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Country Information Brief
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Ethiopia, Draft June 1995


Livestock Resources and Programmes

Livestock distribution

Ethiopia is claimed to have the largest livestock population in Africa. However, there is paucity of data on the livestock economy. Estimates vary from one source to another. For instance, according to the CSA's report there are 22.3 million cattle 9.5 million sheep, 5.7 million goats, 1.1 million horses, 0.2 million mules and 1.8 million asses in 1980/90 (excluding Eretrea and Tigray). On the other hand, the estimates of the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) are much higher at 30 million cattle, 23.2 million sheep, 17.3 million goats, 1.1 million camels, 7.0 million equines and 56.5 million chickens . It is estimated that livestock production (including hunting) contributes some 24 per cent of the agricultural GDP.

It is difficult to make inference about the trend of livestock population. But it is thought that the trend is probably declining in the highland area (because of intensive cultivation and eventual decrease of grazing areas) while in pastoral areas livestock numbers fluctuate depending on the seasonal condition of pasture, water resources and disease outbreaks (AACM, 1984)

The regional distribution of livestock in Ethiopia shows that nearly all regions have the potential to raise animals. In the highlands, livestock constitute a major part of the mixed farming system, providing draft power, producing milk and conferring a certain degree of security against crop failures. For the pastoralists in the lowlands, livestock husbandry is their sole means of survival. The only areas with no livestock husbandry are areas such as Gambella and Assosa where high level of tse-tse fly infestation.

Rainfed crop production is limited by low and erratic rainfall in arid and semi-arid zones and people in these pastoral areas rely more on livestock for subsistence. The pastoral areas are home for about 40 per cent of the cattle, 75 per cent of goats, 25 per cent of sheep, 20 per cent of equines and nearly all of the camels (Fekadu Gedamu, 1990). About 20 per cent of the draft oxen for the highland farms and 90 per cent of the grade cattle and sheep for export come from the pastoral regions. (Coppock, 1990)

Animal Health

Livestock diseases inflict a heavy loss on the sub-sector. Apart from high mortality rates, they affect fertility, growth rate and traction power output. The incidence of rinderpest, contagious pleuro-pneumonia, sheep and goat pox, blue tongue, fowl pox, pullorosis, anthrax, blackleg, haemorrhagic septicemia, bovine tuberculosis, bruceloass, etc. have severely limited the livestock production and export potential of the country.

Disease control programmes in Ethiopia include the establishment of the National veterinary Institute (NVI) in 1964, launching of various vaccination campaigns, providing veterinary service through the Livestock Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the implementation of the Fourth Livestock Development Project (FLDP) in 1988. The NVI produces drugs and vaccines, mostly for domestic use, while the FLDP seeks to address the two major constraints to animal production in the country, i.e nutrition and health. In spite of these efforts shortage of drugs and vaccines are critical. In recent years, the spread of tse-tse fly to higher altitudes has caused serious concern. Trypanosomiasis is killing draft animals in the crop-cultivating areas, causing famine and starvation.


The major source of animal feed in Ethiopia comes from unimproved pasture, rangelands and fallow. Crop residue are also assuming increasing importance in many densely-populated areas. In the highlands, grazing resources have deteriorated as a result of human population pressure. Despite ample grazing area, pastoralists are restricted to areas close to permanent water sources in the lowlands, resulting in overgrazing. It is reported that about 85 per cent of the forage intake is used to meet the animals' maintenance requirements in Ethiopia. Consequently, livestock productivity is very low with milk yield (local cattle of about 500 liters per lactation period (estimated to be less than 200 days). Off take rates for cattle are low though they are much higher for small stock (Tilahun Fekade, 1994).


Livestock husbandry is dominated by indigenous breeds with low productivity. Crossbred cows are unknown outside dairy farms around the major towns. The MOA has been providing improved heifers or bulls as well as artificial insemination service or bull stations. However, both the level of service and the number of improved animals distributed (estimated at 10,000 so far) are much too low to create impact on the national dairy herd and total milk production.

Marketing and Processing

Livestock marketing in Ethiopia follows a three-tier system: the primary, secondary and terminal markets through which animals go into the hands of small traders and then to large traders. Final buyers, which include butchers, meat processing factories, fattening farms or live animal exporters, purchase livestock at any stage.

Livestock export is an important source of foreign exchange for the country. The Ethiopian Livestock Marketing Enterprise, state-owned parastatal, exports live animals mainly to middle East countries. On average, it exported 10,292 steers and yearlings and 138,621 sheep and goats annually between 1980/81 and 1990/91 (Tilahun Fekade, 1994). Formal Private sector involvement in the export market has been limited due to competition from the illicit trade (i.e smuggling to neighboring countries) and government restrictions.

There are about 120 livestock market centres recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture. Most of these places have no well organized livestock marketing infrastructure to offer basic watering, feeding, resting and quarantine facilities. The situation is worse in pastoral areas, where only some have perimeter fencing to facilitate tax collection (Sintayehu 1993).

The slaughtering infrastructure is equally under developed. * The level of animal byproduct utilization is rather weak. Limited quantities of tallows are produced despite a strong demand from the local soap factories. While a certain level of bone meal, blood meal, and edible fat production takes place in Addis Ababa, virtually all blood and rumen contents go to waste. Full recovery of animal by-products is achieved only in the case of hides and skins (Tilahun Fekade, 1994). However, the quality of hides and skins is poor because of poor handling and disease problems.

Much of the total milk consumption reaches the consumer through the traditional marketing channels. There is only one milk processing and packing plant (the state-owned Shola Dairy Development Enterprise in Addis Ababa) and its sales is limited to a small number of consumers.

Objectives and Development Programmes

There have been several internationally supported livestock development projects dating back to the 1960s. In 1960, the Dairy Development Enterprise (DDE) was set up for collection, processing and distribution of milk for the Addis Ababa market. The livestock and Meat Board (LMB) was established in 1964 with the objective of improving marketing infrastructure. Livestock improvement program in the highlands started with the launching of the First Livestock Development Project in 1971 with the goal of supporting commercial dairy development enterprise around the capital city, Addis Ababa. This led to the flourishing of dairy farms (both small and large) during the per-Derg (the military government)period. The Second Livestock Development Project went in to operation in 1973, establishing slaughter facilities for provincial towns and cities and to improve stock routes and market places for livestock. A development program for the pastoralists was initiated in 1976 when the Third Livestock Development Project was launched. The Project was designed to develop rangelands, including water and roods, in the pastoral areas. The focus of the Fourth Livestock Development Project (established in 1988) was on feed and forage improvement as well as increased coverage of veterinary services in the highlands of Shoa and Gojam. The other livestock projects the Dairy Rehabilitation and Development Project (1986), the Pan African Rinder Campaign (launched in the 1980s) the Selale Peasant Dairy Development Project (1987) and PADEP VI (1989) which incorporated sheep improvement and wool processing activates.

The main livestock programme components of the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) are:

- Cattle development
- Sheep and Goat Development
- Poultry Development
- Apiculture Development

Given the importance of bee-keeping in Ethiopia, Programme 1 of ADP intends to develop honey production through improved bee-hives and promotion of product processing to target specific domestic or export markets.


* Although there are over 90 slaughter houses, slaughtering of livestock takes place mostly in villages. Abattoir slaughtering is significant only in the bigger towns.