Assessment and economic evaluation of sheep reproduction efficiency, challenges and mitigation strategies in Kajiado, Kenya.

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Veterinary College
Department Name: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Abstract

Effective reproduction of sheep and goats allow pastoralists to produce animals for food production, but also to ensure that they have new young animals each year to replace their old reproductive livestock (mothers). However, different diseases, climate change factors (such as drought) and other challenges can interfere with the capacity of sheep and goats to get pregnant or to deliver a healthy new-born animal. Such negative impacts can have important consequences to pastoralists, who may not have enough offspring to sell and therefore will not generate enough income to sustain their family or livelihood. In extreme cases, they will not be able to replace their reproductive females livestock (mothers), meaning that the size of their herd will decrease, diminishing pastoralists capacity to recover in the future and to survive. For this reason, it is essential to identify those factors that may have a negative or positive impact on reproduction of these animals and to estimate how much of an impact these may have. This can be done with indicators of reproduction performance (e.g. percentage of lambs born death or percentage of ewes lambing per year in a herd) that could provide information to measure changes in reproduction capacity. However, information on these indicators is not available for sheep and goat pastoralists in Kenya, representing a barrier to monitor their situation and to identify problems or successes.
The study proposed here aims at generating the basic knowledge on the current level of the reproduction performance indicators for different sheep and goat herds, which could then be used as a reference to identify those pastoralists more at risk of losing their animals and those better performing. This will be done through scanning of the available literature, interview with key experts and interviews with pastoralists. We will test if climate change factors (such as large mobility of animals, poor access to water or fresh pastures or conflicts), socio-economic factors (such as gender of the pastoralist or number of dependents), type of advice channels to pastoralists, presence of infections or existing innovations have the capacity to influence the level of these reproduction indicators. We will also use this knowledge to conduct economic analysis to estimate the financial losses or gains due to changes in the capacity of reproduction of sheep or goats. In addition, we will test for six major diseases that affect sheep and goats' reproduction capacity, but that can also infect and cause illnesses in humans.
The results of the study will therefore generate a baseline knowledge to indicate possible areas of interventions or research that could help pastoralists to improve the reproduction capacity of their sheep or goats. The project will represent a multi-disciplinary collaboration between researchers and students of the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom.

Planned Impact

The outcomes will be of considerable value to a variety of potential beneficiaries, such as pastoralists, veterinarians, regional and central policy makers, academia and other research institutions, and the wider public.

The main beneficiaries of this project will be the pastoralists and veterinarians or animal health practitioners. The project will provide information on reproductive performance that they can use to set up targets, monitor the health of their flocks, detect potential reproductive problems and determine the effectiveness of changes in their reproduction management. Furthermore, the project will provide information on the factors associated to poor or efficient reproduction performance and the economic impact of these. This information would be useful to inform decision-making process to improve reproduction of their small ruminants.

The wider public, but especially those in contact with small ruminants, will also benefit in different ways. In first instance, the project will determine livestock infection to pathogens that not only causes reproduction losses in sheep and goats, but that also represent a public health risk. This is because the pathogen investigated can infect humans, through direct contact or contaminated products or environments, and cause severe illness. The results will therefore allow generating awareness on the importance of these pathogens in the livestock population in Kajiado. This knowledge will also be useful for policy makers for the development of disease control programs to minimize public health risks. Secondly, understanding and quantifying the impact of small ruminant reproduction challenges will contribute towards generating more resilient and efficient producers. This will protect the livelihood and food security of pastoralists and their close communities, but will also help to improve food supply to the general population.

The research communities and implementers agencies: The results will provide benchmarking data that could be used as reference to monitor the effectiveness of policies and interventions conducted in the area. It will allow identifying those type of pastoralists at risk of losing their herds and those more efficient pastoralists. The results will therefore help to better select targets of interventions (so to target those populations more at risks), identify areas or innovations implemented that could be the focus of more detailed research studies and inform policies to increase preparedness to future system shocks affecting small ruminant reproduction.Furthermore, understanding of pastoralists' information networks for reproduction management will also allow to promote effective educational strategies and communications strategies of the relevant policies and intervention programs.

