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Cattle, Production system, Agro-ecosystem, Narok County, Kenya
Cattle farming is an integral part of the livelihoods of farmers in Narok County. However, very few studies have been conducted to describe livestock production in different agroecosystems in Kenya. The objective of this study was to determine cattle production systems and characteristics under different agro-ecosystems. The study was conducted through the administration of semi-structured questionnaires to 817 farmers in three sublocations from Narok south sub-county. The main livestock production systems were pure pastoral, communal grazing and zero-grazing where indigenous cattle were the predominant breed kept (86.8%) with a few farmers keeping crossbreeds or exotic breeds. However, sheep (75.1%) goats (79.4%), chicken (68.6%) and donkeys (32.9%) were also kept. The mean lactation period for cattle was 9.5 months with average inter-calving interval of 14.1 months. More households (45.1%) grazed cattle within their own pastureland compared to pure pastoralism (12.5%), communal grazing (8.0%), zero grazing (0.9%), or combination (33.5%). Approximately 37.1% of the respondents herded their cattle, 13.1% were on free grazing, 36.6% both free grazing and herding whereas 13.2% used paddocks. The mean land area under pasture was estimated at 53.9 acres. The main source of drinking water was within the grazing field (63.6%) with 36.4% having had to take livestock elsewhere. Most households (85.7%) practicing mixed farming could easily access veterinary services compared to 57.2% and 55.1% in agro-pastoral and pure pastoral system respectively (p<0.0001). The main veterinary interventions were deworming, vaccination, and antibiotic administration. Most households (98.6%) had sprayed their livestock with 98.9% sourcing the products from agrovet outlets. More respondents (63.8%) in agro-pastoral compared to 61.5% and 49.7% from pastoral and mixed farming respectively were aware of East Coast Fever disease (p<0.0001). Cattle were principally fed on natural pasture either produced from owned or leased lands with farmers getting unequal access to veterinary services.