Dr. Okeyo, A. Mwai is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Animal Production, University of   Nairobi. He is an animal Scientist Specializing in livestock improvement (Animal genetics and Breeding), with more than twenty five (28) years of experience in practical leadership and management of Cattle, Sheep and Goats genetic improvement programs in Kenya, Eastern African regions, including technical support to similar program in Southern Africa, South Asia, and to some extent in West Africa and South East Asia.

Dr.Alfayo Okeyo CV



Blϋmmel, M;, Toye P;, Mwai OA;, Wright I;, Randolph T;, Staal S.  2013.  Importance of livestock and the technological and policy challenges facing the development of livestock in Africa.
Gebreyesus, G;, Wamalwa M;, Dessie T;, Agaba M;, Benor S;, Mwai OA.  2013.  Harnessing “ODK collect” on smartphones for on-farm data collection in Africa: The ILRI-BecA goat project.
Dessie, T; Gebreyesus, G;, Mekuria G;, Jembere T;, Woldu T;, Agaba M;, Mwai OA.  2013.  Harnessing genetic diversity to improve goat productivity in Africa: Ethiopia component.
Rege, JEO;, Mwai OA.  2013.  Improving our knowledge of tropical indigenous animal genetic resources. Abstract

To better manage, use and conserve animal genetic resources (AnGR), we must understand the nature and distribution of both the phenotypic and genetic diversity that they posses. This module makes a case for and highlights issues and methods that underpin improved understanding of the diversity in AnGR as a basis for designing conservation and sustainable utilisation of the diversity (the subject of Module 3). The module emphasises the need to undertake phenotypic and genetic characterisation of indigenous breeds in order to improve our understanding. It also points out the role that modern technologies and indigenous knowledge may play in this process. Within the module there are links [blue] to the web resources and [burgundy] to case studies and other components that help illustrate the issues discussed. Various photographs referred to in the text are included in the appendix at the end of this document.

Ojango, JMK; Audho, JO; MAG; ZPOAME; J;.  2013.  Genetic improvement of sheep under changing environmental conditions.
Mulindwa, H; Galukande, WMAO; SE; M; J.  2013.  Evaluation of Ankole pastoral production systems in Uganda: Systems analysis approach. Abstract

The production objectives of Ankole cattle pastoral production system are shifting from traditional subsistence to commercial enterprises involving adoption of a new production system where farmers keep separate herds of Ankole and Friesians x Ankole crosses on the same farm. The ecological and economic sustainability of the emerging Ankole production system is currently being assessed through system analysis approach using a dynamic model to identify conditions under which either one or both gonotypes can be kept on a sustainable basis. The dynamic herd-based model is used to simulate pasture growth, reproduction and production of the two cattle genotypes. The developed model was evaluated using post weaning growth. The calculated average RPE value of 0.075% for growth (body weight) after weaning across both breeds is below the acceptable 20% and means that the model predicts post weaning growth with an error of 7.5%. The model also predicted changes in herd milk production throughout the simulation for a herd that was managed by the same rules but grazed at dynamic stocking rates over the simulation period. Herd milk production increased with increasing stocking density. However, the increase in herd yield had a negative effect on milk production per individual animal. There is need to evaluate the system using controlled stocking rates (ecological carrying capacity values) and assess their economic viability as well as determining appropriate cattle off-takes.

Mwai, OA;, Chang-Yeon; C, Dessie, T; Mamo Y.  2013.  Country Domestic Animal Genetic Resource Information system (C-DAGRIS).
Gizaw, S;, Getachew T;, Goshme S;, Mwai OA;, Dessie T.  2013.  A cooperative village breeding scheme for smallholder sheep farming systems in Ethiopia.
Okeyo, AM, Ibrahim MNM;, Ali, A; Bhuiyan AKFH;, Choudhury MP;, Sarker SC;, Islam F;.  2013.  Morphometry and performance of Black Bengal goats at the rural community level in Bangladesh. AbstractWebsite

