Livestock Research for Rural Development 30 (12) 2018 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

A review of strategies for overcoming challenges of beef production in Tanzania

B I Muzzo and F D Provenza1

Sokoine University of Agriculture, P.O. Box 3004, Morogoro, Tanzania
1 Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA


Tanzania is among the leading African countries with high livestock populations where production of beef plays vital roles in citizens’ livelihoods and the country’s economy. This paper reviews challenges facing the beef industry and suggests strategies for addressing these issues. The main challenges are poor growth rate of beef animals and poor meat quality, poor infrastructure, inconsistent supply of quality feed and water for livestock, diseases, lack of implementation of a meat grading system, fluctuations in prices in meat market, low technical knowhow of producers, inadequate technical support (trainings and extension services), inadequate/weak community beef associations, and complicated land tenure systems. We recommend several strategies that might be used to overcome these challenges, including: promoting breeding and selection programs, improving infrastructure and establishing mobile abattoirs, promoting pasture establishment with sustainable grazing management, enhancing feed conservation and water supply, controlling breeding sites, and vaccinations. The beef industry would also benefit from establishing standard prices for meat, encouraging niche markets, proper land use planning, and facilitating opportunities to obtain land title documents. Collectively, these practices can motivate and support an increase in beef production in the country, which will create more employment, thereby improving the standard of living and increasing national income from meat export.

Keywords: beef associations, breeding sites, mobile abattoir, niche market, quality feed


Tanzania is among the leading African countries in livestock population. The dominant species is cattle (28.8 million) which is about 90% of the livestock population, based on the 2016/17 livestock sector analysis baseline. The Tanzanian Beef sector is composed predominantly of indigenous cattle mainly, Tanganyika Short Horn Zebu (TSHZ). The agro-pastoral system contributes 80%, and the pastoral system contributes 14%, of livestock production; the remaining 6% of production comes from commercial ranches (Njombe and Msanga 2009).

Currently, demand for meat is high due to increasing human population, expanding markets from tourism, mining, and expatriates as well as increasing income and purchasing power in segments of the wider society (Mushi et al 2007). This has motivated the establishment of more non-governmental ranches and advanced slaughterhouses as well as meat processing plants (Mushi et al 2007; MLDF 2011). Despite all the efforts initiated to promote beef production in the country, the beef industry is constrained by several challenges that require immediate actions. The objective of this paper is to review various strategies for overcoming the challenges and embracing the opportunities of beef production in Tanzania.

Tanzanian Beef Production

Among African countries, Tanzania has the third highest livestock population with cattle as the main species. The livestock sector, contribute only 7.4% to Tanzania’s GDP, which is projected to have low growth rate of 2.6% (Nandonde et al 2017). However, the sectors’ contribution is not limited only to the GDP because it also supports the vital national services of food supply and security, and provides a source of income to the smallholders which may not be captured in the GDP (Engida et al 2015). The livestock sector has long been a mainstay of the economy and one of the key livelihoods of the people. Intensive livestock production is less practiced than extensive grazing systems which allow animals to free-range, foraging on natural rangelands. Tanganyika Short Horn Zebu is characterized by small mature body weight (200–350 kg) (Kashoma et al 2011), poor production coefficients, calving rate of only 45%, calf mortality of 30%, mortality of other cattle of 10%, female maturity age 3 years, selling age of males of 7 years, and average market off-take of only 13% (Stokes 1976). However, they have high resilience to disease, and good survival rates under stressful environmental conditions, including low availability of forage (MLDF 2011). Furthermore, they respond well to finishing diets in feedlots where they can produce acceptable carcasses (Zakaria 2010; Mwilawa 2012).

