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Dear all,

This is the last Agromisa-bulletin of 2015. The subject is Animal Husbandry. You can read about the work of Mrs. Katrien van 't Hooft, an internationally known veterinarian who works with smallholder farmers on several aspects of animal husbandry. Furthermore, you will find reviews of three of our practical publications about this topic.

To continue our work, your donation to Agromisa is welcome. It helps us to develop and distribute new practical publications to farmers and their organisations and schools in developing countries.

We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
We hope to meet or work together with you in the coming year.

Warm regards,


Animal husbandry: confronting the problems of small-scale producers

Interview with international well-known veterinarian Katrien van 't Hooft

There is a growing demand for an exchange of experiences on how healthy, sustainable and productive agriculture systems can be developed. Systems that do not lead to the depletion of soil and water resources and the loss of biodiversity. Dutch veterinarian Katrien van’t Hooft specialised in tropical veterinary medicine and has been confronting this problem in her work with (small-scale) dairy farmers in Latin America, India, Africa and the Netherlands.

Her approach combines technical experience in animal production systems with innovative methods based on local knowledge and practices. In Nicaragua, for example, she worked with cattle farms cooperations and studied the way rural women manage their poultry. In Bolivia - together with the farmers’ organisation ALVA - she trained local animal health workers, to whom small-scale dairy farmers could come for help and advice.
Later, she documented the local knowledge and practices of Bolivian farmers in "Gracias a los animales" ("Thanks to the animals") – a book that deals with the 11 main animal species – including cattle, poultry, lamas, alpacas, bees, goats, fish and sheep - maintained by small-scale farmers.
It was during a conference of the international Ethno veterinary Network in India in 1997 that she came in contact with Indian vets who shared her concern about farmers choosing productivity over a more sustainable and holistic approach to animal husbandry. Together, they developed strategies that would help strengthen low-input livestock management practices. Their priorities were poverty alleviation and food security.

In 1998, when she returned to the Netherlands, Katrien started to work for Compas, a magazine produced by the Dutch development consultants ETC. The Compas team identified, analysed and reported on experiences that showed how a productive synergy between indigenous practices and modern knowledge systems could be achieved. As editor and network co-ordinator Katrien maintained contact with partners in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

In 2008, Katrien co-authored a publication on endogenous livestock development for Agromisa. The AgroSpecial “Endogenous Livestock Development in the Cameroon: exploring the potential of local initiatives for livestock development” drew on the experiences of Heifer International, Compas partners and members of the Endogenous Livestock Network and was published in English, French and Portuguese (see below).

In 2011, after having worked with Dutch dairy farmers for four years, Katrien set up the Dutch Farm Experience, a company that aims to facilitate exchange between international organisations and Dutch (dairy) farmers who have adopted sustainable farming practices. The Dutch Farm Experience organises field trips to farms in the Netherlands where innovative animal husbandry practices ensure animal welfare and sustainable productivity without environmental damage.

Among the current problems facing (small-scale) livestock production in Africa, Asia and Latin America is the excessive and largely uncontrolled use of antibiotics and pesticides. In response to this Dutch Farm Experience initiated and co-organised an exchange of experiences between farmers and veterinarians in the Netherlands and India (2014 and 2015) and in Ethiopia and Uganda ( 2015). They focused on how to reduce the use of antibiotics in dairy farming. This joint effort lead to the setting-up of the international Natural Livestock Farming network.