Data on morphometrics and performance of 106 Black Bengal goats were collected through an in-depth monitoring survey conducted in 73 families of Gangatia, Borachala and Pachpai villages of Bhaluka Upazila, Mymensingh, Bangladesh using a structured


  2012.  Accuracy of pastoralists' memory-based kinship assignment of Ankole cattle: a microsatellite DNA analysis.. Anim Breed Genet. . 129(1):30-40.. Abstract

This study aimed to estimate the level of relatedness within Ankole cattle herds using autosomal microsatellite markers and to assess the accuracy of relationship assignment based on farmers' memory. Eight cattle populations (four from each of two counties in Mbarara district in Uganda) were studied. Cattle in each population shared varying degrees of relatedness (first-, second- and third-degree relatives and unrelated individuals). Only memory-based kinship assignments which farmers knew with some confidence were tested in this experiment. DNA isolated from the blood of a subsample of 304 animals was analysed using 19 microsatellite markers. Average within population relatedness coefficients ranged from 0.010 ± 0.005 (Nshaara) to 0.067 ± 0.004 (Tayebwa). An exclusion probability of 99.9% was observed for both sire-offspring and dam-offspring relationships using the entire panel of 19 markers. Confidence from likelihood tests performed on 292 dyads showed that first-degree relatives were more easily correctly assigned by farmers than second-degree ones (p < 0.01), which were also easier to assign than third-degree relatives (p < 0.01). Accuracy of kinship assignment by the farmers was 91.9% ± 5.0 for dam-offspring dyads, 85.5% ± 3.4 for sire-offspring dyads, 75.6% ± 12.3 for half-sib and 60.0% ± 5.0 for grand dam-grand offspring dyads. Herd size, number of dyads assigned and length of time spent by the herder with their cattle population did not correlate with error in memorizing relationships. However, herd size strongly correlated with number of dyads assigned by the herder (r = 0.967, p < 0.001). Overall, we conclude that memorized records of pastoralists can be used to trace relationships and for pedigree reconstruction within Ankole cattle populations, but with the awareness that herd size constrains the number of kinship assignments remembered by the farmer.


Tadelle, Dessie; Yetnayet, M; OM.  2011.  Information systems on domestic animal genetic resources.
Philipsson, J; Zonabend, BRC; OAME;.  2011.  Global perspectives on animal genetic resources for sustainable agriculture and food production in the tropics. Abstract

This first module provides some insight into the need for better use of animal genetic resources (AnGR) in the context of projected demand for food in developing countries until 2020. Worldwide, about a billion people do not have enough to eat; a livestock revolution is currently underway to meet the nutritional needs and improve the livelihood of poor people. However, the recent international food and financial crises have again worsened the situation for many of the world’s poor. The module provides the background, facts and reasons for increased attention to improved utilization and maintenance of AnGR for food and agriculture in developing countries. It also provides a list of some key literature. References and links are made to web resources and to other parts of this resource. Some case studies on breed resources and other relevant components of this resource (CD and web version) help illustrate the issues presented.

Mwai, OA.  2011.  Breeding indigenous livestock at ILRI: Red Maasai sheep in Kenya. Abstract

For the November 2011 'liveSTOCK Exchange' event at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Okeyo Mwai reflects on livestock genetics research work with the native red Maasai sheep breed in Kenya

Scholtz, MM, McManus C, Okeyo AM.  2011.  Opportunities for beef production in developing countries of the southern hemisphere. Abstract

