Pastoral Dairy Marketing and Household Wealth Interactions and Their Implications for Calves and Humans in Ethiopia

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Human Ecology

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Surveys of pastoral households in a semi-nomadic Borana community during 1987-1988 were used to test the hypothesis that poorer families living closest to a market town would be most affected by the enhanced opportunity to sell dairy products, which would intensify competition between people and calves for milk and have negative implications for calf management. These poorer families indeed reported the highest rates of milk offtake per cow, and the milk increment was probably sold to purchase more grain for human consumption at the expense of milk intake for the calf. Consequently, this strategy may increase the susceptibility of malnourished calves to disease, especially those from lower-producing dams. Benefits of improved human energy intake from grain and retention of livestock capital must be weighed against risks of calf death and possible malnutrition of people from milk restriction when assessing dairy marketing trade-offs that are most acute for the poor. Opportunity to sell dairy products at favorable terms of trade helps the poorest people survive, and their risks could be mitigated by policies that facilitate grain marketing in the rangelands and interventions that improve calf feeding management, diversify human diets, and create alternative opportunities for women to generate income. The households postulated to be most at risk were identified from a complex, but logical, interaction among factors of distance to market, household wealth, and the quality of milking cows held. This indicates that targeting such needy groups for development assistance may require a more detailed and interdisciplinary analysis of production systems than is commonly practiced.

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