Indigenous knowledge in cattle breeding in Sierra Leone
This study was conducted in order to document and preserve valuable indigenous knowledge in cattle breeding and production under traditional cattle production system in Sierra Leone. Data were collected from thirty (30) cattle farms from three locations: Gbindi (16 farms), Sackelereh (7 farms), and Flamansa (7 farms) in the Sinkunia Chiefdom, Koinadugu District. A total of 85 herdsmen and 45 women were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire and by direct observation. Data were analyzed using percentages based on how interviewee agreed on issues discussed. The number of years engaged in cattle production ranged from 4 to 57 years with a mean of 24 years. The most important factor in selecting breeding stock was survivability expressed in terms of coat color. Solid fawn color was the most preferred (93%) followed by complete spotted and the least preferred is partial spotted. The Ndama is the only indigenous breed of cattle available in Sierra Leone. Bulls selected for breeding are usually selected from third parity progeny (95%) from dams with relatively high milk yield, good mothering ability and docile. The bull calf must be fast growing and fairly aggressive from amongst its contemporaries. Horn orientation is critical as herdsmen believe it predicts the future growth of the herd’s size. Potential bulls with horns pointing forwards are the most preferred (99%) and the least preferred are horns pointing backwards or outwards. Spiral horns are considered a bad omen. Also considered very important in a potential bull is a very good body conformation such as a straight top line, long body, good legs, and long tail with a healthy coat color. Almost all female calves are retained for replacement and are culled after failing to conceive when expected, aggressive behavior, poor mothering ability and relatively low milk yield. Milking is mostly done by the women and expressed preference for cows with four teats over cows with two teats. The longer the teats and widely separated the better for ease of milking compared to shorter teats that are close to each other. Women play a critical role in breeding decision making in determining the future composition of the herd as they handle the animals closely on a regular basis. Though individual differences do exists amongst cattle farmers in selecting breeding stock yet they have several parameters that are very common as indicated in this study which can be utilized for further scientific investigation.
Key words: indigenous knowledge, cattle, breeding