Developing countries from the southern hemisphere have similarities in terms of climatic and agricultural conditions and cattle are the most important livestock species in these countries — which leads to many areas of similar interest and opportunities regarding beef cattle production. The increase in demand for meat in developing countries offers large market opportunities for livestock producers. If the productivity of beef farmers can be improved to commercial levels, it may have the potential to address poverty in these agriculturally based economies. Climate change is predicted to be highly dynamic and can have adverse effects on crop and livestock productivity. The cattle breed to be used and the production strategy to be followed in developing countries of the southern hemisphere will depend primarily on the environment and level of management. The availability of diverse cattle breed resources with adaptive and productive differences will allow breed types to be matched to different environments, management capabilities and markets. In the harsh and undeveloped areas or pastoralist systems, pure breeding with e.g. Sanga, Zebu or naturalized breeds may be the only production strategy that can be followed. In the more developed areas, crossbreeding with small indigenous cows may succeed in improving the output of beef cattle farming. It is believed that crossbreeding will gain importance in many developing counties in the southern hemisphere. It is therefore essential that crossbreeding studies be conducted where necessary, to supply information regarding heterosis and for the development of multi-breed genetic evaluations, breeding objectives and decision making. By describing production environments it may be possible to identify genotypes that are adapted to a specific environment. However, tools are needed to overlay geo-referenced data sets onto the different environments. Statistical science continues to support animal breeding and improvement, especially with respect to production traits. Traits linked to fertility and/or survival are still problematic and the appropriate quantitative breeding technology to properly handle these traits still needs to be developed. Gene or marker assisted selection may play an important role in selection for disease and parasite resistance or tolerance, since it is generally difficult to measure these traits directly. Strategies that utilize EBVs derived from genomic analyses (genomic EBVs), together with conventional mixed model methodology, may speed up the process of breeding animals with subsequent higher and more efficient production. The application of a landscape genetics approach offers the potential to greatly enhance the knowledge of how landscape heterogeneity influences the genetic population structure, gene flow, and adaptation. Results from these studies can be used to address questions related to species management and conservation.

Peacock, C, Ahuya CO, Ojango JMK, Okeyo AM.  2011.  Practical crossbreeding for improved livelihoods in developing countries: The FARM Africa goat project. Abstract

Successful livestock improvement programmes focusing on low-input smallholder production systems though rare, are possible using community-based approaches. This paper outlines important design and implementation components of a goat improvement programme undertaken by FARM Africa in the eastern highlands of Kenya. Through strong capacity building initiatives at grass-roots level, producers were empowered to undertake a goat genetic improvement programme that benefitted them in several ways. This resulted in the farmers forming their own umbrella organizations to cater for their interests as producers in accessing animal health and breeding services, production inputs, and marketing goats and goat products. In seven years, the population of improved goats in one of the project areas increased from 2100 to 5500, and the livelihoods of the participating farmers improved. Income from sales of milk and improved breeding and slaughter stock increased, while food security improved as a result of daily milk consumption and improved crop yields resulting from use of the rich goat manure. The project has, however, faced challenges arising mainly from the popularity of the improved goats within the Eastern Africa region, which has resulted in sale of a large number of the young animals, leaving few replacements within the project area. Uptake of goat breeding by private commercial farmers to provide breeding stock and replacement animals is currently lacking. Further research and evaluation is required on how to strengthen collective-action based institutions to improve services within smallholder farmer communities.

Rege, JEO, Marshall K, Notenbaert A;, Ojango JMK, Okeyo AM.  2011.  Pro-poor animal improvement and breeding — What can science do? Abstract

Livestock provide a wide variety of goods and services that generate income and support the livelihoods of millions of poor people in the developing world. Natural and human selections have shaped existing livestock genotypes throughout the estimated 12,000 year history since the first animal domestication. The result, in many production systems in the developing world, is a livestock genotype adapted to its environment and capable of meeting the needs of smallholder farmers. However, this adaptation is unlikely to be optimal and the rapid changes currently affecting the livestock sector, including policy and market changes, movements of germplasm frequently involving the importation of exotic breeds, and the increasing impacts of climate change are affecting the livestock genotype-environment optimum. This is challenging livestock production systems of smallholder farmers. Current challenges include: high rates of loss of the diversity in livestock populations, rapid transformation in smallholder production systems requiring significant changes in genotypes and their management; increased demand for quality and safe foods; increased market competition in a globalizing economy; increased need for complex partnership arrangements in the ever-changing livestock commodity chain; and lack of adaptive capacity to respond to the rapid system changes. Underlying all these is the general lack of strategies for genetic improvement of livestock in smallholder systems and poor livestock infrastructure in developing countries. Opportunities include increased demand for livestock products — and hence potential market opportunities, and new technologies with potential to leap-frog breeding progress in developing countries. This paper analyses options for pro-poor livestock improvement in developing countries, with particular emphasis on the potential role that science – both old and new – will have, from understanding the social underpinnings to innovative technical solutions. It concludes that one of the highest priority interventions for the smallholder systems is the development of innovative approaches for the strategic use of appropriate genotypes from the available range of global breed resources. The analysis strongly suggests that the highest priority ‘breeding intervention’ should be the provision of appropriate genotypes in a sustainable manner, underpinned by a good understanding of what breed resources exist that have demonstrated potential, where else they could be used, and how they would be delivered to smallholders. Efforts to improve/refine breeding skills of smallholders should proceed in parallel. Institutional arrangements and enabling policies are critical for the success in identifying and applying appropriate genetic technologies, improving access to input services and facilitating access to markets in order to translate productivity gains into incomes

