Livestock Research for Rural Development 28 (10) 2016 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Characteristics of dairy farming and its effect on milk production: a case study of Unguja island of Zanzibar, Tanzania

T S Suleiman, R H Mdegela1 and E D Karimuribo1

Department of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, P O Box 295, Zanzibar, Tanzania
1 Department of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P O Box 3021, Chuo Kikuu, Morogoro, Tanzania


A cross-sectional study was conducted between July and December 2013 to characterise the dairy farming in Unguja island of Zanzibar in the United Republic of Tanzania. The study also assessed the effects of management on milk production. A total number of 203 dairy farmers were randomly selected from three districts of Unguja Islands and interviewed using semi-structured questionnaire as well direct observations to capture information on dairy farming and factors affecting milk production.

It was found that a dairy farmer possesses, on average, seven dairy cattle (range 1-31) and two lactating cows (range 1-8). West district had bigger average herd size of 7.5 followed by North B with 7.3 and Central with 6.2 cows per farm but the difference was not statistically significant (P>0.05). West district had bigger average number of lactating cows (2.4) compared to Central (1.9) and North B (1.8), the difference was statistical significant (P<0.05). More than two thirds (72%) of the farmers interviewed kept crossbreed dairy cattle that were managed mostly by intensive grazing system (65%). Only 61% of the respondents had constructed shed for their dairy animals. About 86% of the farmers provided maize bran, pollard or a mixture of the two as supplement feeds for their lactating cows, a practice which also differed significantly between the study districts (P<0.05). Average daily milk production was 7.6±3.6 litres per cow per day. Average milk production was higher in West district (8.0/litres/day) compared to Central (7.2 /litres/day) and North B (6.9 /litres/day), the difference between districts was statistically significant (P<0.05). It is concluded that dairy farming in Unguja Island operate under poor farm management, deprived hygiene and improper milking techniques that needs improvement to optimise milk production in terms of quality and quantity.

Key words: crossbreeds, grazing system, herd size, milking production


Agricultural sector remains an important industry that ensures the livelihood, people wellbeing and improved food security of many people living in rural areas of Zanzibar. The crops, livestock and fisheries sub-sectors provide employment opportunities to about 43% of the Zanzibar population of more than 1.3 million people (NBS and OCGS 2013). Contribution of agricultural sector to the Zanzibar GDP rose from 23.4% in 2005 to 30.8% in 2009 (OCGS 2010). Livestock production in Zanzibar comprises mainly chickens (1,080,000), cattle (155,624) and goat (68,972) (OCGS 2012). The livestock sub-sector provides employment opportunities to more than 45,684 households and contributed 4.5% to the Zanzibar GDP in 2009, being an increase from 4.1 in 2005. According to 2007/2008 National sample census of agriculture, Zanzibar has a total of 155,624 heads of cattle, out of which 148,744 (95.6%) are indigenous and 6,880 are improved dairy cattle. The total cattle population of Unguja Island is 77,313 kept by 15,722 households; out of which 72,680 are indigenous and 4,633 are improved dairy cattle (OCGS 2012). The dairy cattle kept included pure exotic breeds (Bos taurus) of Jersey, Ayrshire and Friesian breeds and their crosses with Tanzania short horn zebu (Bos indicus). Dairy farming in Zanzibar is divided into three categories, the first being a smallholder which started in early 1980s, this serves as an important source of milk production after the collapse of Government owned farms of Bambi and Kizimbani in early1990s (Biwi 1992; Mshangama and Ali 1995). In this category a farmer own between one and ten cattle and according to OCGS 2012, 95% of dairy farmers in Zanzibar belong to this category. The second category is a medium scale dairy farming which comprises about 3% of dairy farmers with 11-15 cattle and third category is a large scale dairy farmer that comprise of about 2% of dairy farmers that own more than 15 dairy cattle (OCGS 2012).

The milk production from pure exotic and cross breed cattle in Zanzibar remains below potential and limited studies have been carried out to explain possible factors that contribute to the poor productivity of dairy cows in Zanzibar islands. The aim of this study was to establish baseline information about the characteristics and farm management of dairy farming in Unguja Island in order to elucidate its contribution to the performance of the dairy sector in terms of milk production.

Material and methods

Study area and design

A cross-sectional study was conducted between July and December 2013 to characterise dairy farming in Unguja island of Zanzibar in the United Republic of Tanzania. Unguja Island has a tropical climate with temperature ranging from 24oC to 33oC. The island experiences two rainy seasons in March to May and October to November and two dry season seasons, December to February and June to September. The island is surrounded by the Indian Ocean about 45 kilometres from the east cost of Tanzania Mainland. It lies between latitudes 05 o 72’’ and 06o 48’’ South of Equator and between longitude 39o 30’’ and 39o 51’’ East of Greenwich.

