This study was conducted in Essera Woreda, Dawuro Zone of South Nations Nationalities and People Region with the objectives of characterizing cattle husbandry practices as well as identifying and prioritizing cattle production constraints of the study area. Ninety households (HHs) owning cattle were selected randomly. A semi-structured questionnaire was prepared and used to collect data on cattle production system, production constraints and available feed resources. The average family size was 6.74±0.32 per HH. Crop-livestock mixed farming was the commonly used farming system (95.5%). The mean total land holding was 2.91±0.18 ha per HH and there was no significant (P>0.05) difference in total land holding among three agro-ecologies. The average land allocated for crop production, fallow land, others and grazing land were 1.00 ± 0.26, 0.92 ± 0.20, 0.46 ± 0.19 and 0.42 ± 0.19, respectively. The results of this study showed that the average cattle herd size per HH was 11.12 ± 0.69 and was significantly (p<0.05) varied across agro-ecologies. The purpose of keeping cattle in Woreda was for milk (46.7%), meat (44.4%), manure (100%), traction (4.4%), and others (37.8%). Natural mating (82.2%) was the most widely used breeding practice and was significantly (p<0.05) differed among agro-ecologies. Trypanosomiasis was the first ranked disease in the study area. The first three major feed resources were natural pasture (54.4 and 90%), crop residues (63.3 and 100%), and crop aftermath (65.5 and 90%) during dry and wet season, respectively. Grazing on natural pasture was the commonly used feeding system. Majority (93.3%) of HHs kept their cattle in their living house. The sources of water for cattle were river (75.5%), spring (13.3%) and tap (11.1%). The survey showed the major constraints of cattle production to be shortage of feed, diseases and shortage of water with indices of 0.385, 0.367 and 0.111, respectively. It was concluded that more emphasis should be given to improve cattle production through strong extension services in delivery of veterinary services, feed conservation and improved fodder cultivation and improved availability of water.
Key words: Cattle production, Essera Woreda, feed resources, Husbandry practices, production constraints.
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