Kugonza, DR, Nabasirye M, Mpairwe D, Hanotte O, Okeyo AM.  2011.  Productivity and morphology of Ankole cattle in three livestock production systems in Uganda. Abstract

Phenotypic characterization is critical in breed improvement and conservation. To determine the performance and morphological features of Ankole cattle in three livestock production systems (LPS) of Uganda, 248 farms were studied. Height at withers (HW), heart girth (HG), body length (BL), ear length, horn length (HL), distance between horn tips (HS) and body weight (BW) were then measured on 120 bulls and 180 cows. Data were analysed using LPS (crop livestock, agropastoral, pastoral), county (Gomba, Kazo, Kiboga, Mawoggola, Nyabushozi) and sex (females, males) as main factors. In the results, age at sexual maturity was 23.6 ± 0.5 months for bulls and 22.7 ± 0.5 months for cows. Age at first calving was 33.2 ± 0.5 months, whereas calving interval was 12.9 ± 0.8 months. Lactation length differed between LPS (5.5 ± 0.4, 6.3 ± 0.3 and 7.4 ± 0.2 months in agropastoral, crop livestock and pastoral, respectively). Mean daily milk off take was 2.2 ± 0.1 kg/cow whereas preweaning calf survivability was 90.0 ± 6.5%. Sex and LPS significantly influenced HW, HL and HS. Positive correlations were observed between BW and HG, BL and HL. Correlation coefficients were much lower in females than in males, except for BW vs HG and BW vs HW. Results show wide variations both in performance and morphology suggesting that within breed selection scheme and/or management improvement may lead to productivity improvements.

Sölkner, J, Mulindwa H, Galukande E;, Wurzinger M, Ojango J;, Okeyo AM.  2011.  Stochastic simulation model of Ankole pastoral production system: Model development and evaluation. Abstract

In the Ankole pastoral production system animals are grazed on pasture all year round. The cattle are not supplemented with conserved pasture or commercial feed except minerals. The large number of factors that influence production makes it impractical and expensive to use field trials to explore all the farm system options. A model of a pastoral production system was developed to provide a tool for developing and testing the system; for example, drying off animals early and supplement them for quick return on heat, testing the economic and ecological viability of the different stocking rates. The model links climate information, on a monthly basis, with dynamic, stochastic component-models for pasture growth and animal production, as well as management policies. Some of the component models were developed and published by other authors but are modified to suit the Ankole pastoral conditions. The model outputs were compared with on-farm data collected over 3 years and data collected for other on-farm studies in the region. The relative prediction error (RPE) values for body weight after weaning across both breeds ranged from 3% to 12% which is below the acceptable 20% and means that the model predicts post weaning growth with an average error of 7.5%. The model predicted pasture production and milk yield across seasons with relative prediction errors of 17.6% and 3.33%, respectively. The graph shapes of actual and predicted average daily milk yield as influenced by season (month of the year) were similar. Because pasture growth and milk production predictions were acceptable, economic predictions can be made using the model to test different management options such as seasonal breeding, alterations in lactation length and determination of appropriate off-takes and evaluation of economic viability of various stocking rates.

