Draught animal power in mixed farming systems
Draught animal power is a critical input to increased productivity of land and labour and therefore to sustainable agricultural production in low
input systems in West Africa humid and subhumid zones. In these mixed farming systems, farmers make use of trypanotolerant N'Dama cattle to supply draught force for ploughing and weeding heavy soils and for
transport. There is recently a growing southward movement of horses and donkeys into these areas and this is going to lead to major changes in the subhumid zones mixed crop-livestock production systems systems.
However, optimum exploitation of trypanotolerant cattle and equines for draught purposes is constrained by health, feeding and management factors. ITC's work on the animal traction system (farmers, implement,
harness, animal, soils) focuses mainly on the animal component with the view to design innovative packages and new avenues for the adequate supply of draught animal power for cropping and transport in West Africa
Past and current research and development activities conducted by ITC include epidemiological studies on equines diseases, the investigations between work stress and the stability of N'Dama cattle trypanotolerance trait and the evaluation of the potential use of crossbred cattle for draught purposes.
Evaluation of husbandry and health constraints of equines
Longitidunal studies and cross-sectional surveys are currently being conducted in The Gambia to asses constrains of utilisation of equines that form
74% of the draught animal population in The Gambia. Information on the epidemiology of prevalent diseases (vector borne diseases, helminthiosis and infectious diseases) and management features, health and management
packages are developed for better exploitation of equine resources in areas with high disease pressure.
Evaluation of the performance of crossbred bulls as draught animals
A continuous F1 crossbreeding scheme is underway in many West African
countries to enhance small dairy farming in periurban areas, where the disease risk is lowest. A by-product of these schemes are crossbred bulls
that are not desired for breeding so as to reduce the risk of erosion of the genetic resistance of the N'Dama cattle. However, the fast growth rate of
this animals, their large format coupled with the increased demand for power required to increase agricultural production, has led ITC to investigate the work capacity of F1 bulls (Holstein Friesian X N'Dama). Pilot
studies conducted on-station are complemented with village trials and demonstrations involving farmers.
Interactions between nutrition and work and disease resistance in N'Dama cattle
In the process of intensification of farming systems, an increasing number of trypanotolerant cattle
(especially the N'Dama) both male and female is being used for work purposes in sub-Saharan Africa and it has been shown that work can compromise the immune response to trypanosome infection. It is therefore
crucial to gain a better understanding of the interactions between work stress, resistance to trypanosome infection and nutrition if improved working and feeding strategies for N'Dama cattle are to be developed.
Results show that working and resting animals differ in their response to a 33kD trypanosome fraction and crude T. congolense antigen. However, a work force of up to 7% live weight and dietary allowance of at
least 10 g of digestible organic matter per kg live weight will support the effective expression of trypanotolerance of N'Dama cattle under moderate disease risk conditions.