Sampling technique

Multi-stage sampling procedure was used to select dairy farmers in the study districts. The first stage was purposive selection of three out of six districts of Unguja Island based on the population of dairy cattle in the districts. The selected districts were North B, West and Central. During the second stage, a total of 28 Shehias (the lowest administration units in Zanzibar) were randomly selected from a list of 59 Shehias with dairy farming activities in the three selected districts. Finally, a total of 203 dairy farming households were randomly selected from a prepared list of all dairy farmers in the selected Shehia using simple random selection procedure. The sample size was determined based on the formula provided by Bennett et al (1991). The only criterion for the dairy farmer to be included in sample frame was the possession of at least one lactating dairy cow. The number of household selected from each Shehia was proportional to the number of dairy farmer in the selected Shehia.

Data collection

Data were collected by interviewing the head of household using semi structured questionnaire to capture the information about farm and farmer characteristics, herd structure, dairy farm management, feeding, water supply and milking procedures. In addition, direct observations were used to assess environmental condition and management procedure together with individual cow assessment.

Data processing and analysis

Data entry and storage was done using a prepared data entry form using Epinfo® version 7 for window (CDC 2012) where descriptive statistics linear regression analysis was done to identify explanatory variables that have an effect on dependent variable. Dependent variable was recorded as litres of milk produced per cow per day. Test for significance of categorical data were performed using Chi Squared (c2) test while for continuous explanatory variables the significance were measured using single factor ANOVA. Graphical presentations were prepared using Microsoft Excel 2007.


Management of dairy farm

The results obtained from this study indicated that about 47.8% of the dairy farmer in Unguja Island have less than 10 years of experience in dairy farming, 35.5% have experience of 10 to 20 years and only 16.7% were engaged themselves in the dairy industry for more than 20 years. The difference in dairy farming experience in the three districts was not statistically significant (P>0.05). Table 1 summarises the herd structure owned by dairy farmers in Unguja Island. The overall mean herd size was seven cattle per household with no statistically significant difference among three study districts (P>0.05), The number of lactating cows ranged between one and eight with an overall mean of two cows per farm that differed significantly among three study districts (P=0.02) with the West district having bigger average of lactating cows (2.4) followed by Central (1.9) and North B (1.8). The differences between means of remaining categories within the herd composition among three study districts were insignificant.

Table 1. Herd structure of dairy cattle kept by dairy farmers in the three study districts in Unguja
island of Zanzibar


North B




Median (range)

Median (range)

Median (range)


1 (0-4)

1 (0-9)

1 (0-5)



1 (0-4)

1.5 (0-6)

1.5 (0-4)


Dry cows

0 (0-2)

0 (0-4)

0 (0-3)


Lactating cows

1 (1-7)

2.5 (1-8)

2 (1-6)


Breeding bulls

0.5 (0-3)

0.5 (0-3)

0.5 (0-2)



2 (0-16)

1.5 (0-13)

0.5 (0-7)


Herd size

6.5 (1-21)

6 (1-31)

5.5 (1-19)


*others include oxen used as drafting animal and other bulls which were not intended for breeding.

Most dairy farmers (71.9%) in the study area prefered to keep crossbreed, only 16.3% of the farmer interviewed kept exotic breeds and the remaining (11.8%) kept both exotic and crosses. Out of 425 lactating dairy cows observed from 203 dairy farmers during this study, 80.5% were crosses and 19.5% were exotic breed. Central district had higher percentage of farmers keeping crosses and number of cross breeds cows compared to West and North B, the differences were significant for both categories (P<0.05).

Cattle rearing system, pasture used and type of housing as practiced by dairy farmers in all three districts in the study area are summarized in Figure 1. Most farmers (64.5%) used zero grazing system, the remaining used semi intensive or extensive depending on communal land or land owned by the farmers themselves. In this context, communal land is the land owned by Government as unutilized farms, around forest reserve, alongside streams, rivers, roads and within rice plots during off seasons. The majority (66.5%) of farmers interviewed depended on forage collection using cut and carry. This system of forage collection is mainly used by farmers who kept their animals in zero grazing or semi intensive. Dairy farming in the island is predominantly (60.6%) by farmers who constructed shed for their dairy animals, the shed either being permanent constructed by cement and bricks (41.9%) or temporary (18.7%) made of woods and clay. Farmers with no cattle sheds either kept their animals under the tree at the back of their houses or left their animals tethered in the communal grazing land. The farmers who left animals in grazing land normally visited their animals once or twice a day for milking, changing their grazing location and providing water for drinking. West district has higher percentage of farmer who uses zero grazing and cut and carry method of feeding compared to other districts, the differences were significant for both categories (P<0.05).