Camargo; Viana, JHM; Okeyo, AM, Muasa B;, Mutembei HM;, Tsuma VT;, Origa RA;, Camargo; Viana JHM;.  2011.  In vitro embryo production using Boran (Bos indicus) oocytes in Kenya. Website
Philipsson, J, Rege JEO, Zonabend E.  2011.   Animal improvement for increased productivity and food availability. AbstractWebsite

This module discusses important factors to consider when designing sustainable genetic improvement programmes, especially under tropical conditions. Previous attempts to launch breeding programmes in developing countries have too often failed for several reasons, although there are success stories to learn from as well. Long-term and simple strategies are necessary as is the need to efficiently exploit the potential of indigenous breeds. Increased productivity per animal or area of land used also need to be considered. However, that must be achieved while also considering the variable socio-economic and cultural values of livestock in different societies or regions. Within the module there are links [blue] to web resources and [green] to case studies and other related components of this resource that help illustrate the issues presented.


Okeyo, AM;, PERSLEY G;, Kemp SJ.  2010.  Livestock and Biodiversity: The Case of Cattle in Africa. Abstract

Africa is home to diverse and genetically unique ruminant livestock and wildlife species. The continent, however, faces huge food security challenges, partly due to low productivity of the livestock. As a centre of cattle domestication, Africa hosts genetically unique cattle, being products of generations of co-evolution with diverse people, each selecting for different attributes under different production systems and environments. Over millennia, this diversity of purpose has led to rich and unparalleled blends of indigenous and exotic cattle. Different parasites and pathogens, whose vigour has been buoyed by variable but generally favourable tropical conditions, have coevolved and served as critical drivers, making African cattle some of the world’s most scientifically interesting and valuable populations. This diversity is being lost at an alarmingly rate, and insitu conservation will not significantly save it These cattle can potentially provide adequate food and income to their keepers. First their genetic and phenotypic diversity should be understood, and then carefully tailored to specific production systems to improve their productivity. To realistically conserve these cattle, for which no conservation plans currently exist, available modern bio- and information technologies are needed to assemble and analyse complex sets of information on them. As the climate and pathogens all change, by smartly conserving (ex-situ) those at risk the genetic attributes critical for the world’s future food security challenges would be saved. This paper discusses the diversity of the African cattle and the need for their system-wide characterisation in order to allow their keepers to cope with the changing system, and minimise the loss of these unique genotypes.

Haile, A;, Duguma G;, Mirkena T;, Tibbo M;, Okeyo AM;, Iñiguez L;, Wurzinger M.  2010.  Indigenous Knowledge in Animal Management: Essential for Designing Community Based Sheep Breeding Programs. Website
Ojango, JM;, Panandam JM;, Bhuiyan AKFH;, Khan MS;, Kahi AK;, Imbayarwo-Chikosi VE;, Mwai OA.  2010.  Higher education in animal breeding in developing countries–challenges and opportunities.
Duguma, D; Mirkena, HIOAM; TRSWT; A; L;.  2010.  Participatory approaches to investigate breeding objectives of livestock keepers. Abstract

There are distinct breeds suitable for diverse purposes in the different production environments or ecological zones. Farmers in different production systems have different trait preferences and the strategies followed by them are also as diverse as the agro-environments within which they operate. In order to design a viable breeding plan, farmers’ preferences for the different traits need to be investigated. In this paper available tools and methods for defining livestock breeding objective traits are described, discussed and comparisons among them are made. The reviewed tools were: participatory rural appraisal (PRA), choice experiments, ranking of animals from own flock/herd and ranking of others animals. Each methodology may be appropriate to specific situation; however, it is recommended that a combination of approaches be used to precisely capture the breeding objective traits of livestock producers. Elucidation of objective traits using the tools with active involvement of producers can result in appropriate livestock genetic improvement that is well grounded in practical reality and truly reflects owners’ preferences.

Ojango, JMK; Okeyo, AM; RJEO.  2010.  The Kenya Dual Purpose Goat development project.
Ojango, JMK; Ahuya, MO; RJEOC; A.  2010.  The FARM-Africa dairy goat improvement project in Kenya: A case study.

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