Publications

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Description We have designed a novel protocol and tool to capture and measure performance of small ruminant flocks own by pastoralists in Kajiado, Kenya. This was done through discussion with several pastoralists and small ruminant experts in Kenya. This tool allowed collecting the information needed on under 40 minutes, and without the need of expensive and laborious surveys (many studies collect these data by revisiting a flock numerous times, and are therefore impractical and expensive to implement). The tool was piloted with five pastoralists. Subsequently, a survey of 130 small ruminant pastoralists in Kajiado was conducted between June and September 2019, and we collected data on performance indicators and risk factors. Data on production performance have been successfully captured and analysed. The analysis included the development of a novel indicator of reproduction efficiency in small ruminant herds. The results obtained were similar to existing literature estimates, hence validating the effectiveness of our tool. The findings also provide novel baseline information on the current level of performance by small ruminant herds in Kajiado. A manuscript has currently been drafted and is being reviewed internally.

We have collected 1,560 blood samples from small ruminants belonging to 130 pastoralists in Kajiado. Serological and molecular analysis is still being conducted by University of Nairobi. Currently all the 1560 serum samples have been analysed by Rose Bengal test for brucellosis. Six samples have been found to be seropositive for the bacterial pathogens. The positive samples (and seronegative ones) will be further analysed using molecular analysis.

Economic models that measure the financial gain or loss (the profitability) of small ruminant flocks are being finalized. This will allow to assess the financial gain of a change in flock performance, and of the financial impact of shocks (e.g. drought) to small ruminant pastoralists. The findings of these will be available in the next report.

We have conducted 19 qualitative interviews (interviews with open ended questions) with small ruminant pastoralists in Kiserian. The results provided indication of the type of challenges experienced by pastoralists for the sustainability of their herd. These findings are being finalized and will be published as part of an MSc thesis from the Royal Veterinary College.
Exploitation Route - Implementation of a surveillance or benchmarking program on production performance parameters. This will also allow for better targeting of policies and research (e.g. target flocks wit low efficiency performance; and also identifying higher achievers to understand good practices and generate examples for the industry).
- The tool and economic models develop can be used to asses the impact of policy or interventions in small ruminant flocks. It will therefore support decision making for policy and private stakeholders.
- The prevalence of diseases will allow to create awareness of the main presence of key zoonotic pathogens affecting small ruminant reproduction performance, and their potential economic impact.This will allow for policy decision to control these diseases.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Title Development of novel tool to capture flock performance indicators from small ruminant flocks 
Description We have designed a novel protocol and tool to capture reproduction and production performance indicators from small ruminant flocks in Kenya. This was done through literature review of existing methods, and through discussion with several pastoralists and small ruminant experts in Kenya. This tool allowed collecting the information needed on under 40 minutes, and without the need of expensive and laborious longitudinal studies. The tool was piloted with five pastoralists. Subsequently, a survey of 130 small ruminant pastoralists in Kajiado was conducted between June and September 2019, and we collected data flock performance using the tool. We have been successful in capturing and analyzing these data, since the results obtained were similar to existing literature estimates. This validates the effectiveness of our tool. Furthermore the analysis included the development of a novel indicator that could be useful to assess the combined efficiency of both species for these farmers. A manuscript has currently been drafted and is being reviewed internally. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Currently, without reliable and up-to-date data, detection and management of pastoralists' production inefficiencies and resources is difficult, and often requires the use of subjective views from point sources. This lack of data acts as a barrier for pastoralists to improve their production and to manage their resources efficiently; and for government services to provide advice and to effectively and timely implement and monitor interventions or policies. Furthermore, major impact on reproduction performance indicators generate risks on the ability of pastoralists to maintain their flock size, threatening their food security and livelihood. Our methodology enables to capture data about flock performance of small ruminant pastoralists. The methodology used was found easy to implemented and acceptable by pastoralists, with very low levels of rejections, and the results obtained on performance were in similar range to other methodologies. The tool proposed in this study can be used to: (1) allow to identify those pastoralists with lower productivity and target resources towards these so that industry efficiency can be improved; (2) identify those herds that have a very good flock performance, which can be used as reference points for the industry; (3) implement programs to obtain benchmarking data on pastoralists over time which will allow comparison and development of targets; (4) use by policy and private stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of their policies or interventions; and (5) generate a baseline data and indicator for future research and economic studies needed to assess the viability of pastoralists systems. 
 
