Socio-economic evaluation of improved forage technologies in smallholder dairy cattle farming systems in Soroti District, Uganda
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Smallholder dairy cattle producers in Uganda face major production constraints including inadequate and poor quality feeds. This has led to low milk yield, long calving intervals and low growth rates. Forage technologies have been widely recommended to alleviate this problem. However, farmers are only expected to take them up if it is profitable to do so. Thus, this study aimed at comparing the profitability of dairy cattle enterprises using improved forage technologies (IFT) with those using local technologies, determining the factors affecting the use of improved forage technologies among smallholder dairy farmers in Soroti District and comparing the factors responsible for profitability of dairy cattle enterprises using improved forage technologies with those using local technology. Data were collected on a random sample of 121 farmers from two purposively selected sub-counties in Soroti district. The analytical tools used included descriptive statistics, partial budget analyses, the probit model, and the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS). Results indicated that farmers using IFT had significantly (p<0.01) larger gross margin with lower cost of production than those using local feeding methods. However, both the farmers who used the traditional technologies and those who used IFT had a positive gross margin. Data analysis using the probit model indicated that profitability of forage technology alone did not influence the decision to use IFT, but it did so when interacted with improved cattle breed. This implies that profitability and improved cattle breed had complementary effects on the decision to use IFT. Other factors that significantly increased the likelihood of IFT use included access to credit (p<0.1) and membership to farmer group (p<0.01). Age (p<0.01), educational level of the household head (p<0.01) and the size of land owned (p<0.05) significantly reduced the probability to use IFT. Much of the difference between profitability levels for IFT users and non-users was attributed to milking herd size (p<0.01) and distance to the market ((p<0.05), which benefited IFT non-users as compared to the users. stocking density (p<0.05) and age of the household head (p<0.1) favored IFT users, while membership to farmer group (p<0.01) and access to credit (p<0.05) negatively affected profitability for IFT users but had no impact on IFT non-users. These differentiating factors suggest that farmers may or may not use improved forage technologies and still be able to obtain as high profitability levels as possible. The major implications from the study findings were that use of IFT is labor saving and profitable. This suggests that policies targeting efficient dissemination of improved forage technologies are urgently needed. These should emphasize increasing credit markets in rural areas and target farmer group formation as these are major factors necessary in order to enhance the use of IFT. In addition, farmers should be availed with the necessary inputs especially forage seed. Similar studies such as this one should be carried out in other areas. Impact studies that consider long-terms impacts are also recommended.