In 2016/2017, the Tanzania beef industry produced 83% of 493,000 metric tonnes of meat, 97% of which came from pastoral and agro-pastoral communities and 3% from commercial ranches (Nandonde et al 2017). According to MLFD 2010/2011 data only 6% of beef producers were estimated to engage in quality meat production. In the Tanzania livestock Master plan of 2017, livestock consumption is expected to grow by 71% (to 867,302 tonnes) from 2017–2022 leaving a 17% deficit (124,778 tonnes).While several government efforts promote the industry, few are identifying and allocating communal grazing land to villages (Goldman 2003; Igoe 2003), providing inexpensive or free drugs (Caudell et al 2017), privatizing ranches, livestock identification program, and initiatives of government-private partnership programs. While experts and investors are providing technical beef production training and conducting numerous research studies on the beef sector (Safari et al 2009; Mushi et al 2007; Mellau 2010), several challenges still exist.

Challenges Facing Beef Production in Tanzania
Poor growth rates and meat quality

Beef production in Tanzania depends on TSHZ that possess low genetic growth potential and poor quality meat (Njau et al. 2013). These animals take over 3 years to reach slaughter age under current seasonal variation in forage availability (Abeygunawardena and Demarawewa, 2004; Muhuyi et al 2002; Frankel and Soule 1981). The long growth period from birth to slaughter is associated with poor meat quality in terms of tenderness, pH, colour, water holding capacity, fatty acid content and composition (Mushi et al. 2007). Schönfeldt and Strydom (2011) found collagen, which is major factor contributing to variation in meat tenderness and texture, was not related with animal age at slaughter time. Older animals have higher intramuscular fat and monounsaturated fatty acid and significantly lower omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA (18 vs. 30 months) (Volpelli et al 2003).

Inconsistent supply of quality feed and water

Beef production efficiency depends on the quality and quantity of forage (Koch et al 1963; Rakipova et al 2003; Nkrumah et al 2006). Currently, Tanzania is experiencing a long drought thought to be associated with climatic change, which is causing inconsistent supply of feed resources and feed scarcity (Thornton et al 2009; Sangeda et al 2013). Seasonal fluctuations in forage resources are affecting feeding strategies (Mushi et al 2007). During the dry season, forages have low nutritive values that delay growth of animals, resulting in less tender meat (Immonen 2000; Andersen et al 2005a). Poor supplies of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals result in longer times for animals to reach slaughter age, less weight, and hence less tender meat. The water supply has a significance role in animal performance (Socha et al 2009). During the dry season, beef animals often travel more than 10 km to water (Masikati 2010). When they reach the watering point, the animals tend to drink much water leading to reduced forage intake, which adversely affects performance (Wright 2007). Long distance walking increases energy expenditure and stress while building strong muscles, both of which adversely affect meat quality and tenderness. Severe water stress causes the death of animals (Nardone et al 2010).


Beef animals in Tanzania are infected with various diseases. Tick-borne diseases infect about 80% of the cattle with estimated economic losses of around US$ 248 million (Kivaria 2006). Other diseases, such as theileriosis (East Coast fever), babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and cowdriosis (heart-water) (Chenyembuga et al 2010; Kivaria et al 2007), cause high mortality of beef animals in Tanzania, with losses estimated at nearly a million animals annually due to tick-borne disease alone (Kivaria et al 2007). The outbreak of rift valley fever in 2006/2007 caused abortions in pregnant animals and mortality approaching 100% in young animals (FAO 2000; Ikegami and Makino 2009), as well as humans with an estimated death toll of 144 out of 511 livestock keepers (Mohamed et al 2010). These diseases cause economic loss, poor meat quality, and death of beef producers and technical experts.

Lack of implementation of meat grading system and price-based quality meat market