Title Modelling small ruminant flock economic performance 
Description We have developed new economic models that measure pastoralists financial performance. The model structure is based on the method developed to capture reproduction and production performance indicators. The model was used to assess the economic performance of the 130 pastoralists surveyed in the project. The model provide an indication of the gross margin of each pastoralists and provide data on the financial losses generated due to animal losses, price differences or changes in performance indicators. A manuscript is being produced at the moment. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model have yet to be published. It is however expected that these can be used by pastoralists and policy makers to inform decision processes. In particular, it can be used by policy makers, industry and researchers to assess the impact of diseases, shocks (e.g. drought) or market changes (e.g. price changes) on the economy of pastoralists, but also to assess the economic efficiency of different mitigation strategies. 
 
Title PCR testing of small ruminant serum samples 
Description Biological sampling and testing: A total of 1560 blood samples (Each about 5 ml) have been collected, transported to a Laboratory at the Department of Public Health, Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Nairobi and then stored at -20C. The genomic DNA of Brucella spp., Coxiella burnetii, Leptospira interrogans, Toxoplasma spp and Chlamydia spp. have been extracted from aliquots of the blood samples using a commercial QIAamp DNA Blood Mini-Kit. The extracted DNA samples are being stored at -20°C. Six pairs of primers have been designed and are currently, being optimised for analysis of the DNA samples by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Samples analysed by PCR will be sequenced further for bioinformatics analysis including Blastn of the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The Veriti 96 well thermocycler is currently being used for amplification of the genes (Applied Biosystems, Singapore). 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The analysis are still being done. Results expected in April 2020 
 
Title Database on pathogen presence in 1560 small ruminant serum samples in Kajiado 
Description A database is being created that contains the serological results from 1560 small ruminant samples collected in 130 small ruminant flocks in Kajiado, Kenya, in 2019. These samples were tested for Brucella spp., Coxiella burnetii, Leptospira interrogans, Toxoplasma spp and Chlamydia spp. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The dataset is link to the questionnaire data collected, which will allow to (1) investigate risk factors for presence of these pathogens; and (2) investigate if presence of these pathogens are a risk factor for reproduction and production performance. 
 
Title Database on small ruminant production data and risk factors from 130 pastoralists in Kajiado, Kenya 
Description The data was collected from a cross-sectional survey of 130 small ruminant pastoralists flocks in Kajiado county, Kenya. Two wards from Kajiado East (Kaputiei North and Kenyawa-Poka), two wards from Kajiado Central (Ildamat and Matapato South) and one ward from Kajiado West (Iloodokilani) were selected for this study based on livestock densities and accessibility following the advice of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) of Kajiado. Data was collected between June and September 2019. The questionnaire collected data on flock size and structure; and retrospective data on reproduction, mortality, offtake and intake for a period of 12 months. Data about mortality were collected separately depending on the following causes: "diseases", "drought", "predation" and "other reasons"; offtake data was captured in the following categories: "sale", "slaughter for own consumption", "gift/dowry/inheritance", "loss" and "other reasons"; finally intake data was captured in the following categories: "purchase", "gift/dowry/inheritance" and "other reasons". The inclusion of these categories allowed us to characterize and quantify the main reason(s) for entry/exit of animals in the flock. Data were collected separately for sheep and goats, and specific age and sex groups were used to collect the data on all entries and exits and flock structure. Four categories were used: females (young ewes or does) younger or equal than 2 years old; males (young rams or bucks) younger or equal than 2 years old; females (ewes or does) older than 2 years old and males (rams or bucks) older than 2 years old. When the pastoralist owned more than one flock, data was collected for all the flocks. In addition, the dataset also contains data on purchase and selling prices of animals, disease presence, and past shock experience, as perceived by pastoralists. Data on information source used for management of flock performance and disease control was also collected. Data is still currently being analyzed. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No impact has yet been obtained as data in being analyzed and manuscript been produced and reviewed. It is expected that the data will be used to: (1) assess reproduction and production performance of small ruminant flocks (done), (2) measure the economic performance of these flocks (done), (3) identify risk factors for flock performance, (3) assess risk factors for presence of infectious disease on farm, and (4) generate baseline data for future research studies. 
 
