The Role of Native Breeds in Maintaining Livestock Health: Story Ideas for the Radio

Livestock and beekeeping

Notes to broadcasters

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Native breeds of livestock have an important role in the maintenance of livestock health. Native or local breeds have been selected to: resist diseases, survive on low-quality feed, resist periods of feed scarcity, survive in local climates, walk long distances (in the case of donkeys and camels), be good mothers, and reproduce easily.

Use the following outlines, and your own ideas, to develop stories about the importance of local breeds.


Exotic chickens not adapted to local conditions

The chickens in a local village are low producers, but they provide enough eggs to meet the needs of villagers. When a veterinarian comes to visit the village, he says the native chickens are poor producers because they are sickly. He recommends that the native chickens be replaced with exotic chickens so that village people can have more eggs to eat and sell. But once the new chickens arrive in the village, most of them die because they are unaccustomed to the local climate and husbandry conditions. Villagers lose food and income.
: The ability of livestock to survive and reproduce is crucial for rural people who depend on them. These qualities are often more important than high productivity and rate of growth. Farmers need to assess the risk of introducing new breeds.

Women safeguard animal biodiversity with husbandry practices

A daughter is curious about the number of breeds of local hens that her mother keeps in the garden – seven breeds altogether! The daughter is surprised because her friend’s mother only has two kinds of hens. The mother explains that she chooses all these breeds because each one offers different qualities. For example, one type of hen produces more eggs, one grows very quickly, another fetches a good price at the market, and so on. There is even one type of hen that is resistant to the most serious poultry disease in the village. This is because villagers have selected and bred it for disease resistance for several generations.

: Keeping several breeds with different qualities provides security for farmers. By using a woman in your story you are sending a message about women farmers. Women are most often the keepers of livestock. They have important knowledge about raising and breeding animals, and should be included in any livestock improvement plans.

Local breeds survive drought and feed scarcity

A community is hit by drought and hard times. Much of the vegetation has dried up. There is very little feed and forage left for livestock. Because of this, many of the livestock crossbreeds (exotic breeds) are sick or dying. But the native breeds are still productive because they can survive on the few remaining grasses and trees, and with very little water. People in the village discuss these and other advantages of their indigenous breeds. They express gratitude to their ancestors who bred the animals to survive the local conditions.

: Native livestock breeds can often survive and stay healthy even with limited feed and water.

Further suggestions
: Invite listeners to discuss and share their views about the events in the story. Interview local farmers about the advantages and disadvantages of the older, traditional breeds of livestock, especially as they relate to livestock health and survival. If possible, go to the field to conduct your interviews.

Goat keepers form an association

: Goat breeders are being forced off their traditional communal grazing lands. As a result they stand to lose the indigenous goat breeds on which they depend, and their livelihoods. They form a producers’ association and are able to negotiate with a Land Management Committee to get back grazing rights through a system of rotational grazing. They see this as a way to protect their goats and their livelihood.

: Farmers can form producer organizations, including co-operatives or other associations, as a way to protect important local breeds.

An imported disease

: Villagers learn that shipments of crossbred cattle are arriving from a foreign country into the region. A few months later, the cattle in the village contract a new disease – one that is not previously known in the area. Villagers learn that the disease has been transmitted to their cattle by the imported livestock.

: Increased trade and imports of livestock and livestock products can contribute to the spread of livestock diseases. These diseases can threaten the survival of native breeds.

Further suggestions:
Invite local people to discuss the implications of increased trade and what possible action they can take.


Contributed by Jennifer Pittet, Thornbury, Ontario, Canada.

Reviewed by Terry S. Wollen, DVM, Coordinator of Animal Health, Heifer International. Field Address: Heifer Nepal, Arun Tole, Satdobato, Lalitpur 15 Nepal.

Information sources

Local livestock breeds for sustainable rural livelihoods, International Conference & Workshop, November 1-5, 2000. Sponsored by SEVA (Sustainable-agriculture & Environmental Voluntary Action), 45, TPMNagar, Virattipathu, Madurai-625010, Tamil Nadu, India, Tel: 0091-452-780082, E-mail: , and League for Pastoral Peoples, I. Koehler-Rollefson, Pragelatostr. 20, 64372 Ober-Ramstadt, Germany,