Grading systems are used to describe the quality and yield of a carcass, to ensure consistent meat quality and consumer satisfaction (Allen 2014; Aalhus et al 2014). Strydom et al (2015) reported that the beef industry, with prominent use of indigenous breeds and finished with natural pasture, usually fails to achieve the best classes and grades due to their low light weight, lack of subcutaneous fat, and old age. However, heavy animals with high fat content are sold at higher prices in countries such as Tanzania that use a formal quantity-based price market system (Soji et al 2015). The opportunities to enter into new world beef markets are expanding and these markets come with different consumer expectations based on meat quality and health. The meat grading system in Tanzania, explained under Meat Industry act 2006 (part IV section 34), has not been implemented due to lack of grading resources, meat inspectors, and law enforcement. The meat grading systems implemented in South Africa since 1932 (Polkinghorne and Thompson 2010) and in Egypt since 1973 (Soliman and Shapouri 1984) helped to reduce their cattle numbers by practicing intensive cattle management that maximized quality meat production (Ndou et al 2011). In Tanzania, adapting more intensive management might also solve farmer-pastoral conflicts over land and increase meat export. The demand for meat is increasing in Tanzania (Speedy 2003), where the only criteria for determining market meat price is quantity based (kg). Nonetheless, Tanzania beef producers incur high input costs for producing beef from calving to slaughter. This results in a high loss of producers as the cost of purchasing meat is less than the cost of production. The market discourages production of quality meat leading to a poor standard of living for Tanzanian beef producers.

Low technical know-how and inadequate technical support

Most beef producers have little knowledge of sustainable grazing management practices (Selemani 2014), pasture establishment and management, feed conservation and supplementation, beef finishing, or use of medicines and vaccinations (Bailey et al 1999; Mlote et al 2012; Keyyu et al 2003). This has been affecting the sector through less meat production relative to consumption and deterioration of beef exports. Training and extension services are fundamental to the success of the Tanzania meat sector to enable local producers to increase production in terms of quality and quantity (Igbinnosa 2011). Strengthening technical support services, developing and introducing new technologies and human resources, and developing beef producers and workers are among the government’s objectives as explained in the National Livestock Policy in 2006. However, extension services have little money and the staff are poorly trained and equipped in beef production practices. The ratio of service providers to service receivers is also low. The same is true for the transfer of extension services from the centre to local authorities (Rutatora and Mattee 2001: Wilson 2015). The transformation of local beef production into commercialization requires improved use of technology and innovations. Henriksen and Rota (2013) suggested that building capacity through beef associations is crucial, particularly through the development of formal training programs for future generations of young commercial beef producers. However, few beef production trainings are conducted for local producers. Furthermore, there are few beef experts in the country. In ranches, the inefficient production of quality meat is due to a lack of team work and corporation among experts and the high cost of inputs (Lupindu 2007).

Inadequate/weak community beef association and land tenure system

One of the government’s strategies for promoting the beef industry is to encourage and support the formation of beef producers and traders associations as stated in the National Livestock Policy in 2006. The successful implementation of this policy was to improve the performance of the beef industry through vertical and horizontal integration. The goal was to provide the industry with a ‘voice’ in support beef producers by establishing and strengthening chain participants (producer groups, traders groups, processors groups) specifically at the village level. This would enable support by providing resources and solving production issues such as securing association land for grazing. However, more emphasis was placed on the formation of a national beef community associations “Chama Cha Wafugaji Tanzania” (CCWTZ) (Lupindu 2007; McElreath 2004) rather than on local villages. Additionally, several beef producer and trader associations already exist in the districts and at regional levels, but they are weak and mostly unregistered (Kamugisha et al 2017). The Tanzania beef producers also differ in livestock cultural norms and value resulting in weak associations among themselves.

Maasai are among the major beef producers in the country, but they are hardly intermixed with other tribes such as Pare, even though they live together around the Lake Jipe area. The poor association between the tribes is because Pare distrust Maasai herders due to the latter’s tendency to raid livestock and due to their culture of believing cattle belong to them while other tribes in the past were temporally allowed to keep their cattle and they can take them anytime (Mahonge, 2010). This has resulted in disunity and poor cooperation among community beef producers in terms of production, establishing standard meat prices, and solving various problems. Currently, the increasing livestock population has no significant role in increasing beef production and quality meat for export, but instead results in conflicts among farmers (Benjaminsen and Bubacar 2009), which can lead to decreases in livestock numbers and deaths of beef producers (Maganga 2002; Goldman et al 2014).