Title Economic modelling of pastoralist performance 
Description We have developed new economic models that measure pastoralists financial performance. The model structure is based on the method developed to capture reproduction and production performance indicators. The model was used to assess the economic performance of the 130 pastoralists surveyed in the project. The model provide an indication of the gross margin of each pastoralists and provide data on the financial losses generated due to animal losses, price differences or changes in performance indicators. A manuscript is being produced at the moment. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model have yet to be published. It is however expected that these can be used by pastoralists and policy makers to inform decision processes. In particular, it can be used by policy makers, industry and researchers to assess the impact of diseases, shocks (e.g. drought) or market changes (e.g. price changes) on the economy of pastoralists, but also to assess the economic efficiency of different mitigation strategies. 
 
Title Qualitative analysis of pastoralists perceptions on flock reproduction challenges and mitigation strategies 
Description Interview with 18 small ruminant pastoralists were conducted in Kiserian market in May and June 2018. Thematic analysis was done to identify themes associated with pastoralists key challenges related to flock reproduction performance and the mitigation strategies. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This work was conducted by a MSc student in One Health from the Royal Veterinary College. Thesis will be submitted in March 2020. The results are expected to inform the economic models to determine the economic efficiency of mitigation strategies used by pastoralists to address the reproduction challenges. 
 