Figure 1. Characteristics of dairy farming in Zanzibar in terms of rearing systems, pasture and housing

Dairy farmer practice in relation to floor types, hygiene and drainage for each district as observed during this study is shown in Figure 2, it was observed that only 35.5% of the farmer interviewed had concrete floor, the remaining used earthen floor and very few had divided their cattle sheds into two sections half made of concrete for feeding and another half made of earthen floor for resting. This may increase difficult in barn cleaning leading to the poor hygiene and drainage observed. About fifty six of the barns visited were in poor hygiene and about 81.8% either have poor drainage or no provision of drainage at all. There was no statistical difference among study districts in relation of floor hygiene and drainage system used (P>0.05).

Figure 2. Characteristics of dairy farming in Unguja island in terms of floor types, hygiene and drainage

About 49.8% of the visited farmers cleaned their cattle house either once or twice a day, the remaining farmers either did not clean their barns or occasionally they removed the cumulated dung. Out of 138 farmers who cleaned their barns, 65.9% removed dung only while 34.1% did water cleaning after removing dung. All 203 farmers visited do not use any disinfectant during barns’ cleaning. On average, 57.1% of the dairy farms visited provided roof for their animals either made of coconut leaves or aluminium sheets. Figure 3 shows the percentage of farmers indicating the type of cleaning method, roof type and roof condition in each district.

Figure 3. Distribution of dairy farmers features in terms of floor cleaning, roof type and roof condition
Supplement feeding and watering of dairy cattle

The results from this study indicated that most farmers (85.7%) interviewed provided feed supplements to their dairy cattle and the proportion of farmers that provided supplements was higher in West and Central districts compared to North B district (P<0.05). most farmers (70.7%) provided supplement feeding used maize bran, the remaining either used pollard (9.8%) or mixed maize bran and pollard (19.5%). Water was available ad libitum to 67.0% of the farmers interviewed and only 33.0% mentioned water scarcity. Most dairy farmers in Unguja Island depends on tape water (63.1%) compared to borehole (33.1%) and small rivers (3.5%). There was no statistical difference among study districts in relation to supplement feeding and water availability among farmers (P>0.05).

Milking and milking technique

The results revealed that 41.4% of the farmers interviewed milk their cows once a day, 42.9% used strip milking technique, 58.1% used calf for milk letdown, 84.7% they let calf suck after milking, 90.1% did not use towel to dry udder after washing during milking and even those who used towel, used the same towel for all lactating cows in the farm. Distribution of milking technique for each district is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Milking and milking technique of dairy farmers among three study districts of Unguja island of Zanzibar
Milk production

During this study, where 425 lactating cows were observed from 203 dairy farmers and according to the farmers’ records, 150 cows (35.3%) produced between 1-5 litres of milk per cow per day with mean production of 4.1 litres per cow per day, 207 cows (48.7%) produced between 5-10 litres of milk per cow per day with an average of 8.0 litre per cow per day, 51 cows (12.0%) produced between 10-15 litres of milk per cow per day with an average of 12.5 litres per cow per day and 17 cows (4.0%) produced more than 15 litres of milk per cow per day with an average of 17.7 litres of milk per cow per day. Overall cow milk production in Unguja Island was calculated at 7.6 litres of milk per cow per day. Table 2 shows average milk production for each category in all study districts.

Table 2. Milk production (litres/cow/day) in dairy farmers in Unguja island




North B


Mean (SD)


Mean (SD)


Mean (SD)



4.00 (1.1)


4.1 (1.1)


4.2 (1.0)



8.31 (1.4)


7.8 (1.5)


7.7 (1.3)



12.64 (1.4)


12.2 (0.8)


12.4 (1.2)



17.50 (1.0)


20.0 (0.0)


0 (0)



8.00 (4.0)


7.2 (2.9)


6. 9 (3.3)

Effect of dairy farm management to the milk production

As interpreted by simple linear regression model, dairy farm management that influenced the level of milk production is shown in Table 3. Only management practices that scored P-value ≤ 0.05 were included in the final model. About eleven management factors out of 31 tested found to have relation to the increased or decreased milk production (r2≥0.03).

Table 3. Dairy farm management that influenced the level of milk production based on simple linear regression model







Number of lactating cows






Rearing system (intensive/extensive)






Pasture used (cut carry/grazing)






Housing (Yes/No)






Give supplements (yes/no)






Type of supplements (Maize/Pollard)






Water availability (yes/no)






Use of calf for milk letdown (yes/no)






Calf sucking after milking (yes/no)






Udder wash before milking (yes/no)






Milking per day (twice/once)






β* =Regression coefficient,     SE=Standard Error,     r2=Correlation Coefficient.