The government efforts are to ensure sustainable beef production on village grazing land, which is currently deteriorated due to overgrazing with no rehabilitation plan or strategy. The committed and registered beef association groups and cooperatives are supported with land for grazing and pasture production. Currently, the Tanzanian government has put more effort into ensuring citizens own their land legally through the participatory program called “UPIMAJI SHIRIKISHI”. Nonetheless, the program most benefits urban areas because local beef producers (pastoralist) prefer living in bush areas where they move continuously in search of water and pasture, although most of them also use community grazing land which is deteriorated.

Poor infrastructure in beef production areas

Rural areas are preferred for beef animals due to adequate land, feed, and water. Nevertheless, most of these areas have poor infrastructure (transport and communication) (Temu et al 2005; Mtega and Ronald 2013). They have mostly poor roads that hinder safe, reliable and quick transportation (Kinda and Loening 2010). This increases costs of renting cars to transport animals to the auction areas, transportation costs of moving animals to slaughter areas (abattoir), and transport from abattoirs to town markets. Poor pre-slaughter treatment practices such as transporting beef animals in trucks for long distances (over 700 km) results in low carcass weights and meat quality (Fonteh et al 2015). Moreover, poor infrastructure causes production losses to livestock keepers due to the high cost of supplements and medicines. Rural areas have no networks for communication and internet access to get beef market news and other useful information (Lwoga et al 2011). Insufficient veterinary services also contribute to low production (Kaasschieter et al 1992). The Tanzania government constructed 2041 dip tanks and 91 spray races throughout the country in promoting this service (Lynen et al 2007), but most of them are now decrepit. Pastoralists in Tanzania are aware of the importance of controlling diseases that cause great losses to their animals (Chengula et al 2013). This led to them to construct community cattle dips, but due to their continuous movement to search for pasture, the dips were ineffective. However, agro-pastoral community cattle dip construction is sustainable and profitable in controlling tick-borne diseases. Tanzania also has few and poor zoo-sanitary inspection services, especially the checkpoints and holding grounds necessary in preventing the introduction and spread of diseases through movement of animals and animal products at boarders between districts, regions and nations.

The other major infrastructure constraint is lack of water in grazing areas, which forces pastoralists to move to wherever water sources can be found (Mwambene 2014). The government and other organizations have also supported construction of charcoal dams to help farmers, but the dams are dilapidated and cracking. Moreover, water is often used for other social and crop irrigation activities.

In the early 70’S the government owned a facility called Tanganyika Packers Ltd that produced high quality meat by small scale processors (Igbinnosa 2011). Recently, a few new abattoirs have been established to target export markets and large cities. Conversely, processing in rural areas is still carried out mainly at slaughtering slabs built and owned by local councils (government). The government doubles both as owner and regulator of these slaughter facilities, which are poorly maintained. These slaughtering slabs do not exist in every village leading to cattle being slaughtered in any available space including under trees. As beef demand increases in emerging and growing rural townships, there is high concerns about beef safety, hygiene, and quality.

Strategies for Overcoming Challenges of Beef Production in Tanzania
Breeding and selection

Breeding through artificial insemination is a major practice in promoting the performance of beef animals (Kazwala et al 2001; Abdulai and Huffman 2005). Artificially inseminating Zebu with Brahman cattle increases reproductive performance and weight gain (O’Donovan et al 1980) and meat quality (Prado et al 2008b; Barendse et al 2008; Moreira et al 2003). The same is true for goats and sheep (Safari et al 2009; Teixeira et al 1996; Hoffman et al 2003). The little knowledge and skills of Tanzania beef producers in this practice and the high cost of artificial insemination services has led to low adoption of this practice. Therefore, more emphasis should be given to conducting trainings in these practices with support from government subsidies. Moreover, animal breeding programs are reported to be unsustainable and a short-term practice in most developing countries (Olesen et al 2000). Hence, sustainable breeding practice with a long-term biological, ecological, and sociological goals must be emphasized in Tanzania rather than the current short-term market forces leading to unwanted side effects. Animal breeding goals should clearly explain the beef ethical priorities and weighing aggregate of market economic trait and non-market values. The successfully implementation of this breeding programs will contribute to sustainable beef production in the country. Then again, Tanzanian beef producers have experience with animal selection practices (Burrow et al 1991). Promoting their practices might encourage fast animal growth with heat resistance, increased feed conversion efficiency, and improved meat quality.