Description Partnership for project activities 
Organisation International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution University of Nairobi and the Royal Veterinary College are the two main partners of this project. Dr. Joshua Onono is the project PI from the Kenyan side, and Dr. Pablo Alarcon is the project PI from the UK side. University of Nairobi has implemented the field data collection and the laboratory analysis of the biological samples, under the guidance of Prof. Aboge. Dr. Onono and Prof. Aboge are currently supervising three MSc projects based on project data. Data analysis conducted by University of Nairobi involved the estimation of prevalence for the different pathogens tested and identification of risk factors for the presence of these pathogens. The outcomes have yet to be obtained. The Royal Veterinary College has designed the approach and questionnaire, helped in the piloting of the questionnaire, and is currently performing three type of data analysis: (1) assessment of reproduction performance indicators, (2) identification of risk factors associated to production performance indicators; and (3) development of economic models to assess impact of change in performance.
Collaborator Contribution The County government of Kajiado (the veterinary services department) has provided assistance in terms of (1) approving the research activities conducted in Kajiado, and (2) facilitating staff that helped in the recruitment of pastoralists and in the interview process (help translating question and responses during interviews). The International Livestock Research Institute (Dr. Barbara Wieland) has provided guidance on questionnaire design and facilitated the ethical review process of the project. All partners will be involved in the discussion of the research outputs and in their dissemination.
Impact The partnership is still working on the analysis of the data and the outcomes will be obtained later this year. The following has been achieved: - Successful collection of questionnaire data and 1560 serum samples (from sheep and goats) from 130 small ruminants pastoralists in Kajiado. . - Development of a new rapid method to capture small ruminant flock performance indicators (including reproduction performance indicators) through interviews with pastoralists. - The reproduction and production performance indicators for the sampled small ruminant flocks have been calculated, and baseline levels obtained. A novel indicator that provides an overall measure of flock efficiency has been developed. - Qualitative interviews with 18 small ruminant pastoralists have been conducted. Pastoralists perceptions on challenges associated to reproduction of their flock and mitigation strategies were obtained (MSc thesis to be submitted in March 2020) - Economic models have estimated the economic performance of small ruminant pastoralists in Kenya and the economic gains/losses associated to changes in performance indicators. The collaboration combines animal health economics expertise (Dr. Pablo Alarcon Lopez -RVC), with microbiological expertise (Professor Aboge - University of Nairobi) and veterinary epidemiology and public health expertise (Dr. Joshua Onono).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Partnership for project activities 
Organisation University of Nairobi
Country Kenya 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Nairobi and the Royal Veterinary College are the two main partners of this project. Dr. Joshua Onono is the project PI from the Kenyan side, and Dr. Pablo Alarcon is the project PI from the UK side. University of Nairobi has implemented the field data collection and the laboratory analysis of the biological samples, under the guidance of Prof. Aboge. Dr. Onono and Prof. Aboge are currently supervising three MSc projects based on project data. Data analysis conducted by University of Nairobi involved the estimation of prevalence for the different pathogens tested and identification of risk factors for the presence of these pathogens. The outcomes have yet to be obtained. The Royal Veterinary College has designed the approach and questionnaire, helped in the piloting of the questionnaire, and is currently performing three type of data analysis: (1) assessment of reproduction performance indicators, (2) identification of risk factors associated to production performance indicators; and (3) development of economic models to assess impact of change in performance.
Collaborator Contribution The County government of Kajiado (the veterinary services department) has provided assistance in terms of (1) approving the research activities conducted in Kajiado, and (2) facilitating staff that helped in the recruitment of pastoralists and in the interview process (help translating question and responses during interviews). The International Livestock Research Institute (Dr. Barbara Wieland) has provided guidance on questionnaire design and facilitated the ethical review process of the project. All partners will be involved in the discussion of the research outputs and in their dissemination.
Impact The partnership is still working on the analysis of the data and the outcomes will be obtained later this year. The following has been achieved: - Successful collection of questionnaire data and 1560 serum samples (from sheep and goats) from 130 small ruminants pastoralists in Kajiado. . - Development of a new rapid method to capture small ruminant flock performance indicators (including reproduction performance indicators) through interviews with pastoralists. - The reproduction and production performance indicators for the sampled small ruminant flocks have been calculated, and baseline levels obtained. A novel indicator that provides an overall measure of flock efficiency has been developed. - Qualitative interviews with 18 small ruminant pastoralists have been conducted. Pastoralists perceptions on challenges associated to reproduction of their flock and mitigation strategies were obtained (MSc thesis to be submitted in March 2020) - Economic models have estimated the economic performance of small ruminant pastoralists in Kenya and the economic gains/losses associated to changes in performance indicators. The collaboration combines animal health economics expertise (Dr. Pablo Alarcon Lopez -RVC), with microbiological expertise (Professor Aboge - University of Nairobi) and veterinary epidemiology and public health expertise (Dr. Joshua Onono).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Partnership for project activities 
Organisation Veterinary Services Department
Country Kenya 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution University of Nairobi and the Royal Veterinary College are the two main partners of this project. Dr. Joshua Onono is the project PI from the Kenyan side, and Dr. Pablo Alarcon is the project PI from the UK side. University of Nairobi has implemented the field data collection and the laboratory analysis of the biological samples, under the guidance of Prof. Aboge. Dr. Onono and Prof. Aboge are currently supervising three MSc projects based on project data. Data analysis conducted by University of Nairobi involved the estimation of prevalence for the different pathogens tested and identification of risk factors for the presence of these pathogens. The outcomes have yet to be obtained. The Royal Veterinary College has designed the approach and questionnaire, helped in the piloting of the questionnaire, and is currently performing three type of data analysis: (1) assessment of reproduction performance indicators, (2) identification of risk factors associated to production performance indicators; and (3) development of economic models to assess impact of change in performance.
Collaborator Contribution The County government of Kajiado (the veterinary services department) has provided assistance in terms of (1) approving the research activities conducted in Kajiado, and (2) facilitating staff that helped in the recruitment of pastoralists and in the interview process (help translating question and responses during interviews). The International Livestock Research Institute (Dr. Barbara Wieland) has provided guidance on questionnaire design and facilitated the ethical review process of the project. All partners will be involved in the discussion of the research outputs and in their dissemination.
Impact The partnership is still working on the analysis of the data and the outcomes will be obtained later this year. The following has been achieved: - Successful collection of questionnaire data and 1560 serum samples (from sheep and goats) from 130 small ruminants pastoralists in Kajiado. . - Development of a new rapid method to capture small ruminant flock performance indicators (including reproduction performance indicators) through interviews with pastoralists. - The reproduction and production performance indicators for the sampled small ruminant flocks have been calculated, and baseline levels obtained. A novel indicator that provides an overall measure of flock efficiency has been developed. - Qualitative interviews with 18 small ruminant pastoralists have been conducted. Pastoralists perceptions on challenges associated to reproduction of their flock and mitigation strategies were obtained (MSc thesis to be submitted in March 2020) - Economic models have estimated the economic performance of small ruminant pastoralists in Kenya and the economic gains/losses associated to changes in performance indicators. The collaboration combines animal health economics expertise (Dr. Pablo Alarcon Lopez -RVC), with microbiological expertise (Professor Aboge - University of Nairobi) and veterinary epidemiology and public health expertise (Dr. Joshua Onono).
Start Year 2019