800 slaughter cattle.

Robrans Holdings Manager Brian Natwijuka (L) and PSFU project Manager (R) training farmrs on making silage

Other general challenges constant experts say, seasonal shortages of grazing, insufficient watering, animal diseases with high morbidity, poor access to markets, and unfavourable prices necessitate the adoption of supplementary feeding of livestock.

Insecure land tenure, rangeland degradation, changing lifestyles, scarce labour and loss of traditional grazing lands to food and crops cultivation and commercial farming, or even to urban development, requires livestock farmers to be more innovative by adopting intensive farming and supplementary feeding.

In addition, climatic change effecting beef cattle production via drought, unpredictable rains, barren lands and sporadic threats of desertification also mean that beef cattle farmers must change the way of doing business to tap into the market for improved livelihoods.

Article compiled by:
Jane Anyango
Principal Communication Officer, CAES



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