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Considerations for on-farm research and demonstration of useful feeding/nutrition practices for small ruminants in Ethiopia

Goetsch, A. L. and G. Abebe

Tropical and Subtropical Agroecosystems 11:151-155. 2009

Many funding organizations view on-farm research as having greater impact than ‘on-station’ trials, a feeling shared by farmers because of the opportunity to see and evaluate findings first-hand. Langston University provides technical assistance in a 5-year project supported by USAID, entitled Ethiopia Sheep and Goat Productivity Improvement Program (ESGPIP), which includes on-farm research and demonstration of useful feeding/nutrition practices. ESGPIP partners with research and extension entities throughout Ethiopia in implementing specific activities. The wide arrays of feeding/nutrition topics and activities range from providing materials and training for ammoniation of crop residues with associated field days to collaboration with export abattoirs in testing pre-slaughter management practices to extend shelf-life of carcasses from Highland areas. One effective strategy for on-farm research/demonstration used by some partners involves Farming Research Groups (FRG). The first such activity was conducted by the Adami Tulu Agricultural Research Center (ATARC). Five FRG were formed, each consisting of 9 or 10 farmers contributing 3 or 6 young male goats. Materials and funds were provided to each FRG to construct a simple barn with three pens. Ten young goats were supplemented and resided in pens at night, with 1 or 2 animals per farmer subjected to three different supplemental concentrate treatments. ATARC personnel closely monitored activities, with a minimum of two weekly visits. This approach allows for statistical analysis of data, desirable for publication of the findings and, perhaps more importantly, true value or meaning of any differences noted. With use of farmer-owned animals, it may not be feasible to impose negative control treatments, but an appropriate common or standard supplemental feedstuff treatment allows for an adequate basis of comparison. This implementation method is but one of many that can be effectively employed for on-farm research, each with unique advantages and disadvantages to be considered. Notable challenges exist in conducting on-farm research, although there are tradeoffs such as lesser facility and labor needs on-station. Numerous technologies are ready to be taken to on-farm settings, but it should also be realized that in some instances on-station research is first required to ascertain how best to implement a particular technology on-farm.


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