Pasture establishment, sustainable grazing management, feed conservation, and water supply

Tanzania beef producers depend mostly on natural pastures (Ruhangawebare 2010) and very few of them establish pastures in their grazing areas. Thus, sensitizing, encouraging and promoting successful pasture establishment to beef producers while ensuring high levels of production and persistence in improved pastures is a solution for sustainable beef production in Tanzania. Several investigators have recommended the use of crop residue and hay in the dry season in sustaining beef productivity (Sibanda 1986; Ndlovu and Sibanda 1991; Svotwa et al 2007; Masikati 2010). Limiting or reducing livestock number based on available feed resources, and the use of crop-pasture integration farming practices could also promote intensive beef production. Conservation of feed and supplementation practices have been emphasized, but the cost required for these practices is unaffordable to local beef producers. Conversely, the use of byproducts such as cassava pulp, stored in open pits for years, was shown to be a suitable basal diet for intensive fattening of local cattle in Lao with 0.66 kg/day growth rate over the 4 months of fattening (Phanthavong et al 2016).

Diet influences meat quality as shown repeatedly for grass-fed compared to concentrate-fed (grain-based) livestock (Nuernberg et al 2005; Priolo et al 2001). Tanzanian beef consumers often prefer meat derived from pasture-reared animals. This meat has better flavor than that from concentrate-fed animals. It also has higher omega 3 PUFA percentages (Campo et al 2003; Fisher et al 2000), as well as essential amino acids, vitamins A, B6, B12, D, E, and minerals such as iron, zinc, and selenium (Biesalski 2005: Williamson 2005) and low fat content. Animals are supposed to be finished on 100% grass or pasture-based diets to maximize the favorable lipid profile and to guarantee elevated antioxidant content. Identifying and promoting use of various nutritious fodder plants is critical to increase beef production. Encouraging lopping practice on local browse trees and shrub before the rainy season will provide feed in the dry season. It is important to train local beef producers to better manage grazing and renovate communal grazing land, and to breed forages that are adapted to various climatic conditions. Encouraging and promoting pasture and seed production by beef producers (pastoralists) might enable them to settle in their respective areas, as they will benefit from selling quality beef animals as well as pasture seed, hay bales, and other conserved feed.

Issues of water supply can be resolved by an 'investment strategy' that involves construction of new water sources in water-deficit areas, and adjusting the composition of herds in terms of sex and age in relation to their water requirements (Lewis 1978; Peden et al 2009). 'Positioning and conservation strategies’ involve careful adjustments in space and time of the position of different animal species and classes in relation to water supplies (Cossins 1971; Wilson 2007). 'Husbandry strategies’ concern the selection of breeding stock, especially sires (white color) with ability to withstand water stress (Cossins 1971; Lewis 1977; Western 1982). This is because white–colored cattle reflect light energy and thus absorb less heat energy, promoting lower water requirements in hot, dry conditions (King 1983).

Control breeding site and vaccination

The performance of beef animals depends on sanitation in the environment where animals are kept. Good sanitation reduces diseases (Jonsson et al 2008). Sanitary environments provide unfavorable conditions for parasites to breed and develop (Mirkena et al 2010). Therefore, promoting sanitary environments is the primary solution for various diseases (Radostits et al 2006). Furthermore, government support in provision of low-cost drugs could help livestock keepers, as would regular vaccinations (De la Fuente and Kocan 2006), accessible veterinary services (Alves et al 2007), and promoting quality water and feed, all of which promote immunity (Mekonnen and Hoekstra 2012). Tanzania beef producers are resource-poor with large number of herds that cannot afford synthetic pharmaceutical drugs. Thus, they use their indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants as an alternative to treat diseased animals (Minja 1994). Nevertheless, little has been done to promote ethno-veterinary pharmacopeia and plant usage. More research is needed and responsible government authorities have to encourage and promote their indigenous knowledge on the use of medicinal plants for treating various diseases.

