From the Cart to the Milk: A Transformative Journey in Ethiopian Dairy Farming

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Tewachew - in the middle while sowing maize for silage-making with his daughter Netsanet.

In Ethiopia, dairy farming has long been hindered by suboptimal milk production. A multitude of factors, including improper management practices and a lack of knowledge, have prevented dairy cows from reaching their genetic potential. However, thanks to the Building Rural Income through Dairy Business Growth in Ethiopia (BRIDGE) project, spearheaded by SNV Ethiopia and Wageningen Livestock Research, the story is changing for dairy farmers like Tewachew Biazen in the Yilmana Densa district of the West-Amhara Dairy Cluster.

Tewachew's Story

Tewachew Biazen, once a cart-horse transporter, recognized the opportunity to increase and diversify his income by venturing into dairy farming. Joining the "Adet dairy coop" in his district, he began supplying raw milk to the cooperative, gradually building up his own herd. However, Tewachew faced challenges due to traditional practices that limited milk production. Enter Tilahun Ademe, the village service provider assigned by the BRIDGE project to support Tewachew and his fellow dairy farmers.

Lactation Cycle-Based Advice and Strategic Farm Management

Tilahun Ademe provided Tewachew with critical advice on managing the lactation cycle of his cows to enhance milk productivity. Previously, Tewachew followed customary practices that resulted in low milk yields. However, with Tilahun's guidance, he adopted new lactation cycle-focused techniques. Tewachew adjusted the drying-off period, ensured proper colostrum feeding, and improved farm management practices.

Tewachew implemented a comprehensive feeding system based on the lactation stage and age of his cows. He provided green feeds such as silage, Rhodes, and elephant grass to fresh cows and concentrate feed tailored to the milk yield. He prioritized cow comfort by providing quality hay and improving the barn's ventilation and lighting. These interventions led to a significant increase in milk production, with Tewachew's daily yield rising from 16 to 21 litres.

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Left: Tewachew’s comfortable barn with separate troughs for feed and water. Right: Daily milk recording sheet of LC target cow

Beyond improving milk productivity, Tewachew aimed to address the common complaints among dairy farmers regarding the high cost of feed and the inadequate reflection of milk prices. He devised an intelligent solution by leveraging his resources and reducing dependence on purchased feed. Tewachew replaced his eucalyptus tree plantation with improved forage, allowing him to produce quality feed on his own land. This shift enabled him to significantly reduce annual feed purchase expenses, enhancing his profitability.

The Role of the BRIDGE Project

Tewachew's remarkable journey is just one of many success stories emerging from the BRIDGE project. SNV Ethiopia and Wageningen University and Research partnered to transform the dairy sector in Ethiopia, targeting 92,000 smallholder farmers across four regions. With a focus on all components of the dairy value chain, BRIDGE aims to improve income generation for farmers and foster the development of an inclusive dairy sector.

The case of Tewachew Biazen exemplifies the transformative impact of the BRIDGE project on Ethiopian dairy farming. By introducing improved management practices and encouraging farmers to make smart use of their resources, the project has empowered smallholder farmers to enhance their milk productivity and increase their incomes. As the project continues to expand its reach, it holds the promise of driving sustainable change and elevating the dairy sector in Ethiopia to new heights.

For more information on the Lactation Curve-Focused Dairy Extension Model

Please contact Terefe Taye, Senior dairy production advisor SNV-BRIDGE at



Terefe Taye

Senior Dairy Production Advisor, SNV Ethiopia

Alex Mounde Arisi

Alex Mounde

Communication officer NEADAP

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