Livestock yields are below what they should be
Livestock are crucial to the livelihoods of more than 900 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. However, there are large production yield gaps in livestock systems in these two regions. This means that most of the time, farmers produce much lower yields than they could achieve.
To increase yields sustainably, development agencies and donors need to have better information to make good decisions. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation want to invest in development in Africa, but are unsure where and how to best deploy resources.
Determining the best options for farmers
Together with our partners in the LiveGAPS project, we looked at a range of pathways that might result in sustainable yield increases in dairy, small ruminants (e.g. goats) and poultry systems in Ethiopia, India, Tanzania and Nigeria.
While the concept of yield gaps has been used extensively for crops, LiveGAPS is the first ever yield gap study for livestock in low-and middle-income countries. We used advanced modelling to assess the technical potential for increasing productivity in smallholder livestock systems from a range of interventions.
Our partners include Supporting Evidence-Based Interventions (SEBI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Tasmania (UTAS).
More informed decisions, better investments
We found that combined interventions are likely to have a bigger impact than any single intervention. Many of these interventions offer good value for money. For example, poultry farmers in Tanzania could increase egg production by about 200 per cent and meat production by more than 300 per cent by feeding their hens additional supplements, providing daytime housing and improving health care. The findings are summarised in a series of factsheets, which offer specific insights on the best ways to increase productivity in different production systems.
We also developed a number of complementary data visualisation tools, which allow users to see and explore the data behind the recommendations. The apps are open access and we encourage the livestock community to use these resources to develop their insights.
Use the apps to explore the data
- Livestock holding households characteristics
- Cattle milk yield comparison between regions, agro-ecological zones and breeds
- Country-level livestock numbers, total production and yield
- Nutrient production by country, food group and farm size
- Differences in cattle milk yields among farm households
Our research enables development agencies and donors to assess the feasibility of different interventions and what sort of investment is needed to improve productivity in livestock systems.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are using this work to better understand the contemporary state of livestock systems for the regions and species which are a priority to them.
To learn more about the LiveGAPS project.