Establishing meat grading system, standard prices and meat inspectors

The profit margins obtained by quantity-based beef producers and butcheries are higher than quality-based beef producers (Kadigi 2004). The strategy of enforcing established meat grading systems with a mandate to set standard prices based on meat quality in Tanzania is inevitable. The positive response of consumers’ to quality meat with respective prices is verified by many studies (Dransfield and Zamora 1997; Resurreccion 2004; Grunert 2005: Barcellos 2010). This promotes higher quality meat sold at higher prices. Moreover, conducting short trainings on meat grading and inspecting with government certificates will ensure implementation. This strategy will improve Tanzania’s beef production by harmonizing production of quality meat for more profit. The approach will support Tanzania’s meat export and encourage construction of the meat processing industry, which will increase employment opportunities and promote the standard of living of Tanzanians in general. Moreover, farmer-pastoral conflicts within our country can be lessened by reducing livestock numbers and establishing pastures to maximize animal performance.

Encouraging niche markets

A wide gap exists between local beef markets in relation to the capacity of producers and meat traders in Tanzania (Weliwita et al 2011). Presently, meat butchery investments are increasing in the country due to greater profits (Domínguez-Rodrigo et al 2014a). Conversely, competition for similar markets becomes inevitable. Encouraging more investment in meat processing and packaging could help secure niche market (Steiger 2006). The meat is well packed and sold to various niche areas such as supermarket, minimarkets and mining districts. The meat price in the niche market is higher than in the butchery (Berthiaume et al 2006). Moreover, establishing and promoting home meat supply services could help the consumer to more easily purchase meat as well as acquire ready markets where meat is sold at high prices, resulting in more consistent profits to Tanzania beef producers.

Community beef association and land tenure system

Tanzanian beef associations have to encourage the formation, motivation, and unity of beef community associations from local to national level to enhance vertical and horizontal integration. This increases strength and promotes dialog that would help solve various problems. The national beef association should encourage and support unregistered beef groups to be officially registered. Additionally, the association should strengthen chain participants including producer groups, traders groups, and processors groups. This greatly improves the bargaining power of local producers as they are taking charge of more management functions in the chain. There are few beef experts in relation to producers in the country. Thus, government programs are better able to support groups rather than individuals. Such support might be on technical matters and business skills. Officers of associations should also receive assistance in management training, interpersonal skills, and human relationships. In addition, strengthening registered beef association would create opportunities to secure loans from numerous Financial Institution, such as the Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank, and funds from livestock supporting granters.

The government also has to provide more support and easier procedures to attain land title documents in rural areas (beef producing areas). This will help beef producers to secure land, settle in one location, have peace, and increase their production.

Improve infrastructure and establish mobile abattoirs

The government strategy to emphasize infrastructure development in beef production areas is essential (Martha et al 2012). This encourages easy and cheap transport of meat and live animals, as well as resources for beef producers and workers (Nelson et al 2010). Moreover, the government, companies and investors have business opportunities through promoting mobile abattoir services. This might not only reduce transportation cost of beef animals and enhance profits of Tanzania beef producers, but also encourage more meat transport and processing. That could increase the sustainability of constructed roads while reducing land degradation and soil erosion.

Check points and holding grounds need to be constructed in places where they do not exist. Where they do exist, they need to be maintained to prevent the spread of diseases.

The increase in infrastructure for electricity and communication might help producers obtain market information and promote advertisement through modern technology. That leads to a good work environment to avoid frequent quitting or shifting of beef workers from their production areas.

The government and other supporting beef organization should emphasize community driven development approach to improve cattle dip and spray races, and water developments such as charcoal dams. The approach allows communities to identify their own development needs and participate fully with money and labor during implementation. This promotes the sense of self owning, valuing, caring which promote proper use of the developed infrastructure and its sustainability.



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Received 3 September 2018; Accepted 25 October 2018; Published 2 December 2018

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