The data collected during this study showed that nearly half of the farmers interviewed were new in industry with an experience of less than ten years in dairy farming. Increasing demand of milk and milk products seems to increase the number of small scale dairy farmers in Zanzibar. Most of dairy farmers visited were male (96%), these findings are in agreement with what was reported by Urasa and Raphael (2002) and Kusiluka (2006) in the eastern coastal areas of Tanzania. However, the findings are contrary to what was reported by Chang’a et al (2010) in Mvomero and Njombe where most dairy farmers were female (56%). Unless supported by development programme, it seems difficult for women to be involved in dairy keeping. Average herd size per household (HH) in Unguja island found to be smaller compared to other cities within Eastern Africa that ranged between one to 50 (Kivaria et al 2004;Schooman et al 2011; Katiku et al 2011; Njarui et al 2012; Gillah et al 2013). The difference among participating districts in terms of herd size was insignificant. Cross breed cattle preferred by dairy farmers compared to pure exotic. Central district has higher percentage of crosses compared to other districts. This may be to the fact that cross breed cattle are more tolerant to the local disease and harsh environmental condition compared to exotic breeds hence most of central district is coral covered with stones and patches of deep soil land. The characteristics of dairy farmers to keep crosses also found in Uganda (Njarui et al 2012). During this study it was found more crosses of Jersey compared to crosses of other breeds. This may be caused by forage scarcity hence crosses of Jersey are smaller in size and consume less amount of forage compared to larger breeds like Friesian. This finding is in contrary to what have been reported in other countries where Friesian and Ayrshire were predominant (Swai et al 2007; Katiku et al 2011; Muia et al 2011; Njarui et al 2012).

Most dairy farmers uses zero grazing rearing system of dairy keeping, this may caused by land scarcity for free range or semi intensive as found in other countries where semi-intensive was predominant (Mubirustrong) et al 2007; Njarui et al 2012). Zero grazing is practiced in peri-urban dairy farming in other areas of East Africa like Uganda where 60% of dairy farmers used zero grazing (Njarui et al 2012). In Kenya, 44% of dairy farmers uses zero grazing (Bebe et al 2008) and in Malawi where 91.3% of the smallholders’ dairy farmers used zero grazing system (Tebug et al 2012). Zero grazing dairy farming was also described by Schooman et al (2011) in Tanga and Swai et al (2010) in Tanga and Iringa in Tanzania. In Zanzibar the system is encouraged as a means to resolve conflicts between farmers and livestock keepers.

In this study, it was found that most dairy farmers’ did not give priority to the hygienic status of their cattle houses. Similar findings was observed by Chang’a el al (2010) who found very poor hygiene condition to most cattle sheds but differed to the studies conducted by Gillah et al (2013) who found most cattle sheds were in good hygienic condition. Most sheds were in poor condition with no separation between feeding, milking and resting location. Production of good quality milk is associated to good hygienic environment around the lactating cows. Proper cleaning of cattle housing and environment around the cows decrease the amount of bacterial and fungal pathogen that can invade cow host and cause diseases that can reduce both quantity and quality of milk produced (Seegers et al 2003).

As found in other parts of Tanzania, farmers used to give their animals additional supplements and the most common supplement used was maize bran, but addition of seed cake and minerals is not common in Zanzibar as it was in other parts of Tanzania (Urassa and Raphael 2002, Swai et al 2005 ). In relation to milking and milking technique, what observed in this study was similar to what was reported before by Kivaria et al 2004 hence most farmers did not observe proper and hygienic milking. This may increase the occurrence of udders’ related diseases like bovine mastitis and decrease the quality of milk produced. Milk production of dairy farmers ranges between 1-20 litres of milk per cow per day with an average of 7.6 litres of milk per cow per day, this finding is within the range as observed in other Eastern African countries where it was found that milk production ranged between 3.9-9 litres/cow/day (Bee et al 2006; Njarui et al 2012; Tebug et al 2012; Tegegne et al 2013). Dairy farm management have considerable influence on the quantity of milk produced by each cow. Cows under intensive grazing system receive more care, provided with good fodder, enough amounts of fresh water and additional concentrates and hence increased their probability of giving more milk compared to cows under extensive grazing system. NNgongoni et al 2006 describe the roll of nutrition and farm management in increased milk production. Udder wash before milking prepare cow for milk let down leading to increased level of milk produced. Use of calf for milk let down and sucking after milking found to have influence on milk production in this study. The practice was described to have a positive effect on milk production in previous studies conducted in Tanzania (Sanh et al 1995; Mejia and Preston 1998) and in other country (Junqueira at al 2005).



The Authors would like to express their gratitude to Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Zanzibar and ASSP/ASDP-L Zanzibar Sub-Programmes for the financial and logistics support during this research work. They also extend their thanks to the field assistants under the Department of Veterinary Services for their role in data collection without forgetting the role of all dairy farmers participated in this study.


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Received 22 January 2016; Accepted 10 August 2016; Published 1 October 2016

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