Dairy farming in Uganda: production efficiency and soil management strategies under different production systems

While development agencies in Uganda have tended to promote intensification of dairy production to smallholder farmers where intensification is associated with improved breeds of dairy cattle, smaller farm sizes and increased usage of labour and purchased inputs per unit of milk produced - farmers themselves have adopted a range of intensification options that form a continuum, ranging from traditional extensive systems to intensive zero-grazing systems. Some farmers, having initially adopted more intensive options, have 'extensified/de-intensified'; based on their experiences with labour, feed and management costs, they have reverted to less intensive systems such as relaxation from zero-grazing to semi-intensive and downgrading of high-grade breed categories in other grazing systems. This has raised questions about whether intensification is always the best option for smallholder farmers but to date there has been a lack of systematic studies of the smallholder dairy sector in Uganda to provide the answers. Therefore, the current study sought to fill this information gap, particularly to understand competitiveness of different dairy production systems under different agro-climatic and market potential scenarios. To inform the design of development projects, it is particularly important to understand farmers' motivation to intensify so that projects are successful and sustainable. Topics of discussion include - changing policy environment; appropriate intensification levels for smallholders; low soil fertility; study rationale and focus; study districts; study methods; farm characterization; economic findings; nutrient cycling findings; and farmer feedback.