To highlight the risks of dependence on chemicals, members of the Natural Livestock Farming Network filmed the consequences of the use of insecticides and antibiotics on cross-bred Holstein and Ankole dairy cattle in Uganda. The video shows how cross-breeding is promoted to boost milk production but at the same time increases the animals’ vulnerability to ticks and the fatal cattle disease and zoonosis East Coast Fever. To control tick infestation cattle need regular spraying with insecticides and are often treated with antibiotics. Due to a lack of control milk is often contaminated by chemical residues with serious consequences for human health and welfare. The video – Uganda’s Milk Dilemma- was recently shown on regional and national Dutch TV and is available in Dutch with English subtitles

Beef production in the tropics: a new Agromisa handbook

Currently Agromisa is working on an Agrodok that deals with beef production in the tropics. Many of Katrien’s experiences are reflected in the approach taken by the author Gijs den Hertog. He stresses the need to understand the physical and nutritional needs of the herd and discusses the factors that inhibit reproduction and growth. Fodder production and seasonal feeding patterns are dealt with in detail and the importance of maintaining soil fertility so the feed - needed for balanced diets - can be produced as required is stressed. Den Hertog also underlines the importance of creating conditions that reduce animal stress such as providing a secure habitat and one in which cattle herders can work safely with their cattle. He suggests that farmers who decide to adopt the management practices described in the handbook, should keep a record of the measures they take to encourage animal health and increased production and the results achieved. This Agrodok is exceptional because most publications dealing with beef production tend to target large-scale producers. With this handbook Agromisa also addresses the needs of small-scale cattle farmers.

3 publications on animal husbandry for small-holder farmers

Endogenous Livestock Development in Cameroon:
exploring the potential of local initiatives for livestock development

Katrien van 't Hooft, David Millar, Ellen Geerlings and Sali Django
This AgroSpecial is based on the experiences of a workshop on endogenous livestock development (ELD) held in Cameroon in 2005 and an evaluation of changes in livestock development practices carried out nine months later. The workshop was the initiative of Agromisa, ETC/Compas, Heifer Cameroon and Heifer Netherlands. Participants included farmers, extension workers and consultants working with the ELD approach to poverty reduction. The AgroSpecial and accompanying DVD describe the way in which field visits and discussions were used to understand farmers’ objectives and how they managed their animals.

This AgroSpecial is about endogenous livestock development is available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Understanding the cultural determinants of human – animal interaction including the multifaceted role of livestock and its social and spiritual components is central to ELD initiatives and determine whether and how far the new ideas generated by research and  on-farm, experience can have positive and acceptable effects. The AgroSpecial describes in detail which changes in livestock development practices where established after the workshop. The DVD can be used in ELD training sessions.

Endogenous Livestock Development in the Cameroon is an AgroSpecial that targets farmers groups and organizations, extension workers, agricultural schools, NGOs, research organizations and ministries.

Goat keeping: useful management practices for smallholders.

Johan Koeslag, Gijs den Hertog and Hans Blauw

Goats play an important role in food production systems in developing countries. They are popular because they are able to adapt to many different climates and they can be used in several ways. They can serve as a bank account which can be drawn on when cash is needed and they provide high quality milk and meat. They are tougher than cattle and they are small animals and so they cost less per animal to keep. In this revised Agrodok  7 the authors provide detailed information on goat keeping. They also deal with raising and selecting young animals for reproduction, meat and cross breeding. There are chapters on nutrition, feeding and housing as well as on how to deal with the common diseases and parasites that affect these animals. Goat products such as milk, meat, bones, hide and manure are also dealt with.

The Agrodok "Goat keeping: useful management practices for smallholders" can be ordered  in English or in French


Dairy cattle husbandry: more milk through better management


Hans Blauw, Gijs den Hertog, Johan Koeslag

The well-illustrated Agrodok "Dairy cattle husbandry: more milk through better management" provides information about the main aspects of dairy farming in the tropics such as feeding, breeding, health care and reproduction. It is intended to help smallholders who are planning to start or want to increase milk production. The authors show how improved management and genetic improvement of existing herds can help increase milk production. Keeping dairy cows is labour intensive and cows are expensive and vulnerable animals. Milk is also a very perishable product. Farmers not only need knowledge, skills and management capacities they must also be able to rely on a well-organised infrastructure and support service. This handbook covers all these issues and includes detailed information on feeding, health diseases and reproduction. Attention is also given to the rearing of calves and young stock as well as clean milk production.

The Agrodok "Dairy cattle husbandry" is available in English and French.
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