The vast majority of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia use low input production systems that relate to relatively low milk yield per cow/day. While, the dairy sector is not yet developed to the expected level and its contribution to the national economy is quite low in Ethiopia. Even if Eastern Gojjam has good potential for milk and milk products production, diminutive is known about the existing characteristics of smallholder dairy production and constraints associated with dairying in the area. To bring this into realize, it is essential to understand the existing dairy production systems to make improvement interventions. Therefore, this study was conducted to assess the smallholder dairy production characteristics in four selected dairy potential districts of Eastern Gojjam. Overall, 240 smallholder farmers were randomly selected for individual interviews using a structured questionnaire. Dairying was reported to be a major (55%) source of income for the households. The major feed resources for dairy cattle includes grazing on natural pasture (68.33%), grass hay (100%), crop residues of barley (10%), wheat (27.91%) and teff (61.41%) as well as industrial by products and other non-conventional feeds. Mastitis (60.42%), blackleg (19.17%) and Lumpy Skin Disease (8.75%) were the most commonly economic importance dairy cattle diseases. Artificial Insemination (46.24%) and natural mating (44.17%) were the two breeding methods for dairy animals. The average charges of Artificial Insemination and bull services were estimated to be 12.5 and 26.75 Ethiopian birr/service, respectively. The average milk yield for cross breed cows was 12.33 liters/day. An average calving interval of 13 months, age at first calving of 29.13 months, and lactation length of 9.43 months were reported for crossbred dairy cows. The major dairy production constraints identified in this study were poor nutritional quality of feeds, shortage of feed, high feed cost and shortage of veterinary clinics and veterinarians. Thus, it is suggested that there is a need to preserve the existing feed, introduce superior forage species and improve animal health services, which will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the dairy sector in the study areas.
Keywords: Dairy production, dairy management practices, productivity