This project aimed to introduce the Natural Livestock Farming (NLF) 5-layered strategy for improved cattle health in Ethiopia through a pilot study which combines activities at field- and laboratory level. The main objective of this project was to improve milk quantity and quality produced by smallholders in a sustainable manner through the Natural Livestock Farming Five (NLF) layer strategy. Moreover, herbal gardens were developed to enable women to grow medicinal plants that strengthen cattle health.

This has resulted in:

  • Empowering women by providing additional income from dairy
  • Improving Ethiopian milk testing laboratory capacity
  • Enhancing safety and quality of milk in Ethiopia
  • Increasing awareness on milk quality, including antimicrobial resistance and prudent antibiotic use.

Experimental design:

  • Two pilot communities, encompassing 30 households each
  • Establishing baseline animal health status & milk quality parameters
  • Interventions will be defined by participatory workshops preceeding the farm level trials
  • Capacity building of laboratory skills for milk quality at government quality control laboratories
  • In depth analysis (base-line and end-line) of milk quality combined with animal health monitoring will reveal the effects of the interventions and their contribution to their improvement of animal health and smallholder livelihood

Main conclusions

At farm level, the dairy production has improved (in terms of both milk quantity and quality), as a result of the implementation of the NLF 5-layered strategy. The activities had special emphasis on three of the five elements of this strategy: (1) the use of herbs to cure the most common diseases, (2) improving the care of calves to reduce the high mortality rates, and 3) improving the management, feeding and housing of the dairy cows and their calves. Farmers were surprised to experience that the herbal treatments tested, for example for treating mammary infections, were just as successful as conventional therapy with antibiotics while being more accessible and cheaper to obtain. This has increased their confidence in the possibilities to reduce the use of antibiotics and thus produce residue-free milk.

At laboratory level, the capacity and skills on milk (-product) quality analysis of laboratory personnel was strengthened, after which the milk quality and status of antibiotic residues in milk from community members was determined. This showed that the level of milk residues in the pilot communities was substantially lower than in other communities with similar (zero-grazing) dairy system around Addis Ababa.

At field level the trial is continuing to perform very well, which inspires farmers within and outside the project and has drawn the attention of consumers, policy makers and other dairy projects.

More detailed project info here