A Digital Platform for Better Community-Based Sheep and Goat Breeding

An enumerator capturing data in Menz sheep community-based breeding program, Ethiopia. Photo: Tesfaye Getachew
An enumerator capturing data in Menz sheep community-based breeding program, Ethiopia. Photo: Tesfaye Getachew

Tesfaye Getachew Mengistu - Research Management Coordinator 

Aynalem Haile - Principal Scientist - Small Ruminant Breeder 


ICARDA scientists along with CGIAR LIVESTOCK developed a cloud-based genetic database platform to boost breed improvement programs in community-based livestock breeding programs in Ethiopia. 


Genetic improvement through selective breeding of farm livestock can enhance specific traits that are highly desirable to smallholder family farmers in dry areas under a climate-change crisis.  Improved growth rate, lamb/kid survival, milk yield, carcass yield morphological characters, and fiber yield and quality all help to meet market and consumer requirements, and improve overall productivity and profit margins for family farmers. To improve breeding, sheep and goat community-based breeding programs (CBBPs) were initiated in Ethiopia in 2010 by ICARDA and CRP LIVESTOCK, in partnership with Ethiopia’s National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS). 


However, genetic improvement by selective breeding requires genetic evaluations and ranking of animals, and the accuracy of these depends on data quality, dataset size, and the collection method used. This made breeding programs difficult to implement under conditions of subsistence livestock farming where herds are small and farmers widely spread. As well as this, data collection had been handled using manual data collection in herd books, which is not efficient in providing fast feedback to the community. That meant data loss and errors which limited the use of complex models to improve the accuracy of animal ranking and genetic parameter estimations. Furthermore, the manual data entry tasks became more complex as the data size increased.  


To overcome these challenges ICARDA scientists and Ethiopia’s NARS, partnered with AbacusBio an agribusiness technology firm to establish a cloud-based genetic database platform called AniCloud (soon to change to Dtreo). Data collectors in CBBPs in Ethiopia and Tanzania were equipped with tablets and trained to use the software before working with farmers on data collection. 


The software is purposely flexible, allowing users to capture data, save it offline and send it to ICARDA/NARS researchers whenever an internet connection exists. The researchers then review the data, approve it, and submit it to the central database where it can be accessed and analyzed. Information and outcomes are then channeled back to the community/breeders in a timely manner.  


AniCloud also creates a permanent multi-breed source of information that helps breed high genetic merit animals, provides information to policymakers, and supports long-term sustainability. When upscaled, the platform will allow for global access to the information.  


The platform immediately accelerated data capture, analysis, and feedback, lowering the time use and costs of the small ruminant breeding programs, reduced errors, increased data storage capacity and fidelity, and speeded up the output of the computed data. All of which motivates the use of more complex evaluation models for breeding values improvement in general.  



AniCloud’s ICARDA database now holds a large dataset of accurate data accessible by users for genetic evaluation. It is currently being implemented by 27 CBBPs of Ethiopia and Tanzania, and it holds who have access to (among others):  

  • 67,000 plus records of lambing/kidding. 

  • 125,500 plus liveweight records at different ages. 

  • 23,000 plus milk records.  


Further Reading: 

Tesfaye Getachew, Aynalem Haile, Mourad Rekik, Barbara Rischkowsky. (1/12/2020). A genetic database tool for data capture in small ruminant community-based breeding programs[tools]. https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11766/12699 

Getachew, T., Haile, A. and Rischkowsky, B. 2020. Digital platform enhances genetic progress in community-based sheep and goat breeding programs in Ethiopia. Poster prepared for the Virtual Livestock CRP Planning Meeting, 8-17 June 2020. Addis Ababa: ICARDA. https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11766/6262 

Tesfaye Getachew, Mark Teviotdale, Aynalem Haile. (3/12/2019). An animal genetic database tool launched in small ruminant community-based breeding programs [tools]. Lebanon: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11766/10846