Insights into Sheep Genetic Improvement Practices Through Crossbreeding in Ethiopia: Achievements, Challenges and Future Prospects

Abiye Shenkut Abebe


Crossbreeding is one of the genetic improvement methods that enables to utilize between breed genetic variations. It is one of the main sheep genetic improvement strategies practiced for decades in Ethiopia. This review assessed achievements, challenges and future prospects of sheep genetic improvement through crossbreeding in Ethiopia. The crossbreeding scheme involves crossing of exotic breeds with indigenous as well as between indigenous sheep breeds. To improve growth performance of indigenous sheep, a number of exotic sheep breeds were imported from abroad although literature sources about the performance of crossbreeds is available only for Awassi and Dorper sheep crosses. Promising results have been reported in few areas where crossbreeding has been performed effectively. An evidence for this is the realization of up to 10kg yearling live weight superiority of crossbreeds with 50% and above Awassi and Dorper sheep blood levels over the indigenous sheep. As a national genetic improvement strategy, however, crossbreeding achievement in terms of improving productivity of indigenous sheep is generally minimal. Notably, Absence of well-deigned crossbreeding program, miss-match between genotypes and the environment, and resource limitation to maintain and multiply adequate number of exotic sheep and crossbreeds are the major challenges hindering the success of indigenous sheep genetic improvement through crossbreeding. In the future, the use of crossbreeding as a potential strategy for indigenous sheep genetic improvement relies on bringing long lasting solutions to the current problems. In general, implementing well-designed crossbreeding program, particularly between improved exotic sheep and indigenous sheep, should be the primary focus to improve productivity of indigenous sheep. In this way, the contribution of indigenous sheep resources for the smallholder farmers in particular and the country’s economic growth in general can be maximized. At the same time, protecting the valuable genetic resources of indigenous sheep should be an integral part of the crossbreeding program.

Keywords: genetic improvement, indigenous sheep of Ethiopia, sheep crossbreeding

DOI: 10.7176/ALST/75-01

Publication date:June 30th 2019


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